Thoughts for Thursday 6th August 2020

Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b; Genesis 35:22b-29; Acts 17:10-15

 

Thursday 6 August

 

We’ve to read 14 of the 45 verses of Psalm 105 in three separate portions today, which I always find difficult. It’s often easier, I think, just to read the whole lot. Whether you choose to do that or not, though, I do hope you notice something the Psalmist often does; and that’s to embellish the stories we have in the books of Genesis and Exodus. Here, for example, Joseph isn’t just sold into slavery (as he is in Genesis 37), but his feet are placed in chains and an iron collar is placed around his neck.

 

Moving to our Old Testament passage, verse 26 is a little ambiguous. If the reference to Mesopotamia applies only to Gad and Asher then that’s fine. If it applies to all the other sons, though, then we do need to be aware that Benjamin (see Genesis 35:18) was actually born in Canaan – just outside Bethlehem.

 

As Ishmael and Isaac might well have remained unreconciled and unable to come together to bury their father, so too might Esau and Jacob have remained unreconciled as well. Too often a bereavement can serve to drive siblings apart from one another, and it’s for this reason that I do love both these stories – and for the way they demonstrate how the opposite can be achieved.

 

I often think it’s a shame that, while there are some books which most other branches of Christianity consider canonical, and an important part of Scripture, our Protestant Bible contains a few less books. Anglicans take a sort of half-way house approach, and will claim that the books in question, while they are ‘useful’, for example, for recital during worship, they are not actually necessary for salvation.

 

These ‘apocryphal’ books include 1st and 2nd Maccabees, in both of which we find references to Berea. At 2 Maccabees 13:1-8, for example, there’s a particularly grizzly (and yet quite instructive) story of a man called Menelaus who, for reasons of personal ambition, defects from the Judeans to join an invading enemy’s army. Unfortunately for him, they then take a rather dim view to what he has done, and instead of making him the new High Priest as he’d hoped, take him to Berea where he is, ‘put to death in the way that it was done there.’

 

Located in northern Greece, I’m not actually going to tell you how it was done, my hope though that, although I quite like the idea of Menelaus getting his comeuppance, it’s a method of execution that’s long since ceased to be used – in Berea, or elsewhere. The first Bishop of Berea was the former slave, Onesimus (see Philemon), and I can’t believe he’d have continued to countenance the practice.

 

Let us pray:

 

Prayer to End the Use of the Death Penalty

 

Merciful Father, we ask your blessing on all we do to build a culture of life. Hear our prayers for those impacted by the death penalty.

 

We pray for all people, that their lives and dignity as children of a loving God may be respected and protected in all stages and circumstances.

 

We pray for victims of violence and their families, that they may experience our love and support and find comfort in your compassion and in the promise of eternal life.

 

We pray for those on death row, that their lives may be spared, that the innocent may be freed and that the guilty may come to acknowledge their faults and seek reconciliation with you.

 

We pray for the families of those who are facing execution, that they may be comforted by your love and compassion.

 

We pray for civic leaders, that they may commit themselves to respecting every human life and ending the use of the death penalty in our land.

 

Compassionate Father, give us wisdom and hearts filled with your love. Guide us as we work to end the use of the death penalty and to build a society that truly chooses life in all situations.

 

We ask this Father through your Son Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever,

 

(United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)

 

Amen


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