Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Blog # 209 Gift of Salvation What a joy it would be for a poor man to win a fortune in a lucky drawing through no more effort on his part than to enter the drawing, fill in the blank, and send in his name. If we reflect upon this experience of the poor man who becomes a grand prize winner we can see a parallel between ourselves and the good news of salvation. The Bible tells us we cannot by our own merits or good works earn the gift of salvation. The good news of salvation is a gift from God. Grace is free, an expression of love, which by definition is free, rather than a reward which is rooted in an obligation rather than freedom on the part of the one responsible for giving the reward. Even when we were in sin God loved us and called us to Himself in Christ Jesus. So indeed we are in a position similar to that of a poor person winning a valuable gift. Salvation is offered freely by God because He loves us in Jesus. In order to win, there is one thing necessary on the part of the poor person. He or she must enter the drawing. So we, even though salvation is a free gift and cannot be earned by the greatest among us, from the least to the greates we must believe in order to be saved. We must accept the gift of salvation, make it our own, join with Jesus as members of His Body, branches on the Vine. Think again of a poor man who won three hundred thousand dollars. What a difference this would make in his life! Can you imagine him living the same way as when he was poor? If so, it might as well have been that he didn't win the prize at all. So it is with our gift of salvation. Without the gift of salvation we are indeed poor, growing older by the hour with death our greatest enemy approaching ever closer, looming large against all else we may have accomplished in the short span of our human life on earth, telling us for sure the bad news that with no hope beyond the grave there is no lasting hope. But the good news comes that Jesus lives. He has conquered death, in our name as well as in His. The Father loves us with the same love with which He loves Jesus. We share by faith the victory of Jesus over death. We are given, a gift of the Father's love, the gift of eternal salvation. As the poor man who won the fortune, so we who have received the gift of eternal salvation through faith in Jesus find our whole lives changed by this fact. We are now united with Jesus in our prayers and praise of God our loving Father. In Jesus we live in obediance to the Father's will. In this we are enriched with the riches of His wisdom and His goodness. As we recall and reflect upon what Jesus does for us in the here and now of our everyday lives, may we be filled with the joy that comes with faith in the good news of Jesus. Our lives are different because of Him. Because of the strength and wisdom He shares we can pray, talking to God our Father. We can promise with confidence to be kind to one another, strengthened by His love which we share. We can live as brothers and sisters in the vision Jesus taught and have peace. Thank You, Lord!
Monday, November 28, 2011
Blog # 207 John Chapter 6 -9 One of the tasks of a study of theology is to discover and interpret connections between history, (with a specific focus upon the origin of particular religious traditions and practice), etymology,( the background and origin of words), and the content, meaning,and authorization of claims made for the possession of a particular revelation by a particular authority. I see the fulfillment of this task as most important when we come to a study of our theology of the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus. With regard to the history of our faith in the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus, I think our references in previous blogs gives clear evidence of its authentic Biblical roots. ( John Chapter Six ; Luke 22: 19,20). A further strong supportive reference occurs in the explicit testimony of St. Paul in 1 Cor 11: 23 - 27. With regard to the legitimacy of recognizing the theological identity of the Last Supper and Calvary I have found Jeremiah 31:31 and Hebrews 8; 8-12 supportive. Jeremiah speaks of a "new covenant" God promises to make with His Chosen People. The author of the letter to the Hebrews quotes Jeremiah , having identified Jesus in his previous Chapter ( 7: 20 -25).as priest of the new covenant. "Unlike the old covenant there were many priests because they were prevented by death from remaining in office; but Jesus, because he remains forever, has a priesthood which does not pass away". The priesthood and sacrifices of the former covenant have all passed away. But the priesthood of Jesus is given as remaining until the end of time. The history of the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus is still going on, primarily in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered daily in our churches around the world. It is current in your and my response to it today and tomorrow. Another significant factor in identifying the Last Supper with Calvary is the fact Jesus and His disciples were officially celebrating the annual Feast of Passover or the liberation 0f God's Chosen People from the slavery of Egypt. The miraculous physical liberation from the slavery of Egypt had always been