Our community decided in 2008 that the mission of our parish was life-long learning. Everything we do centers around teaching the depth and richness of the Roman Catholic Faith. Our weekly 3-Minute Catechesis is read from the Ambo prior to Mass beginning. A written copy is made available in our weekly bulletin along with additional information for those who want to learn more. Visit us online at www.risensaviorcc.org for more information.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sister Matriarchs: Leah and Rachel

Our series on Biblical Matriarchs concludes with not one but two women, sisters Rachel and Leah, both of whom married Jacob. After deceiving Isaac into giving him Esau’s birthright blessing, Jacob travels to the homeland of his mother Rebekah, to escape his twin brother Esau’s justifiable rage, and also to find a suitable wife.

Jacob soon finds a well and the woman of his dreams, Rachel. It turns out that Rachel, the daughter of Jacob’s uncle, Laban, has an older sister named Leah, but Jacob has no interest in her. He agrees to work for Laban for seven years in exchange for marrying Rachel. Seven years later, Laban plans the wedding and brings his veiled daughter to Jacob as his bride. The book of Genesis says, “And it came to pass that in the morning, behold, it was Leah…” Laban has deceived Jacob into marrying his older daughter!

When confronted by Jacob, Laban explains that he is simply following custom, saying, "It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn." There is irony here that seems to escape Jacob. Remember that this is the man who, with his mother’s help, stole the birthright of his older brother, by concealing his true identity from his father.

The words of the Midrash, which is Jewish commentary, provide an explanation for why Leah went along with her father’s deception. Upon discovering that he has been tricked, Jacob says to Leah: "You are a deceiver and the daughter of a deceiver!" She retorts, "Did not your father call you Esau, and you answered him! So did you too call me and I answered you!" In other words, Leah responds that her actions were no different than Jacob's.

Laban proceeds to offer Rachel as a bride to Jacob – if Jacob agrees to another seven years of servitude. In his love for Rachel, Jacob agrees to this arrangement, and they are wed right away.

Later in Genesis, Jacob, who along with Abraham and Isaac is one of the patriarchs of the faith, is given the new name “Israel” after wrestling with an angel of God. The twelve sons Jacob fathers with Leah and Rachel and their handmaids become the Twelve Tribes of Israel. While Rachel may have been the love of Jacob’s life, Leah left as her own legacy half of the twelve tribes. This includes her sons Levi, father of the priesthood, and Judah, father of the monarchy. While Rachel is buried in a tomb en route to Bethlehem, where she died giving birth to Benjamin, Leah is buried with Jacob in the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Making of Another Matriarch, Rebekah

After Sarah’s death, Abraham decides to find a wife for his son Isaac from among his kin. So he sends his most trusted servant outside of Canaan to find a suitable mate. In his search, the servant looks for a sign from God, which leads him to Rebekah, a niece of Abraham. The servant follows Rebekah to her house, where he receives permission from her family to take Rebekah to Canaan as a wife for Isaac. However, before the servant can leave with Rebekah, her family makes it clear that he must secure permission from Rebekah herself, which he does. So while Isaac did not get a voice in choosing his mate, Rebekah did! Isaac was not disappointed, however: according to Genesis, “in his love for her, Isaac found solace after the death of his mother Sarah.”

Rebekah remained childless for twenty years before becoming the first woman in the Bible to give birth to twins. The name Rebekah means “a young cow,” which may seem insulting, but was actually a compliment, since a cow was a symbol of fertility. While pregnant, it seemed to Rebekah that a fierce battle was being waged inside her body. She asked the Lord why this was happening, to which He replied, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples are quarreling while still within you; but one shall surpass the other and the older shall serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23). This takes us back to the sibling rivalries of brothers Cain and Abel, and Ishmael and Isaac.

According to rabbinic tradition, Rebecca did not share this prophecy with her husband Isaac. She named the older, red-headed twin Esau, which means “red,” and the younger she named Jacob, which means “he who grabs for something” since he grabbed Esau's heel at birth and will later grab something even more valuable.

