Dead Sea Scrolls in Seattle

(Pacific Science Center, October 17, 2006)

Bulletin (October 22, 2006)

On Tuesday Fr. Ramon and I had the opportunity to see the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit with Holy Family fourth graders. It was a wonderful outing, and I am grateful to Mrs. Wilson, her husband Brian, and the parents (and one older sister) who accompanied the class.

I also appreciate the Pacific Science Center for bringing the Scrolls to Seattle and for the way they set up the exhibit. I do, however, have a complaint. But let me first say what I appreciated. The exhibit was beautifully set up. The Pacific Science Center provided each visitor with a device which allowed both adults and children to have a guided tour and to proceed at their own pace. The exhibit showed how the Scrolls were discovered, how they have been painstakingly deciphered and their great importance: that, except for Esther, they contain every book in the Jewish Bible (our Old Testament). In addition the Scrolls have three books found only in the Catholic Bible: Sirach, Tobit and Baruch. The Scrolls testify to the reliability of the Bible which we use today and on which we base our lives.

With so much to appreciate, it might seem ungrateful to voice a complaint. Still, one thing was missing. For all its technical excellence, the exhibit obscured the motivation of the men who produced the Scrolls. They were seeking a radical reform, both for themselves as individuals and for their entire society and - this is the most important point - they recognized that the reform would happen only by divine intervention. Here is one way the exhibit obscured that central point: In its comment on the Book of Hosea, it stated that the prophet compared the relation of God and his people to the “failed relationship of a husband and wife.” No, the comparison Hosea used was that of a husband who continued to love his wife in spite of her repeated infidelity - and how he did everything possible to bring her back. The Dead Sea Scroll community knew their own sinfulness, their need for purification and that their only hope (and the only hope of their society) lay in God’s initiative, what we call “grace.”

This is an important point because our society today needs a radical reform, a turning back to God, but we have to recognize that it will not happen by our puny efforts. We have to do our part, of course, but in the end salvation comes from God’s action, his intervention, his free grace. That is the message of the Dead Sea Scrolls for us today.

Our need for radical reform was underscored this past week by something that happened at a high level of our government. You may have read about a ceremony where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice swore in a man who had a gay partner. The Secretary of State not only acknowledged his partner, but referred to the new ambassador’s “mother-in-law.” On one level it seems amusing, but when you think about it, it puts the government’s seal of approval on sinful behavior. It degrades the meaning of marriage, which is fundamental to any society.

Perhaps an example from the ancient world will help clarify what is at stake. The ancient people told about a queen named Semiramis. She practiced a very licentious lifestyle. Of course, there was nothing unusual about that, especially among the rich and powerful. However, Queen Semiramis went a step further. In order to justify her own behavior, she passed a law which legalized incest (sexual relations between close relatives like uncle and niece). The people welcomed their new “liberty,” but in the end it brought destruction to their society. Something similar is happening in our society. The people who produced the Dead Sea Scrolls have a message for us. It is very similar to what Jesus taught: the Kingdom of God is near; change your lives and believe the Good News.

In the coming weeks, we will have the opportunity to hear this message in a special way. As a parish we will be focusing on Stewardship, which simply means putting our lives in God’s hand. At each Mass we will say the Stewardship prayer at the conclusion of the Prayers of the Faithful. I ask you also to say that prayer in your homes.

Stewardship Prayer

Loving Lord, our God, giver of life and everything good, We thank You and praise You. You sent Your son Jesus into our world to teach us of Your love and mercy. Jesus gave of Himself totally, even unto death for the sake of others. You have blessed us in so many ways – our lives, our abilities, and our resources. Help us to return those gifts to You in gratitude for all we have received. Send Your spirit upon us Lord to teach us to be generous – with praise, with kindness, with charity. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

En la parte en inglés conté sobre los Manuscriptos (Rollos) del Mar Muerto que vi esta semana con los niños de cuarto grado de Holy Family. Les recommiendo a todas nuestras familias visitar esta exhibición en el "Pacific Science Center." Los Manuscriptos tienen los libros del Antiguo Testamento, con excepción de Ester, e incluidos los deuterocanónicos como el Sirácida, la Carta de Jeremías (Baruc 6) y el Libro de Tobías. Los deutercanónicos son los libros que se encuentran en la Biblia Católica, pero no en la Biblia que usan los Protestantes. Lo que es más importante sobre los manuscriptos es que dan testimonio a la fidelidad de la Biblia que usamos hoy dia. Algunos dicen que no se puede confiar en texto de la Biblia, pero los Rollos del Mar Muerto muestra que la Biblia que tenemos es muy confiable.

Estoy muy contento con la presencia del Padre Juan Diego. Ha sido una linda oportunidad para muchas personas de oir su mensaje, reflexionar sobre la vocación y recibir consejos para seguir adelante en la vida cristiana. Durante la misa de 12:30 (en honor del Señor de los Milagros) el Padre Juan Diego va a estar disponible para confesiones.

Muchos de ustedes recibieron la tarjeta con la Oración de Mayordomía. Vamos a rezarla a la conclusión de las Intercesiones Generales en las misas durante este tiempo de enfocar en Mayordomía. Les invito también rezarla en sus hogares.

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