recognized, officially celebrated, and relived in the annual celebration of the Passover Supper. From the beginning Jesus was seen as the new Moses and His death on Calvary was seen as liberation from sin in the unconditional obedience and the total infinite divine love of the Perfect Everlasting Sacrifice we have come to refer to as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. By definition sacrifice is identified in our Catholic theology with worship, which is the name given to our unique total love and consequently unconditional trust offered and owed to God alone. In the light of this definition and recognizing the Last Supper experience and that of Calvary as a single act of sacrifice offered to the Father and in obedience to the Father's will , we see the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist as an active presence. continuing the perfect act of Calvary every time it is offered Sacramentally on our altars. Our worship of Jesus in our tabernacles is a current participation and sharing in the total love Jesus offered the Father at the Last Supper and on Calvary, His body given, His blood poured out. In union with Jesus by faith , Baptism , and the living gift of Sanctifying Grace as branches on a living vine, we are entitled and invited to share His perfect love as it was expressed at the Last Supper and on Calvary and is presented to us day by day in the Mass. Calvary was the greatest love Jesus knew. It was His glory in history and continues as the glory of the Resurrected Jesus for all eternity. We begin to see more clearly the wisdom and privilege involved in our continuing to share and grow in this love until it is at its greatest in and at the instant of our death, unique to ourselves among the more than seven billion human creatures now living on earth.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Blog # 208 John Chapter 6 -8 We customarily refer to the presence of Jesus in the tabernacle as His 'Real Presence'. This should not indicate or imply that His Presence in the tabernacle is any more real than His divine Presence as the Person of the Word , that is, anywhere, everywhere and however God is present. The personal identity of the Word and the personal identity of Jesus is the same. In other words, we believe the Person referred to as the Word, and Jesus , the Word Incarnate , born of Mary and having shared our humanity in every way but sin in a certain moment of history two thousand years ago. and now glorified through the Resurrection, is the same person. The term 'real presence' was useful, subsequent to the Reformation , in combating a false understanding on the part of some of the theology of the Real Presence which identified the presence of Jesus in the Mass and in the tabernacle as merely symbolic rather than real. A term I use that avoids the danger of weakening or of losing our awareness of the origin nature and reality of the presence of Jesus in the Mass and in the tabernacle is Eucharistic Presence. The term Eucharistic Presence correctly identifies and emphasizes the unique supernatural active presence of Jesus :1 in the LAST SUPPER, and: 2 DOWN THROUGH THE CENTURIES through the theological connection of the Last Supper with the act of sacrificial worship experienced and offered by Jesus to the Father on Calvary and in the Mass, NOW available by faith in tabernacles throughout the world. The love for the Father and for us that Jesus experienced and offered the Father and us on Calvary is the same love Jesus offers the Father and us in Holy Communion and in our tabernacles around the world! That paragraph may well be taken as the high point in the various blogs I have been presenting which were initiated by my response to the Sixth Chapter of the Gospel of John. You might want to read it over a few times to make sure you understand what I have been saying and to help you determine whether you agree with it. It deals with a central issue in the message Jesus came from Heaven to reveal. It is also of utmost importance in the content of our Catholic faith and in any discussions we might have with regard to comparisons and points of similarity and difference between our Catholic faith and that of the various and multiple Christian bodies not in full communion with the Catholic Church. In the practical order it serves in giving me a solid basis and clear background primarily for my understanding and appreciation of the Mass as an act of sacrifice and as such of worship which is the theological name we give to our unique total love for God the Creator of all that exists, and secondarily for my understanding and appreciation of the supernatural presence of the Resurrected Glorified Jesus in the Sacrament of Holy Communion and in our tabernacles around the world.