Thursday, August 18, 2005

Who's talking? (today's homily)

The first reading gives us an excellent opportunity
To learn how really to read Scripture.

We can imagine someone citing this story, saying,
“See, how mixed up the Bible is.”

Let’s look closer.

Jephthah is one of the Judges of Israel.
And we hear that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him.
So we might think: Ah, God approves of him!
No doubt that’s what Jephthah thought, too.

Note this: we hear someone make a promise to the Lord,
and we hear them talk about the Lord—
but do we ever hear what the Lord himself has to say?

This is the story of the Judges in a nutshell.
The book began with God’s People seeking God,
And God speaks to them.

As the story advances, we hear God’s voice less and less—
And that is the problem.

Jephthah’s regret wasn’t that his rash vow meant
he had to murder someone.

That is what he promised to do!
He said: whoever comes out of my house.
Notice, he blames her!
And they both assume God expects Jephthah
to keep this vow.

Once again—do we know this is what the Lord wants?

There’s a good principle we can mention here:
The principle of the “spirit of the law.”

Laws and rules exist to protect values.
But the value they serve to protect
Is more important than the law itself—
That’s common sense.

So we don’t observe a mindless legalism.
We respect the law, but above all, we keep in mind what the law is there to promote in the first place.

But above all, this is a warning;
It’s not enough to talk about God.
We need to make sure we are talking with God—
And we listen to hear him talk to us.


Anonymous said...

How does one know one is hearing God, and not one's self indicitions or Satan? Often I hear people say, "God told me to do (this)." Or, "God wants me to (whatever)." I have never had Truth presented to me in this way.

Fr Martin Fox said...

anonymous - well, how one hears God in real life is a different question from how Scripture portrays God's point of view -- the latter being what I was primarily talking about in my homily. My point was that Scripture will often have many points of view, not all of which are God's.

In personal life, one should not expect to "hear" God in some concrete way, either externally or internally, in word or sign. It can happen, but don't expect it.

God speaks to us in a lot of ways, if we "tune in": through Scripture, through his Church, through nature and reason, through human experience, through other people, and through interior movements. And, sometimes, through supernatural events.

How can one tell the difference between God and the evil one? Well, can you tell the difference between what is good, and what is evil? Of course you can -- and that's who you know.

Anonymous said...

'Well, can you tell the difference between what is good, and what is evil? Of course you can -- and that's who you know'.
Isn't this an oversimplification?

"Even Satan can disguise himself to look like an angel of light!"

Fr Martin Fox said...

anonymous - if a voice claiming to be God tells you to do evil, you know it's not God.

On the other hand, if the evil one is pretending to be God, and so is telling you to pray, to follow God's law, to be good and decent...

Doesn't that defeat the purpose?

My point is, the evil one is unmasked when what he urges goes contrary to God's law.

Further, I think it very unwise to concern ourselves too much with the evil one, but to focus on our relationship with God, and seek his protection and repose our trust in him. He is our Good Shepherd.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever meet Father Jim Willig? He did the lunch with the Lord series each week down at the Cathedral and then when he was pastor of Ss Peter and Paul in Reading he did the evening with the Lord on the same day. It gave him much more time to teach about the gospel reading than he could with a sermon. He was truly gifted. If you have not heard his teaching, you can find his tapes at
and I see a lot of priests tapping into them for homilies and teaching.

Fr Martin Fox said...

I knew Father Jim, God rest his soul; and I am familiar with his commentaries on the Scriptures, I have some of that material.