Daily Old Testament: Daniel 9 and My Own Book "Leadings: A Catholic's Journey Through Quakerism" (Part 8)

Daniel 9 – In the first year of Darius, Daniel begs God to forgive his people and restore them, smile on them and on his desolate sanctuary. “O our God, hear your servant’s prayer! Listen as I plead. For your own sake, Lord, smile again on your desolate sanctuary. O my God, lean down and listen to me. Open your eyes and see our despair . . . We make this plea, not because we deserve help, but =because of your mercy” (9:17-18).


The angel Gabriel comes to him to “teach him to understand the vision” (9:23). “A period of seventy sets of seven has been decreed for your people and your holy city to finish their rebellion, to put an end to their sin, to atone for their guilt, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to confirm the prophetic vision, and to anoint the Most Holy Place” (9:24).


After 62 sets of seven have passed, “a ruler—the Anointed One—[will come]. Jerusalem will be rebuilt with streets and strong defenses, despite perilous times.” (9:25). The “Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing, and a ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple. The end will come with a flood, and war and its miseries are decreed from that time to the very end. The ruler will make a treaty with the people for a period of one set of seven, but after half this time, he will put an end to the sacrifices and offerings. And as a climax to all his terrible deeds, he will set up a sacrilegious object that causes desecration, until the fate decreed for this defiler is finally poured out on him” (9:26-27).


The historical context is hard to grasp, so readers tend to see New Testament events and end-of-days prophecies in the words of Daniel. And I just don’t understand how we are supposed to jump to that.



From Leadings: A Catholic’s Journey Through Quakerism

Part 8

For a little more than a year after my 1964 conversion to Catholicism, I was very happy, but it wasn’t to last. The underlying fault line in my thinking between faith and doubt, mysticism and rationalism, trust and skepticism was just too unstable to build on. I am not even sure how much faith, or what I would now call faith, there was in my conversion. Was it a conversion or was it just a human decision about which church had the best arguments institutionally? I had an intense sense of God’s spiritual presence in the universe, an intellectual belief that God’s existence was necessary if anything were to be thought “good” or “evil” in human history and human affairs, and a belief that human beings must be free in some sense if moral acts were to have any reality at all. I definitely believed the argument made by Ivan Karamazov in The Brothers Karamazov that if God did not exist, then anything could be permitted, but I had no real sense of personally needing God in my life, no real sense of sin, and little appreciation for Christ’s role in the religion that bore his name.


My sense of God was very diffuse and mysterious, very tied up with nature, and my love of the Church had more to do with beautiful things like Bibles, missals, and stained glass and with cultural and intellectual tradition than it did with any really informed understanding of my need for salvation or holiness of life or discipline. My faith also isolated me from other people rather than bringing me into relation with them on a deeper plane. I had no one with whom I could share my thoughts about it, and its mysteries tended to bring me away from the society of people.


I think it was this isolation that was my greatest weakness. Sometime in my junior year I broke out of this isolation and developed a strong liking for and connection with a teacher and dormitory supervisor of mine, a young and charismatic English instructor. I visited her home in northern Georgia over Christmas, talked with her at length about her childhood and growing up in the Baptist Church, how debilitating in many ways she felt the fundamentalism of her family’s faith had been in her own life, and how dramatically she had rejected it. I probably shared some of my own checkered background and gave her my own sense of what was true, but I don’t really remember all I might have said about my own faith. In any case, she stunned me when she suddenly turned to me in the course of some conversation and said, “I don’t know how anyone as intelligent as you can be a Roman Catholic.” I felt my faith drain out of me as I sat there.

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