Praying The Old Testament: Mirror For You and Me

Praying The Old Testament: Mirror For You and Me

Close up of a jewish papyrus in a museum

pray the old testament: a mirror for us
Close up of a jewish papyrus in a museum

Praying The Old Testament: Mirror for you and me.

“Catholics pray the Old Testament?

Really?”

The speaker was a Jewish friend. Agrressively atheist, yet intrigued by my love for her people. Judith was just the first of many Jews and Christian friends who have asked me that question with incredulity.

“I have always been attracted to the Jewish people…the Jewish religion.”

Elizabeth, another Jewish atheist we met on a cruise, was surprised- even uncomfortable, at my words. Even more so when I added, “You are God’s chosen people.”

Why do I feel this way?

There are many reasons.

  • Growing up, the Jewish high holidays resulted in half empty classrooms in elementary and high school.
  • As I progressed in my career in academic medicine, many of my best friends were Jewish (atheistic) doctors.
  • I have spent the last few years studying ancient Israel and the Tanakh while writing I, Claudia, My Name is Saul and now, The Reluctant Queen.
  • However, the primary reason however is what I said to Elizabeth on that cruise: Her people are His Chosen ones.

The Old Testament reads like a love story. A love story between God and this nation He chose to bring the rest of us to faith. When we discount praying the Old Testament we deny ourselves nuggets of wisdom.Sometimes boulders of it.

Remember Susanna, desired by the two Elders?

To read the entire passage in the Book of Daniel, click here. The story is as old as time: an innocent woman accused of adultery. Her accusers?

“…the two elders, who used to watch her every day as she came in to take her walk, gradually began to desire her…

‘Look,’ they said, ‘the garden door is shut, no one can see us. We want to have you, so give in and let us!

Refuse, and we shall both give evidence that a young man was with you and that this was why you sent your maids away.’

 Susanna sighed. ‘I am trapped,’ she said, ‘whatever I do. If I agree, it means death for me; if I resist, I cannot get away from you.

But I prefer to fall innocent into your power than to sin in the eyes of the Lord.”

Book of Daniel

Susanna’s secret weapon: Faith.

The rest of the crowd along with her parents, husband and children began to grieve Since they [accusers] were elders of the people and judges, the assembly accepted their word: Susanna was condemned to death.

Susanna appeals to the only Judge she had recourse to.

And He saved her. Why? Susanna made herself an ark.

The elders missed a critical component of Susanna’s character: “She was God-fearing because her parents had raised her in Law of Moses.”

Therefore, when she prayed, she was heard!

Whom does the Spirit stir up? Young Daniel who baldly states the facts framed in this rhetorical, Paul-like question:

Are you so stupid, children of Israel, as to condemn a daughter of Israel unheard, and without troubling to find out the truth?

The Book of Daniel

“The Old Testament is a mirror, Lin.”

Fr. Chris Kanowitz, my then Spiritual Director, replied to my sadness that much of the Old Testament was dismissed as allegory, and even fantasy by devout Catholics and Priests.

In hearing the reading for Monday, March 22nd, I thought of Fr. Chris’ comment. And of the first time I heard the Old Testament descibed as a love story between God and us.

Throughout Genesis, we read the repeating themes of the mysterious, merciful love of the Lord for His people. And of their blindness, rebellion and ignorance. With the exception of a few: Abraham, Jacob and Israel. Moses, Joshua and David and Daniel. Sarah, Susanna, Ruth and Rachel.

And Esther.

Each of these men and women made heroic through faith. Each facing potentially catastrophic threats to body and soul.

But I prefer to fall innocent into your power than to sin in the eyes of the Lord.”

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