Heading Into Difficult Territory

Jephthah’s horrific vow turned up in the daily Lectionary last week. Without even a balance of Jesus in Matthew 5:37:

Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.

Our new associate pastor did an amazing dance by not only tackling that passage from Judges, but slathering on innumerable coats of paint* to get us to the Liturgy of the Eucharist as Christians. If I had been the preacher, I think this is one passage that can be read with full condemnation and not a stitch of regret in doing so. Anything else may well be from the evil one.

I was speaking with my spiritual director later on that day, and after getting my revulsion off my chest, I was sharing my own sense these days that it can be good to plunge directly into the lion’s den. And by that I mean something more substantive than reading a steady diet of conservative bloggery.

I’ve gotten up to the end of the John’s last Supper discourse in my daily lectio divina. It seems like a good place to pause and turn elsewhere for awhile. I want to save the Passion for another time–but I haven’t decided for sure on that just yet. Whether it starts today or in another two to three weeks, I’m considering tackling Judges head-on. How bad can it be, really? I’ve had several months of Christ-centeredness in John and Paul and Peter. The Australian trappist Michael Casey advocates a balance of Jewish and Christian scriptures–and advises the student of lectio not to shy away from anything in the Bible.

And spiritually, it may be good to confront my own inner passions for violence. How can these be tempered, except by the grace of God? And where else can I go to find the grace: perhaps only at the center of ugliness and violence and the senseless battles of human might.

Maybe readers have some experiences with ugly adventures in the Old Testament. Or with the favor or folly of using Judges as material for prayer for the next few months. I suppose if I start blogging on Catholic fratricide, you’ll all know it was less than a wise path to tread.

* The spiritual interpretation for those outraged by the murder of one’s own child

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Liturgy, Scripture, spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Heading Into Difficult Territory

  1. John Donaghy says:

    Jesuit poet-prophet-priest Daniel Berrigan has been writing a series of reflections on different books of the bible, almost always provocative. He’s treated the prophets, Acts, Revelation, Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy adn 1 King, among other books. I don’t think he has yet tackled Judges, but he doesn’t avoid difficult issues.His work might be a help for a different type of lectio.

  2. Liam says:

    Particularly repulsive is Jephthah’s blaming his nameless daughter thusly “Alas, daughter, you have struck me down and brought calamity upon me.”

    No, honey, you did that all by your vainglorious vow.

  3. crystal says:

    I had a bible study group that started with Genesis and this bit about Jephthah reminds me of Lot offerring his daughters to a mob so they’d leave his guests alone – yikes! I honestly can’t think of any way to make this kind of stuff ok, so I just tell myself that the people who wrote it got it wrong.

  4. Pingback: Judging the Judge, Plus More Mercy « Catholic Sensibility

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