Saturday, September 10, 2011

7, 77 and 70 X 7: How Christ fulfills the prophecy of Daniel

From :

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”

While Peter was already being fairly generous in offering to forgive his brother seven times, our Savior insists that forgiveness must be unconditional – and this was the meaning of his words: And if he sin against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day be converted unto thee, saying, I repent; forgive him. (Luke 17:4)

In response to Peter’s question, the good Jesus uses the number “seven” to convey the totality of forgiveness. While Peter considered “seven” solely as according to the letter, the Savior raises our hearts and minds to the recognition of the true spirit of his words. Many translations render our Lord’s words not as seventy-seven times, but as seventy times seven times (i.e. four hundred ninety times).

There is a great mystery hidden in these numbers.

Seven times, meaning totality

St. Peter had understood our Lord’s words narrowly, as though “seven times” were the limit of forgiveness. However, the Savior makes it clear that “seven” signifies not so much the literal number, but rather the figure of totality.

Just as there are seven days in the week, so too all of time is included in the number seven. And in the recurrence of the seven day week, so too is included also all the sins that could fill those seven days. Hence, when our Lord had said, If he sin against thee seven times (Luke 17:4), he meant, “Whatsoever your brother may do against thee and howsoever he may sin against thee.”

Fr. Cornelius a’ Lapide offers this comment: “But Peter did not clearly understand whether seven times were to be taken definitely for the precise number seven, or whether it were to be taken indefinitely for as often as might be needed. He asks therefore Christ to explain His meaning, and to tell him exactly how often he was to forgive his brother his trespasses. Peter’s breast was narrow as yet carnal, and bounded by the flesh. He could not understand the infinite abyss of mercy which there was in the Divine nature of Christ.”

...Seventy times seven times, the prophecy of Daniel

If our Savior said, seventy times seven times (i.e. four hundred ninety times), this signifies “times without number” – for not only must we forgive every type of sin, but we must forgive every sin any number of times.

St. Hilary sees an allusion to Lamech (whose sins were great so as to incure the divine wrath), Sevenfold vengeance shall be taken for Cain: but for Lamech seventy times sevenfold. (Genesis 4:24) Thus, though the sins of men have mounted on and on without number, the Lord continues to forgive all those who are contrite and beg his mercy.

There is another mystery hidden in the number “seventy times seven”.

[21] As I was yet speaking in prayer, behold the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, flying swiftly touched me at the time of the evening sacrifice. [22] And he instructed me, and spoke to me, and said: O Daniel, I am now come forth to teach thee, and that thou mightest understand. [23] From the beginning of thy prayers the word came forth: and I am come to shew it to thee, because thou art a man of desires: therefore do thou mark the word, and understand the vision. [24] Seventy weeks are shortened upon thy people, and upon thy holy city, that transgression may be finished, and sin may have an end, and iniquity may be abolished; and everlasting justice may be brought; and vision and prophecy may be fulfilled; and the saint of saints may be anointed. [25] Know thou therefore, and take notice: that from the going forth of the word, to build up Jerusalem again, unto Christ the prince, there shall beseven weeks, and sixty-two weeks: and the street shall be built again, and the walls in straitness of times. (Daniel 9:21-25)

From the Douay-Rheims commentary:

[21] "The man Gabriel"... The angel Gabriel in the shape of a man.

[23] "Man of desires"... that is, ardently praying for the Jews then in captivity.

[24] "Seventy weeks"... Viz., of years, (or seventy times seven, that is, 490 years,) are shortened; that is, fixed and determined, so that the time shall be no longer.

[25] "From the going forth of the word"... That is, from the twentieth year of king Artaxerxes, when by his commandment Nehemias rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, 2 Esd. 2. From which time, according to the best chronology, there were just sixty-nine weeks of years, that is, 483 years to the baptism of Christ, when he first began to preach and execute the office of Messias.-- Ibid.

[25] "In straitness of times"... angustia temporum: which may allude both to the difficulties and opposition they met with in building: and to the shortness of the time in which they finished the wall, viz., fifty-two days.

[26] And after sixty-two weeks Christ shall be slain: and the people that shall deny him shall not be his. And a people with their leader that shall come, shall destroy the city and the sanctuary: and the end thereof shall be waste, and after the end of the war the appointed desolation. [27] And he shall confirm the covenant with many, in one week: and in the half of the week the victim and the sacrifice shall fall: and there shall be in the temple the abomination of desolation: and the desolation shall continue even to the consummation, and to the end. (Daniel 9:26-27)

Again, from the Douay-Rheims Bible Commentary:

[26] "A people with their leader"... The Romans under Titus.

[27] "In the half of the week"... or, in the middle of the week, etc. Because Christ preached three years and a half: and then by his sacrifice upon the cross abolished all the sacrifices of the law.-- Ibid.

[27] "The abomination of desolation"... Some understand this of the profanation of the temple by the crimes of the Jews, and by the bloody faction of the zealots. Others of the bringing in thither the ensigns and standard of the pagan Romans. Others, in fine, distinguish three different times of desolation: viz., that under Antiochus; that when the temple was destroyed by the Romans; and the last near the end of the world under Antichrist. To all which, as they suppose, this prophecy may have a relation.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Joys of Humility

Little Sister Kathryn Ann told me she was praying for me, that I was filled with pride.

