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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle

Sirach, Chapter 29, Verse 7
Many refuse to lend, not out of meanness, but from fear of being cheated needlessly.

The lending of money was part of the cycle of life for a righteous Jew. Even today a good person may be afraid of being cheated by a charity with charity executives being some of the highest paid people or from a quote “homeless” holding a sign up that says: “Why lie: I still get high” “Help” “God Bless”.

Lending and Love: A Jewish Approach to Loans[1]

Tracee Rosen suggests that the Torah provides a system of social engineering in its complex laws of land management and interest-free loans. Every seven years the land was to lie fallow and debts were cancelled. In the meantime it was forbidden for Jews to charge one another interest when lending money. Tracee Rosen writes, “Both are social engineering policies designed to forestall widening the chasm between the haves and the have-nots in society. Helping the poor become more self-sufficient through these two policies also meant a reduction in the number of Jews who would be required to sell themselves into indentured servitude to repay their debts.” That said we confront a variety of complex problems in the practical application of these laws both in ancient and modern times. While borrowing was the last resort in an agrarian society lending and borrowing of money took on commercial significance in a society that was built upon business and the exchange of capital rather than agriculture. The sages came up with ingenious strategies for circumventing the prohibition against lending money with interest while trying to maintain the spirit if not the letter of the law. At the heart of these practices was a deep belief that property is not ours unconditionally and that we have a responsibility to share our resources with others. From the perspective of the Bible and the sages lending money to fellow Israelites in times of difficult economic straits was an “act of righteousness and kindness.” And yet to loan funds without some type of system of interest became untenable over time. The sages wondered how to balance righteousness with a stable economy.

We are left to wonder whether these ingenious strategies circumvent the law or capture the spirit of the law. If we are but stewards of God’s wealth we must ask ourselves what our responsibilities are to others.

Halakhah L’ma-aseh

·         The key to understanding these texts from the Torah properly is that they all suppose the act of lending money to fellow Israelites in times of difficult economic straits to be an act of righteousness and kindness. And indeed, we are commanded multiple times in the Torah to behave righteously toward strangers, poor people, orphans and widows. The Observant Life, pp.556
·         Giving gifts of charity, of course, is one way to help the poor and powerless. But the Torah seems to recognize at least tacitly, that almost all people will be capable of lending far greater sums of money than they will be able to give away outright as charitable gifts.-The Observant Life, pp. 557
·         It is crucial to remember that the biblical view of lending is rooted in the assumption that loans function primarily in society as a means for the wealthy to assist people in dire economic circumstances.-The Observant Life, pp. 558
·         In our day, there are special societies that exist to facilitate lending money to Jews as an act of charity, but the reality in our world is that most loans are sought from banks or other lending institutions as commercial enterprises rather than acts of charity. The Observant Life, pp. 560
·         The prohibition against taking interest from another Jew was taken so seriously that the Talmud actually rules that participating in such a loan represents a transgression not only for the lender and the borrower, but also for the guarantor, the witnesses and even the scribe...nonetheless, as the financial realities of the medieval period changed, some sort of device was required whereby merchants and business people could borrow money in order to finance their business...referred to as torat iska (business law), the document restructures what we would normally understand as a loan into a kind of business partnership. The Observant Life, pp. 560
·         At the deepest level, these laws are a powerful translation of the dogmatic notion that everything we own ultimately belongs to God from the realm of pious ideas into the world of real people and their very real needs, Being willing to release a loan, therefore, is a kind of tacit acknowledgement that all wealth is on loan from the Creator anyway!-The Observant Life, pp. 564
·         In general, the Jewish attitude toward individual wealth can be summed up by these words from the first verse of the twenty fourth psalm: "The earth is the Eternal's and all it contains." And indeed, from the Jewish perspective, we are merely the conservators and stewards of the wealth that ultimately belongs to God.

Feast of the conversion of St. Paul[2]

St. Paul was born at Tarsus, Cilicia, of Jewish parents who were descended from the tribe of Benjamin. He was a Roman citizen from birth. To complete his schooling, St. Paul was sent to Jerusalem, where he sat at the feet of the learned Gamaliel and was educated in the strict observance of the ancestral Law. As a convinced and zealous Pharisee, he returned to Tarsus before the public life of Christ in Palestine.

Sometime after the death of Our Lord, St. Paul returned to Palestine. His profound conviction made his zeal develop to a religious fanaticism against the infant Church. He took part in the stoning of the first martyr, St. Stephen, and in the fierce persecution of the Christians that followed. Entrusted with a formal mission from the high priest, he departed for Damascus to arrest the Christians there and bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he was nearing Damascus, about noon, a light from heaven suddenly blazed round him. Jesus with His glorified body appeared to him and addressed him, turning him away from his apparently successful career. An immediate transformation was wrought in the soul of St. Paul. He was suddenly converted to the Christian Faith. He was baptized, changed his name from Saul to Paul, and began travelling and preaching the Faith. He was martyred as an Apostle in Rome around 65 AD.

What do we learn from this history?[3] Not to despise any sinner, nor to despair of his salvation: for, like Paul on the road to Damascus, the greatest sinner may, by the grace of God, be suddenly converted, and become a saint. At the command of God he accepted Ananias as his leader in the way of salvation, and became as zealous for the honor of Christ as he had previously been intent on persecuting Him. In like manner, a convert must shut his eyes to all by which he has heretofore been led astray, and must give heed to that only which God commands.

Today try and be 100% for God.

As iron, cast into the fire, loses its rust and becomes bright with the flame, so too a man who turns his whole heart to Me is purified and all sluggishness and changed into a new man.[4]

Who am I, Lord, that I should be considered by You: I AM WHO AM.

Like Paul we must be fearless in proclaiming the gospel.

“Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mk. 16:15-16)

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity[5]

Day 8, He will gather the dispersed… from the four corners of the earth

·         Isaiah 11:12-13, Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah, and Judah shall not be hostile towards Ephraim.
·         Psalm 106:1-14 & 43-48, Gather us to give thanks to your Holy Name.
·         Ephesians 2:13-19, He has broken down the dividing wall.
·         John 17:1-12, I have been glorified in them.

Throughout the biblical narrative of salvation history, an unmistakable motif is the unrelenting determination of the Lord to form a people whom God could call God’s own. The formation of such a people – a united covenanted people – is integral to God’s plan of salvation and to the glorification and hallowing of God’s name.

God’s covenanted people must be a reconciled community – one which itself is an effective sign to “all the peoples of the earth.” The prophets repeatedly reminded Israel that the covenant demanded that this relationships should be characterized by justice, compassion and mercy. Like Israel, the Church in its quest for unity is called to be both a sign and an active agent of reconciliation.

Lord, we humbly ask that, by your grace, the churches throughout the world may become instruments of your Peace. Through their joint action as ambassadors and agents of your healing, reconciling love among divided peoples, may your name be hallowed and glorified. Amen.

Daily Devotions
·         Drops of Christ’s Blood
·         Nineveh 90 Day 25
·         Fitness Friday Week 12
·         Nine Days for Life-day 8
·         Pray for Schools
·         Please pray for me and this ministry

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