israel-demands-king

No one likes to wait, and if made to wait long enough, many of us start to worry or panic.  We don’t think the doctor will see us on time, we wonder if the job we desire will ever come our way, we doubt God will help us find a spouse or provide for our means.  Like our lives, the lives of the patriarchs were full of waiting. Abraham did not want to wait for the son God promised, so he fathered Ishmael by a servant; but he would have to wait until he was 100 years old for his wife Sarah to give birth.  In his youth, Moses tried in his own strength to rescue the Israelites, but he only succeeded in murdering an Egyptian and fleeing to the country, where he tended livestock. This he did for forty years, until he was 80 years old. It was then that God called him through the burning bush to go back and deliver his people – this time through God’s strength instead of his own.

The history of Israel is no different, as Blessed John Henry Newman recounts in his sermon, “The Willfulness of Israel in Rejecting Samuel.”  The Israelites had been instructed by God always to wait for His plans, directions, and signals, before acting. God’s presence in the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night shepherded Israel through the wilderness.  Upon entering the land of Canaan, they were told that God would fight their battles for them.  

Yet, repeatedly, “They failed most conspicuously in that very point in which obedience was most strictly enjoined them,” Newman says, by erecting the golden calf, trying to return to Egypt, exacting tribute from conquered foes, and taking a king for themselves after the pattern of their pagan neighbors. In all these cases, their wilfulness – that deliberate, stubborn attempt to do what one wishes against the command of higher authority – would precede their ruin. “It is observable, moreover, that they were the most perversely disobedient at those times when Divine mercy had aided them in some remarkable way,” as when, after 400 years of silence, God spoke to Samuel.

Samuel came to the Israelites like water in the desert.  Here was a boy who spoke with authority, even rebuking his elder priest through the word of the Lord.  He was famous in Israel as a prophet, and when he confronted them to destroy their idols and serve the living God, they listened, and God rescued them from the Philistines.  Not long after, they demanded a king. “By what strange infatuation was it that they sought for a king to ‘fight their battles,’ when, through the whole course of Samuel’s government, it was so evident that God’s power alone had subdued their enemies?” Newman says.  

“There was one additional aggravation of their sin; they had really been promised a king … [but wanted to do] things in their own way instead of waiting for God’s time. The fact that God had promised what they clamoured for, and merely claimed to choose the time, surely ought to have satisfied them. But they were headstrong; and He answered them according to their wilfulness.” 

Here is a brief and light sketch of Israel’s willfulness and disobedience, so frustrating to read at times.  How could they see the sea opened before them one moment, and moments later worship idols?! How could they doubt God?  Yet those Scriptures, like a mirror, reveal and accuse our own wayward hearts. Has God not delivered us from countless trials and sufferings, besides rescuing us from sin and eternal death?  But we so quickly doubt today the God who saved us yesterday. Lord, we are weak, please help our unbelief.  

In Newman’s time, at the time of this sermon, the Church was under attack, as it is in our own day.  Newman writes, “Certainly we have not, at the present time, learned the duty of waiting and being still. Great perils, just now, encompass our branch of the Church; here the question comes upon us, as a body and as individuals, what ought we to do? Doubtless to meet them with all the wisdom and prudence in our power, to use all allowable means to avert them; but, after all, is not our main duty this: to go on quietly and steadfastly in our old ways, as if nothing was the matter?”  

What about us? Have we learned to trust in God, amid this present ecclesial crisis and the many obstacles in our personal lives?  At times it can look bleak, but when doubts assail us, God assures us: “Be still and know that I am God.”

 

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What is the doctrine of the Trinity? The Athanasian Creed, in common use around the sixth century, formulates it this way: "We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son's is another, the Holy Spirit's another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal."

The true light of Christ’s divinity was made visible to the Apostles at the Transfiguration.

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What is the doctrine of the Trinity? The Athanasian Creed, in common use around the sixth century, formulates it this way: "We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son's is another, the Holy Spirit's another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal."

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About Cardinal John Henry Newman

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A Guide to John Henry Newman will interest educated readers and professors alike, and serve as a text for college seminars for the purpose of studying Newman.