That struck me deeply. She had no idea what she was talking about. My entire life had been satiated with tormenting insecurities and self-hatred. How dare she judge me? She didn’t know me. To rise to the occasion, I forgave her. After all, she was Catholic and I was Protestant and she didn’t know better.

I had joined RCIA, the adult education classes for those inquiring about Catholicism--and I was there just to verify if what some of my Catholic friends were telling me--no more. The elderly old woman had been chosen for my sponsor and things didn’t start out well. I wasn’t especially grateful that this nun took time out of her extremely busy schedule as teacher to sit next to me in all the classes with her head bowed praying for me. I didn’t understand the point. And then to insult me? Yeah, I was so not impressed with Catholicism at that moment.

I had entered purgatory and my life would never be the same. And I am not talking about theology.

What I have been learning ever since is that as weird as it may seem, as counterintuitive, pride and self-hatred are mated together. Pride and insecurities feed off each other and are always found together for pride is parasitic.

Psychiatrists and counselors wouldn’t dare breathe the truth about the matter--if they are aware of it. Society recognizes the self-esteem catastrophe within our youth and have ingrained in all the teachers' training courses how to build children’s self-confidence. When, in the end, it is impossible to teach people to love themselves. They cannot do it.

As Christians, our response is that we can learn to love ourselves when we experience and know how much Christ loves us. But often, those words don’t plunge deep enough to repair us, for it is not just a head knowledge, but a heart knowledge that cannot be forced by mantras or worship.

I found worth in the strangest place. Totally unexpected.

We can’t get at at self-acceptance without going through the eye of the needle, or maybe I should say the fires of purgation.

The last two years, God has shown me that Sister Kathryn Ann was right. I have been full of pride. I wrestled with God over this one, for there hasn’t been a day in my life that I didn’t hurt dreadfully because I felt I wasn’t good enough, that I needed to try and impress everyone around me, for fear I would be lost in a cosmic nothingness. I had to dress nicely, put myself out there with singing and being involved, leading, accomplishing. All for fear that if I was quiet, I’d disappear.

Somehow with all this fear, pride slipped in and began leeching off this need to be noticed, this need to be pretty, this need to be better. The vampire of pride drains you and dehydrates you of true love for self and others and even God.

There is no self-help book or advice that is going to work. No classes, no Stuart Smalley mental repetitions of, "I'm good enough I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me," and no Zig Ziglar is going to repair the inherent sin of self-hatred. Humility is the only healer.

Catholicism has done a great deal to humiliate me. It hasn’t felt good to know that I have been wrong my whole life. Catholicism has forced me to my knees in confusion and brokenness. It has shown me that I have my place and I need to humbly submit to it. It has ripped away my self-confidence and shredded my feelings of control.

That isn’t easy.

But attached to all these subconscious and internal safeguards I was clinging to, was pride and the terror of self-doubts. Not to say they are totally healed as this is a process I am sure will take the rest of my life. But my insides have been gutted by God and a new person is emerging that I simply don’t recognize.

There is a rich, intense and mysterious peace that comes from humility. A security I had never expected.

For the first time in my life, I am letting compliments saturate me instead of flinging them off with pride. I believe and trust that others are telling me the truth, while before I thought so little of other’s opinions. My opinion was the only one worth trusting.... and I hated myself because I didn't look like Lana Turner and that was that.... I wasn't Heddy Lamar so I was nothing.

As counterintuitive as it appears, pride keeps one from feeling worthy. Self-confidence is a huge lie.

When we humbly submit to God and recognize that He is in charge--when we sacrifice our self-esteem and rights and understanding at the foot of the Cross---when we accept that He is ruler and Lord and we are but mere servants who obey Him, all of a sudden, the gift comes. The gift of grace that flows heavenly upon a soul parched from pride.

Instead of looking at women more beautiful than me and feeling defeated, unloved, I can now look upon them with such admiration. Beauty is a wonderful gift from God, even in other women. It was pride that made me hate them. Their beauty killed my self-esteem. Now, I can see the beauty in myself. God has shown it to me. And somehow through His eyes, I can see it!

Now, I don’t compare myself with others, I lavish and enjoy the gifts God has given them. I love that others are successful and smart. Their success, their intelligence doesn’t make me fear anymore.

I only write this because I know hundreds of young girls out there feel just as I have. I don’t want them to learn this when they are gray-haired. I want so badly to spare them years of heartbreaking searching for self-esteem and self-worth.

God is the answer. You must learn to let go of trying to be better, prettier, smarter, more successful than other people. Not just in praying for God to show you how great you are. You aren’t going to learn it through bucking yourself up. You will learn it through humility, through submissive obedience to God and the knowledge that He is the only opinion you can trust.

Prepare yourself. Wrenching pride and self-hatred from your soul is going to hurt. I'm sorry about that, but I can tell you when you are on the other side of humility--it is going to feel better than you can imagine. For it is only when the veil of pride is ablaze and we can see clearly the goodness of God, we can see ourselves. And that is going to shock and awe you.