Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
The Best of The Question Box
by Father I.J. Mikulski
(From the May 17, 2012 edition of the Inland Register)
Q. What should I make of warnings, like prophecies that the anti-Christ who is now among us will soon change our world? It’s not just an anti-Christ but the real historical anti-Christ that’s very close. A TV preacher spent his hour telling his story very realistically. Maybe he’s right. Will you be willing to explain Catholic teaching?
A. The anti-Christ gets minimal mention in the Bible, just four one-liners in John’s letters. (I John 2: 18, 2:22, 4:3 and 2 John 7) That’s it. There’s no anti-Christ in the four Gospels or the 14 Epistles, Acts or especially Revelation, where we would expect total disclosure or at least a passing comment. Is this an over-sight? Can we believe Matthew, Mark, Luke and John neglected to mention this earth-rattling threat?
Paul doesn’t use that word. He makes a passing remark about a “man of lawlessness ... the son of perdition (2 Thess.2:34) and the Lord Jesus will destroy him with the breath of his mouth and annihilate him.... This lawless one will appear as part of the workings of Satan....”
Apparently Jesus Christ will annihilate the evil one and that has already been decided. It’s good to know that.
For centuries critics of the Catholic Church have spread the word that the anti-Christ is really the Catholic pope in disguise. Good heavens!
If the primary assignment of the anti-Christ is the annihilation of the Catholic Church we must agree that he’s totally incompetent.
But I digress.
Q. What is “midrash?” A priest used the word but he didn’t explain it and no one asked him as I ask you. It has something to do with reading the Bible.
A. Briefly, midrash is a way of writing and interpreting Scripture that combines folklore and imagination to Biblical narrative in order to make an application to life. It’s unique to the methods of the ancient Jewish writers. It has no parallel in Latin or Greek literature, or any other style, for that matter.
If you’re familiar with Jewish good humor, that delightful mishmash of chuckles and pathos and homespun philosophy held together by a thread of moralizing about the real meaning of life – think Fiddler on the Roof – you have an understanding of the minds of some early Biblical writers who added a touch of midrash to illustrate a point.
We pragmatic modern readers expect and seek a “real meaning” behind the written words, but the ancient writers preferred a “real feeling” behind the same words. It’s part of the culture.
Midrash was an important ingredient in the life of Jewish and early Christian communities so we must be aware of it. We can’t just discard it because it doesn’t fit our style.
Q. What’s wrong with taking an occasional glass or knife or fork as a souvenir from a restaurant as long as we know those small items are added in the bill? Everybody knows that so everybody’s doing it. What’s so bad about that?
A. Not everybody’s doing it. This Q.B. scrivener and his friends at the table do not steal. No one in his circle of friends is a thief. What sort of people are you dining with?
“Everybody’s doing it” is not a moral principle. It’s the direct opposite of the huge moral definitive “Thou shalt not steal,” whose author is the God of Moses, Isaac, Jacob and (Fill in your first name).