Review by Catherine Maybanks
(Catholic Herald, April 1, 2023)

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(Antiphon, April 2023)

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Fr Peter Conley takes us on an exciting journey into the spirituality and inner life of Saint John Henry Newman.
 

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Endorsement by Neyra Blanco (Amazon)
I bought this book for my son and he loved it, he wrote this review and urged my to submitted: “I think this book has a very beautiful message, because it shows how the young Newman was so determined to achieve his dream of becoming a priest, but even after his dream he continued to work in the church with passion until the day he died, it’s so admirable that even Newman so old and so weak still had that urge to continued his work of being a priest. And the book is well written with words not too complicated with very enjoyable texts and well illustrated pictures. I highly recommend this book for a 5th grader.  

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What is a Classical Liberal Arts Education? Why is it so important for the development of a person?

Fr. Juan R. Vélez answers these and more questions you might have about University Education in the 21st century. This book is aimed for parents, prospective University students, and educators. It will help you discern why adding Liberal Arts electives to your education will help it form it better, and help the student learn to reason, and not just learn.

He also explains how many Universities have changed the true meaning of Liberal Arts, and the subjects, and gives advise on how to choose College Campus, Subjects, and Teachers.

A wonderful book that every parent should also read way before your children are College bound. A Liberal Arts education can start earlier in life, even from home.

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Endorsement by Christopher Moellering (Goodreads, September 14, 2019)
In Passion for Truth Fr. Vélez gave us an outstanding biography of Cardinal Newman. In this work, he provides a concise overview of his thought and his devotion. This is a great work for someone who, perhaps hearing of Newman for the first time because of his beatification 13 October, 2019, wants to know more about this English saint.Vélez is a wonderful writer in his own right, and the frequent quotations from Newman round out the work nicely. I especially appreciated the frequent citing of Newman’s Meditations and Devotions, which show a different side of his spirituality than his more well-known works, Development of Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Assent.

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Take Five: Meditations with John Henry Newman, endorsement by Illow M. Roque (Amazon, September 3, 2010)
“There is a time to put direct inquiry on hold and give ourselves to prayer and practical duties.” Sound advice from one of the earlier, thought-provoking reminders in this sparkling gem of a book: Take Five | Meditations with John Henry Newman, written by Mike Aquilina and Fr. Juan R. Vélez and published by Our Sunday Visitor. This particular paragraph, referenced above, which begins with a direct quote from soon-to-be canonized priest, cardinal and poet, John Henry Newman: “Study is good, but it gets us only so far . . .” is actually the 15th in a series of 76 concise, logically organized meditations moving from the elementary to the sublime. Each meditation–one per page–is built upon the great man’s writings and remarkably rich spirituality. Whether taken whole in one reading or in part page-by-page over a course of weeks and months, these wonderfully insightful meditations will open up, even to the busiest reader in the midst of the world, a unique pathway into prayer and contemplation. My advice to spiritual inquirers at all levels, from the novice to the spiritually adept, is to follow the authors’ recommendation to use this book as a guide for daily prayer and meditation. The structure of the book itself is ideal: first, the authors introduce us to Cardinal Newman, the man, where we are given the opportunity to get to know him through a brief sketch of his life and spirituality at the beginning of the book. This is something readers will likely find themselves referring to again and again, prompting many, I suspect, to even wider explorations of this most gifted Christian leader. Then comes the meditations, consisting of a short summary of Newman’s thoughts on subjects taken, as the authors explain, from various salient points for which Newman is justly remembered: The pursuit of objective religious truth; Teaching on the Virtues; Defense of the Catholic Church; A devout spiritual and moral life; and Generosity and loyalty in his friendships, which sets the topic and tone for each meditation to follow. Each meditation consists of an excerpt taken from Newman’s thirty-plus volumes of writings and diaries. Next comes three brief and extremely useful sections entitled: “Think About It,” which establishes a prayerfully resonant tone throughout the book; “Just Imagine,” which provides a vivid, prayerful experience of the Scriptures that tie in, and finally, “Remember,” a pithy summation which the authors suggest may be used as a daily aspiration. Each meditation is given its own page, which makes it ideal for daily reflection for readers on the go. This book is a must have for every serious Catholic who wants to take their faith to the next level, which is to respond appropriately to the universal call to holiness and seek interior union with God.
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