A reading, from the Book of Exodus:
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. 3 Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.”
So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!”
And he said, “Here I am.”
A Psalm, from the Psalms:
For You will light my lamp;
The LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.
For by You I can run against a troop,
By my God I can leap over a wall.
As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the LORD is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.
For who is God, except the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength,
And makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like the feet of deer,
And sets me on my high places.
He teaches my hands to make war,
So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
A reading, from the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians:
For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.
For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.
2 Thessalonians 3:7-12
He said: “I am
‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Make straight the way of the Lord,”’
A reading from the Holy Gospel According to St Matthew:
“Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. Then last of all, he sent his son to them, saying,
‘They will respect my son.’
But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves,
‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’
So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.
“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”
They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”
Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice, as it flew in midheaven, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets which the three angels are about to blow!”
A Qur’anic Homily
At the time the Qur’anic author wrote, the “Rewritten Bible” was a popular genre of faith-based literature. The Book of Jubilees retelling of Genesis, the “Animal Apocalypse” of Enoch retelling of Exodus, and the II Targum of Esther 2 retelling of 1 Kings 10 are just a few examples of well-known Bible tales retold with new emphases and changed details. In our own day, a similar genre exists with motion pictures and television, with “The Chosen,” “The Passion of the Christ,” and “Risen” re-imagining and providing fictional details on Bible episodes while attempting to strengthen the message of the Scriptures.
It is in this pattern the Qur’anic author retells the parable of the wicked tenants:
Cite for them the example of the inhabitants of the town when the apostles came to it. When We sent them two, they impugned both of them. Then We reinforced them with a third, and they said, “We have indeed been sent to you.”
They said, “You are nothing but humans like us, and the All-beneficent has not sent down anything, and you are only lying.”
They said, “Our Lord knows that we have indeed been sent to you, and our duty is only to communicate in clear terms.”
They said, “Indeed, we take you for a bad omen. If you do not desist, we will stone you, and surely a painful punishment will visit you from us.”
They said, “Your bad omens attend you. What, if you are admonished… You are indeed an unrestrained lot!”
There came a man hurrying from the city outskirts. He said, “Oh my people, follow the apostles! Follow them who do not ask you any reward and they are rightly guided. Why should I not worship Him who has originated me and to whom you will be brought back? Shall I take gods besides Him? If the All-beneficent desired to cause me any distress, their intercession will not avail me in any way, nor will they rescue me. Indeed, then I would be in plain error. Indeed, I have faith in your Lord, so listen to me.”
He was told, “Enter paradise!” He said, “Alas! Had my people only known for what my Lord forgave me and made me one of the honored ones!”
After him We did not send down on his people a host from heavens, nor We would have sent down. It was but a single Cry, and behold, they were stilled.”
Within this rewritten parable are multiple themes of the Qur’an:
“Cite for them”
The Universal Call to Prophethood is a Catholic concept. In our own days, Bishop Robert Barron has told the faithful, “You are called to be a prophet.” The same position is held by the Qur’anic author. Reading Scripture should generate within the faithful a desire to use it to point others toward the Lord.
By the wise lectionary, you are indeed one of the apostles, on a straight path, sent down gradually from the All-mighty, the All-merciful, that you may warn a people whose fathers were not warned, so they were oblivious. The Word has already become due against most of them, so they will not have faith.
The Qur’an places the source of this prophetic line in the Burning Bush. The same fire that re-created Moses as a prophet and provided him knowledge of God:
So when Moses completed the term and set out with his family, he descried a fire on the side of the mountain. He said to his family, “Wait! Indeed, I descry a fire! Maybe I will bring you some news from it or a brand of fire so that you may warm yourselves.”
Is given to you too. Your faith is not your own work but given to you by God’s grace, which you choose to accept. Be a fire for others, as others were fire for you. God will do the rest, according to His will.
He, who made you from fire out of the green tree, and behold, you light fire from it! Is not He who created the heavens and the earth able to create the like of them? Yes indeed! He is the All-creator, the All-knowing. All His Command, when He wills something, is to say to it, “Be,” and it is.
“Only to Communicate in Clear Terms”
The Prophetic office is not an office of mind-controller. The Holy Spirit is sent to whom the Lord wills, and His graces are denied to whom the Lord wills. The prophetic of evangelical duty is to spread the Truth, but the Truth is a person, not a concept, and cannot be forced on another.
You can only warn someone who follows the Reminder and fears the All-beneficent in secret, so give him the good news of forgiveness and a noble reward.
Good works, important for all Catholics, are emphasized for their value as a sign for others. For instance, the Qur’anic author imagines unbelievers mocking the order to feed the poor. Couldn’t God, if He wished, feed all Himself? But that is not the ultimate point of the Qur’anic author. Feeding the poor is a visible sign of God’s grace. God will decide whether or not what is provided to the poor is sufficient for them and whether or not the sign is actually convincing. The role of every believer is to cooperate by erecting these signs, fulfilling these works of others within the world.