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Blog # 206 John Chapter 6 - 7 "I myself am the living bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread he shall live forever; the bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world." At this the Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can he give us his flesh to eat?" ( John 6: 51). St. Paul helps us answer that question in his first letter to the Corinthians: 1Cor. 11:23-27. "I received from the Lord what I handed on to you, namely that the Lord Jesus, on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, after the supper, he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood"....Every time, then , you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. This means that whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily sins against the body and blood of the Lord." In all of the texts w e have been considering from Chapter 6 of St. John and here again in the text from St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians dated around the middle of the 1st Century, we have a clear Biblical claim for a real personal presence of Jesus in the bread and wine of the Last Supper almost two thousand years ago in Jerusalem and in our current moment of history daily in Catholic Churches throughout the world in the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass. We must ever keep in mind that in our Catholic theology anything we might think, say or even imagine in relation to God must be understood analogously rather than in equivocal terms such as yes or no with no further interpretation or explanation necessary. For example we can ask of the picture of our State Senator on the information sheet he sends to us in the mail each week "Who is that?" and someone can answer correctly with the person's name though the Senator is a living person and for the time being the picture is merely ink on paper. That is a significant difference! The statment is true and not true at the same time, in different ways. Someone could say with confidence and correctly "yes" or "no" if I were to ask : "Is that George Washington?. The difference between our limited thoughts words and imagination is infinitely different from the actual truth in God though it can be enough akin to that truth that our thoughts words and imagination can express and understand divine truth in a partial analogous way. I have found it useful to have those insights in mind in my effort to understand and appreciate the reality of the presence of Jesus in what my limited yet valid natural experience identifies as bread and wine. It was also helpful to realize there are several ways one person can be present to another. This can be illustrated in the following scenario. A small town has erected a monument to the local men and women who have laid down their lives in a recent war.One of the State Senators who was born and raised in that town was scheduled to speak at the dedication ceremony. On the day before the dedication was scheduled the Senator's mother and sister were killed in an auto accident. He had a choice to make. Asking to be excused was one of them. Being present for the speech in spite of his sorrow was another. There were further options. He could have given a copy of his speech to a friend and have his friend read it for us. The Senator would have been present in a limited yet real way . He could have recorded the message and have it played on a loud speaker for all of us to hear. With our eyes closed his presence would have been heard by us in a way identical to how it would have been heard had he been physically present. We would have actually listened to the Senator's voice, but it would have come to us from yesterday when he recorded it. Another way would have been for him to phone the message to us and have it amplified for all to hear. That method of being present would have made it possible for the Senator to be with us really and currently. We would have been listening to his actual words being spoken far away but present to us as close as our ears. With an I Phone or a Skype situation hooked up we could have had a 'living' picture of him speaking. All of these ways of being present are naturally available to us. We could make use of them whether we believe in God or not. What of the bread and wine we are considering and the presence of Jesus? It is not just another natural way for someone to be present but an absolutely supernatural presence. It is a supernatural mystery infinitely beyond though not in contradiction to the limited capacity for being detected by our our limited natural thoughts words and imagination . In the light of this insight our faith in what we have come to refer to as "the Real Presence" of Jesus in the Eucharist will never grow old or be superseded by whatever progress in human knowledge and accomplishment lie ahead of us as human creatures in the world to come, even though that be billions of light years from now. There are a few other insights that have been useful to me in growing in my understanding and appreciation of the Real Presence that I would like to share with you but this blog is already about the right length so I will try to get another one out either later on this evening or tomorrow . May the Lord be with you as I have been with you in my love for you and my desire to grow together with you in our knowledge and love for Jesus and one another in his name.