Saturday, October 3, 2009

Week #1 - In the Beginning...

THE FOCAL POINT AND COMPASS - "In the beginning" is not only a perfect opening line, but it becomes the definitive theme for everything that follows in the Sacred Scriptures and Bible. The Gospel for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time comes from the Gospel of Mark (Mk 10: 2-12) and has Jesus addressing questions about marriage and divorce. Jesus expresses a higher standard regarding marriage than even Moses had. Jesus' standard is based on what was in the beginning. The beginning becomes the key focal point for everything we find in the Scriptures. So when we read about God sanctioning war and causing the defeat of armies which includes tragedy and death, we need to look back to what God tells us about himself "in the beginning." It will be "in the beginning" that we will discover the truth about who God really is and His amazing plan for us.

IN THE BEGINNING - To really appreciate "the beginning" and how God created all that is over a period of seven days, we need to know that this story of creation was not written in a vacuum. There were other stories about creation that would have been quite familiar to the people of Israel. I imagine that after 430 years of slavery in Egypt that the people of Israel would have known well the story of creation which the Egyptians professed.

CREATION THE EGYPTIAN WAY - In the Egyptian story the god Ra came forth from the primal ocean of chaos known as Nun. As the story progresses we witness the hatred of Ra's grandson Set against his brother Osiris. So malicious is Set that he cuts his brother into many pieces and scatters them throughout the world. Humankind is created from Ra's tears. Unfortunately, humankind proved to be ungrateful so Ra created Sckhmet to efficiently slaughter all humans. Ra relents and the present world is created.

THE CREATION PARADE OF BABYLON - There are about a thousand years between the Slavery of the People of Israel in Egypt, their deliverance, inheriting a Land flowing with milk and honey and being exiled from Jerusalem in Babylon. From 598BC to 538BC, the Israelites were captives in Babylon and annually witnessed the grand parade through the streets of this amazing city. The parade wasn't your average event, it was the re-enactment of the creation of the world as the Babylonians saw it. Their story begins with conflict between the gods and goddesses and the eventual murder of the goddess Tiamat who is split in two and from her come the waters in the sky and the waters below. Her eyes become the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Marduk (also known as Bel) after murdering Tiamat becomes the King of all the gods and creates humans which in the Babylonian language are called "lullu." I'm sure you can agree with me that we've all met people who would fit that description. Perhaps, we've been a little "lullu" ourselves every now and then. But "Lullu" also meant barbarians and savages. Not a very positive or hopeful beginning from the Babylonian perspective.

THE POWER OF GOD'S WORD - One could easily imagine that the eventual story of creation of the people of Israel would contain some of the violence and bloody elements we find in the Egyptian and Babylonian versions. It is worth noting that unlike those stories which were full of blood, violence, death, murder, jealousy, and vengeance that the people of Israel set the record straight and offer the world a radically different account of creation in what we know of as the Book of Genesis - the book of the beginning. NO blood, no violence, no jealousy, no vengeance - just a loving God creating all that is by the power of his Word. It is powerful that in the Gospel of John we are told that Jesus is the Word of the Father. Jesus throughout the Gospel of John shows signs and works miracles all with the power of his word. Wow! And perhaps the most important concept of the creation is that everything that God created for the first 5 1/2 days, He created for man and woman - for us! Now that's something we should ponder. God wanted everything to be absolutely in place and perfect before he created man and woman. If you can imagine with me one moment what this suggests. God was so excited about all that he was creating for the man and the woman that he didn't want them to experience and see it until it was all done! He wanted to see the sheer surprise and delight in their faces! And then after God created the man and the woman he wanted them to rejoice in all that he Had created just for them. So after creating the beasts on the 6th Day, God creates man and woman in his image and likeness. This also remarkable because most primitive accounts of creation describe the creation of man as the creation of beasts and savages. Obviously, our God sees a big distinction between us and the beasts. We are created in his image and likeness. It was never intended for us to beasts. The point is that everything God did he did for man and woman(us) and everything God continues to do is for us, as well. What Jesus does in the Garden of Gethsemane and the suffering and death he endures, He does for us! The words God uses in Genesis, "Let there be" is translated into the word "Amen." It is a phrase and word that signified belief. In essence, God is saying that He believes in us and in all that he has created. What He has created is good and He believes in its goodness. The Gospel of John has Jesus using the word "Amen" frequently. Often there are two "Amens" together. The Jesus that heals and works amazing signs by the power of his word in John's Gospel also belives in us and our goodness. In fact, he believes so much that he is willing to give his own life so that death and sin will be destroyed. A powerful way to begin our Great Bible Adventure with so many insights and so much meaning to assist us in our journey through life.


  1. Thank you so much Msgr. for this blog. The more information on this great adventure, the easier our readings are to understand. Thanks again. I'm printing your blogs out to be read whenever I can find time. It's a great addition to my kit.

  2. Msgr. where do the Egyptians fit in the creation? We only hear about them with Moses. Did they split up from the Jews somewhere along the way?
    John Thaler