Rebekah, as a mother, had her faults. Scripture tells us that she preferred Jacob over Esau, perhaps because of God’s prophecy. Regardless of why, our modern-day sensibilities are offended by the preferential treatment of one child over another! Isaac, on the other hand, showers attention on Esau. When Isaac is blind and nearing death, he decides to give his firstborn son his deathbed blessing, a special blessing believed to be extremely powerful. Rebekah overhears her husband speaking to Esau and instigates a plan to help Jacob “grab” the birthright blessing, a plan which is successful.

While it may seem unfair, Rebekah, another of our matriarchs in faith, was cooperating in salvation history, in God’s plan for Jacob, who ultimately becomes Israel, the father of a nation.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sarah, Our First Matriarch

There are many women in the Hebrew Scriptures who inspire us with their faith. Eve, for example, was more than just Adam’s wife: she was a good mother who taught her children to call upon the name of God and to offer sacrifices to Him.

Another good example is found in Sarah. As the wife of Abraham, the first Patriarch, she is the first Matriarch. At the end of Genesis Chapter 11, we learn that Abram and Sarai, the original names of this famous couple, are unable to have children.

In the next chapter, the Lord tells Abram to leave his homeland and go to a land that God would show him. Imagine that conversation between husband and wife! While it may have been easy for Abram to trust in God because he had actually heard the Lord, Sarai was in the position of having to trust her husband – which she apparently does, since they travel to Canaan.

Sarah's life continued to be one of obedience and sacrifice, filled with ongoing trials. As she proved herself to be faithful and obedient, the result was blessings from God.

Arriving in the land of Canaan during a time of famine, Abram and Sarai must travel to Egypt, where she catches the eye of Pharaoh. Abram asks his beautiful wife to pretend to be his “sister” to save him from death. Being blessed for her obedience, Sarai, with her virtue intact and her husband alive, leaves Egypt with riches received from Pharaoh himself.

At the age of seventy-five, knowing that her childbearing years had passed, Sarai put her heart on the altar and offered her handmaid Hagar to Abraham, to fulfill God’s promise of an heir. After the birth of Ishmael, God establishes a covenant with Abram, and because of her willingness to cooperate with the Lord, Sarah is given a new name and is blessed with the miracle birth of Isaac.

We are assured of her motherly skills as we come to know Isaac more fully through the experience he has with his father. Abraham is asked to offer Isaac as a sacrifice to the Lord. Isaac’s submission to the will of both his earthly father and his Heavenly Father confirms that Sarah had taught him the ways of the Lord, and the importance of sacrifice, of which she had given great example.

There is a saying that “Behind every good man is a good woman.” Sarah’s devotion to Abraham and to God entitles her to be called a Matriarch, one of our mothers in faith.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Eve, Our First Mother

The first three chapters of Genesis record God’s creation of the world, and Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God by eating the forbidden fruit. That first sin resulted in the loss of Paradise for all of humanity, but even in the face of rebellion and tragedy, God provided a way for humans to escape the prison of sin and death.

Before being expelled from the Garden of Eden, Eve was given a very special promise. God said to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel." This statement is God’s pronounced judgment of the eventual defeat of the serpent.

This verse is considered the first annunciation of the gospel, the first promise of a savior, one who would defeat the power of sin by crushing the head of the serpent, a symbol of sin. The rest of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, is the gradual unfolding of salvation history to its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, who conquered sin with His death and resurrection. Since St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans that the “wages of sin is death,” then to destroy sin is to destroy death itself.

How did this come about? God ensures salvation through a descendant of Eve, with the cooperation of another woman, Mary. As Paul tells us in Galatians, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman.”

What do we know about Eve as mother? The name Eve is from a Hebrew word that means “living.” The man – Adam, who isn’t mentioned by name until the next chapter – “called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living.”

Like mothers today, Eve experienced both sorrow and joy from being blessed with children. She felt the heartache of loss as she suffered the death of one child, Abel, and estrangement from another, Cain. But she also knew the happiness of knowing her descendants would continue in righteousness with the blessing of an obedient child in Seth. As her children are born, Eve blesses the Lord for them. This tells us that, in spite of their sin and separation from God, in spite of their expulsion from Eden, our first parents continued to worship God and taught their children about their heavenly Father and the offering of sacrifices.

And so the example was set and passed down to us today: families together in worship, forming their children in God’s ways. This is the legacy of Eve, our first mother in faith.