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Blog # 205 John Chapter 6 - 6 In our recent blogs in response to Chapter Six of John's Gospel, we have reflected upon several stages in John's presentation. In the overall picture of the entire Gospel of John and with a well-planned effort in Chapter Six, a clear and forceful claim is made for the divinity of Jesus. The person born of Mary and given the name Jesus is the Word, truly God come among us as one of us yet remaining and continuing as God, 'present' wherever whenever and however God IS, yet at times thirsty, physically tired, experiencing all the limitations we are given to experience as human creatures of the same God Jesus was given to discover and love in the sights sounds shapes and people around Him . The historical Jesus is given as one of us yet one with the Father and the Spirit in the person of the Word., divine as well as human in the mystery of the Incarnation. I started this blog a few days ago then got involved in something else. It remained unfinished. Now today I have another one finished and ready to go. I decided to send this one out first even though it is incomplete. Our Catholic faith in the simultaneous divinity and humanity of Jesus is an essential basis for understanding our faith in the presence of the Risen Jesus in the Eucharist . I hope this blog even in its brevity and incompleteness will help us identify Jesus as one of us and also identify Him as one with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Friday, November 4, 2011
Blog # 204 John Chapter 6 - 5 If you wanted to know something of what it felt like to land in France as an American soldier on D-Day back in 1944, would you rather ask someone who was actually there or use a commentary on the original statement that is in contradiction to the original ? The answer to that question comes rather easily for me. In something far more important and consequential it would seem we would want to act in the same way. To find out what Jesus actually said and intended in the incidences of Chapter Six of John, an eye witness, it would seem we would go back as far as we could to John himself and to those to whom he wrote and those who lived at that time and gave their lives in witness to their faith the Gospel message of God's love. They had the same faith as we Catholics profess today in the Special Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Only later, by some fifteen hundred years, did someone come up with a different plan to make Flesh and Blood a mere symbol, a memory, bread and grape juice. "This is My Body , given for you...This is My Blood, poured out for you...Do THIS..." is what Jesus said. Recall John's stated purpose in writing his Gospel: "...that through faith you may have life in His name." ( Jn 20:31)."I myself am the living bread come down from Heaven. If anyone eats this bread he shall live forever; the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." Some nineteen hundred years later we Catholics are in danger of taking these words of Jesus for granted as applying to the Blessed Sacrament, the Real Presence of Jesus in Holy Communion and in the tabernacle. To the extent this is true, our taking the words for granted, we are not challenged, confused, shaken up or significantly changed by these words of Jesus given in the sixth Chapter of John. But if we transport ourselves back to the time they were first spoken by Jesus and first recorded by John, and place ourselves among the people who were hearing them for the first time, the picture changes. We ask ourselves what could these words of Jesus possibly mean, what they have to do with my relationship to God and Jesus and to the world and the people around me. We begin to get the feel of what it was to wonder what Jesus was saying to us, to know it was something important to Him and to us, but yet not to feel comfortable with the words or confident that we heard and understood them correctly. These were the same feelings of the people and even possibly of John when Jesus spoke them for the first time. As a result they were challenged by them. Some argue with Jesus and question His authority to speak them in the name of God. The discussion continues. Jesus does not back away from the point He has tried to make and the truth He has tried to share. He presses it again and again. "The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. There is something God wants to say to us today, through John, that God wanted to say to the people for whom John wrote in the beginning. In Chapter Six we are dealing with an important incident in the life of Jesus and in the retelling of that life by John. It is a crisis for Jesus and His disciples. At the Chapter's end large numbers of the people will desert Jesus precisely because of this incident. In our next blog in this series we will consider something of what we mean when we say we believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
blog # 203 John chapter 6 - 4 "Bread from Heaven". "Food for a life that will last forever". That sounded attractive to the people and they ask how to get it. Jesus tells them it is by FAITH they will receive such food. They do not like His answer and ask Him to prove Himself for them. In asking that faith be proven they are asking that it be destroyed. The argument continues. "Do for us something like Moses did for our ancestors in the desert, giving them bread from Heaven to eat". "It was not Moses who gave them the bread you speak of, but my Father. The story of your ancestors in the desert is continuing now, in us. As for Moses in the desert, the bread he gave was from God and a SIGN of God's presence among them, His protection over them, and God's love for them, so the bread I gave you yesterday is a similar SIGN for