A sign for them is that We carried their progeny in the laden ship, and We have created for them what is similar to it, which they ride. And if We like, We drown them, whereat they have no one to call for help, nor are they rescued, except by a mercy from Us and for an enjoyment until some time.
And when they are told, “Beware of that which is before you and that which is behind you, so that you may receive mercy… There does not come to them any sign from among the signs of their Lord but that they have been disregarding it.
When they are told, “Spend out of what God has provided you,” the faithless say to the faithful, ‘Shall we feed whom God would feed if He wished?’ You are only in plain error.”
“Follow them who do not ask you any rewards”
A sign for the prophets is the behavior of the natural prophets: the rain (without which the Earth is done), the light (without which is it night), and the moon (forever the minor light of the sky). The beings do not seek a reward and do not even seek to displace other natural signs.
A sign for them is the dead earth, which We revive and bring forth grain out of it, so they eat it. We make it in orchards of date palms and vines, and We cause springs to gush form in it so that they may eat of its fruit and what their hands have cultivated. Will they not then give thanks?
The female signs of Night and Moon are shown in harmony with the temporary passing of the day. Indeed, the Night gives rest to the Sun. Just as Nature shows the right ordering of the natural world, so the lack of right ordering in Human Society shows the fallen nature of man.
A sign for them is the night, which We strip of daylight, and behold, they find themselves in the dark! The sun runs on to its place of rest: that is the ordaining of the All-mighty, the All-knowing.
As for the moon, We have ordained its phases until it becomes like an old palm leaf. Neither it behooves the sun to overtake the moon, nor may the night outrun the day, and each swims in an orbit.
“Him who has originated me, and to whom you will be brought back?”
The Lord is the Alpha and the Omega, the source and destination of all things. Worship is the natural and logical reaction to recognizing His existence. And also a matter of personal concern, as He is your destination, as well.
So immaculate is He in whose hand is the dominion of all things, and to whom you shall be brought back.
The Qur’anic author pairs the image of God as the creator with God as the destination – God will resurrect the dead, and being out of time has already seen the past of the future of time.
It is indeed We who revive the dead and write what they have sent ahead and their effects, and We have figured everything in a manifest ledger.
The sin of idolatry is not just giving authority to the wrong person or even of God being jealous, but a disastrous mistake in priorities. Worshiping a false God is an abandonment of the Office of Prophet that all should hold in imitation of Christ. The remarks of such an anti-Prophet are, in fact, Prophecy on behalf of a false God, a fundamental failure in what should be the prime human virtue.
They have taken gods besides God, that they might be helped. They cannot help them while they are an army mobilized for their defense.
So do not let their remarks grieve you. We indeed know whatever they hide and whatever they disclose.
The (super)natural state of humanity is joy, love with each other in the presence of the Lord, in Paradise.
Indeed, today, the inhabitants of paradise rejoice in their engagements – they and their mates, reclining on couches in the shade.
The elements of joy include both the joy of Justice and the joy of eating good food. All of these senses of good, all of the proper goals of the Will, are united with the Lord.
There they have fruits, and they have whatever they want.
“Peace!” a watchword from the all-merciful Lord.
And “Get apart today, you guilty ones!”
Did I not exhort you, O children of Adam, saying, ‘Do not worship Satan. He is indeed your manifest enemy. Worship Me. That is the straight path!’?”
“A Single Cry”
The Qur’anic author, along with Christian writers in general, sees Salvation History (both of the individual and of the world) culminating with the Great Judgment, some final opportunity to view God:
And when the Trumpet is blown, behold, there they will be, scrambling towards their Lord from their graves!
The Qur’anic author views God as the ultimate protagonist in our lives. In some way we can’t imagine God is the Creator of even paths that take us away from Him. In some way, we decide whether to accept or reject His grace, and from that decision, His will unfolds in our lives.
He has already led astray many of your generation. Did you not exercise your reason? This is the Hell you have been promised.”
My reading of the Qur’an, which began with The Opening, is slowing down. That is not because the Qur’an is too alien, but that it is becoming too familiar. To me, it is very obvious the beliefs of the Qur’anic author can be explained by a series of binary, historical decisions
- Along with the majority of Catholic bishops, the Qur’anic author rejected the Nicene Creed and “consubstantial theology”
- The Qur’anic author then would have rejected the Constitution of the Twelve Apostles and its doctrine of bishops-as-gods
- The Qur’anic author, further, would have faced extension of Apostolic succession after the successful suppression of the Arian (anti-Nicene) bishoprics. In reaction to this, the Qur’anic author believed in the progressive dispensation of Sacraments and primacy of the Universal Call to Prophethood
These decisions would place the Qur’anic author outside of contemporary Catholic theology, outside of the Catholic communion, and outside of even mainline Protestantism. Such a view fits comfortably within some of evangelical or Pentecostal Christianity. Sometime after the writing career of the Qur’anic author – at least, after the period contained in the first thirty-six chapters of the Qur’an I’ve written so far, Islam emerged from the carcass of his non-Nicene Christianity. Since starting with “The Opening,” two-and-a-half-years-ago, the “inexplicable” portion has decreased.
I wonder what comes next.