Mashiach ben David

I’ve been reading this very informative (and often humorous) Q&A about Judaism, Jew Got Questions. It’s like sitting down with a rabbi and asking all the questions, from the purpose of keeping kosher to if it’s okay to get a tattoo (short answer, no). But I braced myself when I got to the chapter on the Messiah.

It’s interesting to learn who exactly the Jews are waiting for. Mashiach ben David, a.k.a. “the Anointed One, the descendent of King David.” Who apparently is not Jesus, because he must be born of human parents. And be something of royalty. And rebuild the Temple. It all just made me sad, but then I got to the part where they actively debate Jesus. Then I got mad over misinformation.

Let’s review!

1. Jesus was not a prophet
“prophecy ended upon the death of the last prophets—Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Jesus appeared on the scene approximately 350 years after prophecy had ended.”
Who says? Besides, if the Messiah is supposed to be a prophet, and prophecy is supposedly dead, then this argument is invalid.

2. Jesus was not a descendent of King David
Well, Joseph was a descendent of King David. Since Mary married into his family, this is a valid royal line. There are several woman present in Jewish genealogy for various reasons, so there’s no reason why this one wouldn’t count.

3. Jesus was not Torah observant
“Throughout the New Testament, Jesus contradicts the Torah and states that its commandments are no longer applicable.”
Quite the opposite! Jesus frequently urges the importance of the Commandments, and challenges people to not just follow the Law, but to follow it wholeheartedly. “I have come not to abolish [the Law] but to fulfill [it].” (Matthew 5:17)

4. Mistranslation of virgin birth

Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
—Isaiah 7:14

The claim is “virgin” here really means “young woman,” rather than one who hasn’t had sex. I don’t argue that. But many prophecies have a double meaning, so both interpretations are correct. The unnamed young woman bears a child (there are many interpretations as to who this is), but its other meaning is literally a virgin—i.e., Mary.

5. God as Three
I admit that the Trinity is hard to grasp for non-Christians. But it’s not polytheism.

6. Man as God
“God is incorporeal… He assumes no physical form. God is Eternal, above time. He is Infinite, beyond space. He cannot be born and cannot die.”
This is all true. This point also argues that the Messiah will not be a demi-god, of which Jesus is not. He’s fully God, even in human form. He is eternal, for he’s still alive. If God is Eternal and Infinite, and He’s in everything, it’s not much of a stretch to suggest He can infiltrate humanity, His greatest creation.

There are other examples, but I spent this chapter saying to myself, “No, no, and… nope.” It truly makes me sad. It’s a very literal interpretation of prophecy, one that doesn’t allow for any leeway in what God may have said. This is the same God who demonstrated to Abram that human sacrifice isn’t necessary; He guided Moses into the unknown; He chose a scrawny shepherd to be Israel’s greatest king. Why not come to Earth as a human being? Why can’t there still be prophecy and miracles, when the whole of Israel’s faith is based on just that?

In this, I see how the Sanhedrin opposed Jesus. They were so dependent on their own knowledge that they allowed little room for faith.

Confessions of a Mega Church Pastor

I haven’t read a conversion story in a while, and this reminds me how much I like reading them. Even though we came from different backgrounds, the story feels familiar—Allen Hunt experienced that sense of “coming home” to the Church, much like I had, and this book explains how.

“As a Protestant, I had no idea what I was protesting.”

It takes a journey through a metaphorical house, describing what he found in the Church through its different rooms. I suppose it’s similar to Interior Castle in that sense, but more a basic introduction to the faith than growing deeper in it. Each room has its own theme: the dining room represents the Eucharist; the family cemetery is a reminder of the saints. “This house will take care of you,” he says, a reference to both his family home and the Church itself.

Though Dr. Hunt left the church he’d been pastoring—and the denomination all together—he remains respectful to his Protestant roots. He’ll gently call out when its teachings are wrong, but also offer the Catholic truth beside it. He often stresses the unity of the Church, that we’re to be “one holy, catholic, and apostolic church.”

“When your churches divide and split and find new ways to disagree on a daily basis, you become accustomed to a model based on group pride, epitomized by conflict, and then followed by division… You can always just find other Christians who believe like you do and begin your own congregation.”

I wish it had delved more into this division and his experience as a pastor. He doesn’t talk much about what it was like to leave, which I’d hoped for when picking it up. How does a mega-church pastor leave everything behind and become Catholic?

There are “real life helps” at the end, things you can do yourself to strengthen your own faith. This is where I learned about Dali’s Sacrament of the Last Supper (which I may prefer to Da Vinci’s now), and was inspired to read the Catechism cover-to-cover (one day!). They vary from small things you can do at home to pilgrimages overseas, but all things that can inspire a deeper connection to God—especially for a new Catholic.

Desires

I had this question posed to me months ago and have been mulling over it since: What do you really desire to do? I’m not talking “big picture,” though that’s a valid question, too. I mean the day-to-day. I mean when you end up sitting on the couch playing a mobile game for an hour. Or when Netflix asks if you’re still there during a series marathon. These are things we end up doing, but is that truly our desire?

There are plenty of things I desire to do: read more books, shut down electronics at night, spend time in prayer. So why don’t I do it? It’s not just laziness. I don’t want to be a sloth, even though that sometimes happens, and it’s often not intentional. But in not doing anything, I’m also acting on a desire—one that’s easier to fulfill. Not doing is as much a desire as doing. Picking up a book is acting on a desire, but so is not picking up that same book. Lately, despite the desire to do, I’m aware of acting more upon the desire to not do. Once you start sliding, that’s a tough hill to climb back up.

The question is, “Why?” It can’t just be human nature. It’s true that we naturally rebel against goodness, but there are also sparks of inspiration. It’s why we reach out to God, even when we don’t know we’re reaching to Him. It’s why we’re inspired to read that book, or say the rosary before bed. But desire doesn’t always lead to the act. I have rosary beads all around the apartment. I have books at my bedside, on my desk, and on the couch. The desire is there, but I often can’t follow through.

“I stretch out my hands to thee; my soul thirsts for thee like a parched land.”
—Psalm 143:6

I feel God knocking on the door. “Just let Me in,” He seems to say, but I don’t answer. It’s a constant inner struggle. I fear He’ll reprimand me or, perhaps worse, ask me to do something. Devotion is a nice idea, and maybe I’ll do it later. But I’m also tired of putting things off. I’m behind on my reading for the year, even though I’ve been working from home for most of it. What have I been doing with that time, if not reading, praying, or even cleaning the apartment? Why is the desire to do nothing so overpowering?

At least I’m aware that He’s knocking. When I’ve been stagnant too long, I examine what I’ve been doing for the past hour. Is it productive? Is it really what I desire to be doing? The answer is usually “no.” Sometimes, that’s motivation enough to start praying or read a book. (Those don’t even require getting up!) Even at rest, we’re to be connected to God. That’s the whole purpose of the Sabbath, after all, so I’m not just talking about doing things. Be a slothful lump, or rest in the presence of God? It should be an easy choice, but sometimes it’s not. But being more aware has helped. “Is this what you truly desire to be doing?” If not… get up, and do something else.