What follows are themes/topics which will be presented as parts of an introduction to the Old Testament.
The participants to these presentations and associated dialogues will consist of two distinct groups. The first is a group of women, mostly Roman Catholic, who live at the Federal Medical Center (Camp) in Lexington, Kentucky. This Old Testament introduction/survey will continue indefinitely. These hour long sessions will be held live (face to face) at the FMC. The structure will consist of a topical presentation, followed by dialogue regarding content of the presentation, followed by biblical readings related to the theme/topic of the presentation, followed by dialogue in regard to the biblical passages. The content of the themes and topics will be taken from Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, Second Edition by Lawrence Boadt, C.S.P and edited by Richard Clifford, S.J. and Daniel Harrington, S.J. and from various other sources encountered and used by the presenter over his thirty five years of teaching theology and philosophy.
The second group consists of a group of diaconal aspirants, a spouse, and one or two diocesan officials of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pueblo, Colorado. These sessions will be held online, bringing together on its electronic web classroom, groups in Grand Junction, Colorado and Pueblo, Colorado and Lexington, Kentucky. There will be eight three hour sessions held between September of 2018 and May of 2019. During each of the eight sessions, two participants are assigned portions of the book Reading the Old Testament by Lawrence Boadt, C.S.P. and edited by Richard Clifford, S.J. and Daniel Harrington, S.J.. During the first hour of the three hour online session, one participant gives a twenty minute summary of the material assigned. This is followed by the same participant facilitating a twenty minute dialogue of the same assigned material. The dialogue facilitator prepares ahead of time, twice as many questions as he thinks could be used in a twenty minute dialogue During the second hour, a second participant performs a similar summation and facilitated dialogue covering his assigned chapters. Other group participants are asked to read the same assigned portions prior to each session. Further, it is suggested all participants read, prior to each session, the Bible passages listed at the beginning of the assigned chapters of Reading the Old Testament. The third and final hour of each session is used to present special themes/topics related to the Old Testament. The content of the themes and topics will be taken from Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, Second Edition by Lawrence Boadt, C.S.P and edited by Richard Clifford, S.J. and Daniel Harrington, S.J. and from various other sources encountered and used by the presenter over his thirty five years of teaching theology and philosophy.
A Shared and Common Humanity?
Recently we experienced a power outage due to severe storms. For twenty four hours, no electrical power was provided to our home. This was the third such power outage we have experienced since moving here a quarter century ago. Fifteen years earlier, following a severe ice storm, the power outage lasted a week.
Many normal activities were curtailed or impossible during these outages. Though, in one sense we had more discretionary time, on the other hand, our time and bodily energy were used in dealing with the consequences of the outages. The generator needed constant maintenance and refueling. Electric heaters needed to be monitored regularly. (In the case of the most recent outage, sump pumps required regular monitoring and food required refrigeration provided by generator power.) Various other electrical appliances needed to be hooked onto and then taken off the generator. We prepared ourselves to hook up a water steam-purifier or obtain means for purifying water chemically should city water be cut off. Meals and bathing required changes. Sleep was often disrupted by the needs to arise and tend to the generator and the appliances required to keep the house warm and dry. When the roads had been cleared of ice and branches so as to allow travel, we then had to deal with the lack of supplies in stores and with the reality of the inflation of the costs of basic necessities such as gasoline to run the generator.
By the end of the week long ice-storm outage, we were all exhausted. Though the more recent day long outage was less demanding, fifteen years of age and memories of the week long outage caused us to feel a similar exhaustion. In part, these experiences of exhaustion were caused by our lack of knowledge and “softness” which had come from a life of not having to deal with providing for such necessities.
Soon after this more recent outage, at my parish I participated in a group study of a book which advocated a focus on Jesus’ humanity and encouraged that the study participants emulate the humanity of Jesus and follow the suggestions found in His words and by His behaviors and experiences.
To understand Jesus’ humanity, one must understand how human existence was experienced by human beings in the culture and location of the time of Jesus. That is, to understand and usefully apply Jesus’ words and actions, one must be aware of His own experienced humanity. It was this thought which struck me as I reflected on the difference between my experienced humanity during the power outage as compared to my experienced humanity during times of regular electrical power.
Jesus and the Prophets of Israel advocated care of the needy; the poor, ill, hungry, lonely, alien stranger, homeless, unemployed, ill-clothed, lacking medical care, and imprisoned. Clearly, our lives in normal times of electrical service, required us to use our discretionary time and wealth to give aid often to those in need. But during the power outages, the time we spent thinking about the needs of others beyond our immediate neighborhood, shrank to nothing. Being reduced to a hand cranked radio, we had little news of the needs across town, much less to needs of others on the national and international scene. Engagement in our regular services outside our home to others became impossible. Our thoughts regarding the use of what resources we had on hand focused squarely on our own needs and those of our nearest neighbors.
This experience led me to consider what the suggestion of the Prophets of Israel and of Jesus to care for the needy meant to those of their time and in their own cultures. How did ordinary people of their time, with their degree of exposure to the needs of others and with the realities of the resources and skills they possessed; how did these people understand and respond to the suggestions to care for the needy?
To understand and apply the words and actions of Jesus and of the Prophets of Israel, one must be deeply aware of the lived-life-humanity of the people of their times who were their intended audiences. Such awareness begins with our awareness of the difference, perhaps great, between our own lived-life-humanity and the lived-life-humanity of the people of the time of Jesus and of the Prophets of Israel.
And then, to apply the intended meaning of the words and actions of Jesus and of the Prophets of Israel, one must be aware of how humanity is experienced in our own time and how best to modify and apply these teachings, mediated through sacred scriptures, to the realities of one’s own lived-life and times.