Thursday, 13 October 2016

The Reading of the Scriptures by Fr Felix, O.F.M.Cap. part 11.

The seven Catholic Epistles are written in very simple language. They were written to meet the practical spiritual needs of the Christians of the first century, and they contain exhortations to virtue and to the observance of the Christian law. St. James treats, among other things, of the necessity of good works, without which faith lacks its life, which is charity. He denounces in very convincing words the myriad evils which arise from an unguarded. tongue, and by an apt comparison shows how unreasonable it is that the same tongue should be employed to bless (i.e. praise) God, and curse a fellowman: "Doth a fountain send forth out of the same hole sweet and bitter water?". (St. James 3, 11). There are two Epistles of St. Peter, "the first Papal Encyclicals." The first Epistle of St. John is a covering letter of introduction to his Gospel; his three Epistles exhale that spirit of love which we associate with "the beloved Disciple." The brief Epistle of St. Jude denounces heresy and vice, and is written in a style of plain unstudied eloquence. Lastly, there is the Apocalypse** written by St. John the Evangelist when he was a prisoner, exiled by order of the Emperor Domitian in the rocky island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. (1, 9). The first three chapters are easily understood; he addresses admonitions to the bishops of the seven principal churches of Asia Minor, and his gentleness is not incompatible with strength and force when abuses call for correction. From chapter 4 the book contains prophecies relating to the future of the Church and the end of the world, and these are veiled in imagery which is not a little obscure. Appropriately, the Apocalypse ends with a description of Heaven under the symbolism of a city. Thus the Bible begins on earth and ends in Heaven. So also with regard to the understanding of its divine message; it too, begins on earth and it will end and be complete only in the light of the beatific Vision in Heaven. *Catholic or Universal, because not addressed to particular churches or individuals as were St. Paul's Epistles. * The authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews has been from Patristic times an open question among Catholic scholars, and remains so still. I speak of its Pauline authorship without prejudice to the opinion of those who claim that in its final form it was written by another than St. Paul, since they agree that "St Paul conceived and conveyed the matter of the Epistle . . . leaving its form to another hand." (C. C. Martindale, S.J. Princes of His People, 2. St. Paul. '`The Household of God" Series. London, 1924, p. 240). This opinion has the full sanction of the Biblical Commission : Denzinger-Bannwart 15 ed. Nos. 2176-2178. ** apocalypse is a Greek word meaning Revelation.