you, of God's presence, protection, and love for you, through me. Jesus was the Father's bread for their eternal life. That was what they would have to believe if they were to receive more than the passing gifts of ordinary 'bread', the good things of their temporary natural life on earth. That was God's design. Jesus had come to tell them this, and then to live it out in Himself. The price He would pay for this bread was His greatest act of love, the giving of His life in their name into the Father's will on the wood of the Cross. Surely if Jesus did not want any of the food that came from His miracle with the fish and the bread to be wasted, He would not want His love for the Father, or Their love for us to be wasted. From this we can easily appreciate how sad Jesus must have been when many of those listening to Him did not believe what He said and walked away. He witnessed His love for them being wasted. At this point, in my imagination I see Jesus standing before the people something like a General of an army who has presented a plan of battle to his soldiers. They do not understand the nature and purpose of faith and do not want the faith-based plan Jesus proposed. He has a choice to make. Should he change the plan of battle, or see a good number of his soldiers desert him? If Jesus would perhaps change His plan from Flesh and Blood to bread and grape juice that would be all that would be required. But He did not do that. Like the General watching his soldiers go, Jesus turns to the Apostles, the officers in His army,as it were, and asks the question: "Do you also want to go away?" The Father sent Jesus to proclaim and achieve a certain plan. It was not to be changed. The Father's love and power is that strong. Flesh and Blood remains. The question comes again two thousand years later: Do you also want to go away? And the answer comes by faith in the divinity of Jesus and trust in His infinite love. "...My Body given for your"; ...My blood poured out for you" "There is no greater love than this , to lay down one's life for a friend." "O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine!"
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Blog # 202 John Chapter 6 -3 Chapter five of John's Gospel gives the story of Jesus curing a sick man on a sabbath. John tells us the reason some of the people were determined to kill Jesus was that "he was not only breaking the sabbath but, worse still, was speaking of God as his own father, thereby making himself God's equal." Then John gives a lengthy account of how Jesus tried to convince those who were arguing with him that He was authentic and worthy of their trust. That is important as an introduction to the content of Chapter 6. Verses 1 to 15 gives the story of a hungry crowd listening to Jesus preach and his miraculous multiplication of fish and bread to feed them. This miracle is given by John not just as one more miracle of Jesus, but as a sign and evidence of His compassion for the hungry people. As one of us Jesus knew and had experienced their human need and hunger for food. Here John wants us to see as well the compassion of God in Jesus. A significant detail of the story is given in John telling us Jesus had His disciples gather up fragments that were left after the people had been fed "so that nothing will go to waste". In response to the multiplication of the bread and fish the people want to make Jesus their king, a great political figure like some of their kings of old, now in their current moment of history to lead them in battle against their Roman conquerors. Jesus, however, did not come nor want to be their king, to rule them and lead them in war. He came and desired to be their God , to give them MORE than a human king could give, to give them Eternal Love. Verses 16 -21 has Jesus fleeing to the mountain to avoid being acclaimed as King. The disciples leave by boat for Capernaum. When they were about three or four miles out on the water Jesus came to them, walking on the water. Jesus assures them it is He, they need not be afraid. And suddenly "they came aground on the shore they were approaching." Here again, John is not relating this action of Jesus as just one more miracle among others, but in the context of his sixth Chapter as a sign and evidence that the power of GOD , even over nature is in Jesus! That is a very important point in John's narration of this episode. The divine power Jesus exercised in walking on the water is the same divine power He exercised and exercises when He said and says over bread at the Last Supper and over the bread we offer in the Eucharist "This is my body..." It takes divine power to make that statement true. In having Jesus walk on the water John is claiming that divine power over nature for Jesus as an introduction to the remainder of the Chapter. The following day the people find Jesus on the opposite shore of the lake. In verses 22 - 59 Jesus talks of BREAD FROM HEAVEN and identifies Himself as this bread. The people argue with Him and He tries to convince them that what He has said is true. He expresses disappointment in knowing they want from Him less than He has to give, less than He was sent to give. They want more bread for the body, gifts that are temporary. He wants to give them more, bread for their souls, "bread that remains unto life eternal".