Thursday, April 12, 2012
Blog # 239 What about Holy Thursday?
Blog # 239 What about Holy Thursday? Once we establish the identity of the singular event in history of the physical death of Jesus on Calvary and the singular event in history of the Last Supper we can progress to the identity of our daily celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, beginning with those two events so long ago and continued through the years up to this very day on which I am writing this blog and the day on which you may be reading it. The task involves an awareness of several truths that are part of our treasury of faith and the task of seeing their relationship with one another. First of all we accept as true by faith the story of creation revealed in the Bible. We believe in one God, the Father, Word, and Spirit, eternal, all powerful, all loving, as the sole Creator of all that exists. If anything exists it is from God and belongs to God. We recognize this faith of ours as a gift over and above the other natural gifts that are ours simply as human creatures. We believe in the gift of human freedom and in consequence of this gift the possibility and reality of sin in the world from the very beginning and continuing down to our present day. We believe in God's promise to send a singular Redeemer who would bring forgiveness for the sin of all people. If we reflect upon it we can see in sin not only an offense against one another on the human level but an offense against God. If I steal your wallet that is an offense against you, whether I believe in God or not. I can seek and obtain forgiveness from you. Actual sin, however, by its very nature is also an offense against God and can be forgiven only by God. Consequently, how essential it was, though infinitely beyond our deserving or our wildest imagination, that Jesus when He came as our Redeemer claimed to be God's Son, equal to and one with the Father. However, as sin abounded grace did more abound. (Rom 5:20). Not only did Jesus bring forgiveness which would have brought us back to the innocence of Adam and Eve. Jesus brought an invitation to share, after being forgiven, through faith and Baptism His very life in the Trinity, His union with the Father though His self-giving love. ( Jn 17: 22,23,26). Through Baptism we are given this new life in Jesus. We are "born from above" as Jesus tried to explain it to Nicodemus (Jn 3:3). We become "a new creation" as Paul put it. ( 2Cor 5: 17). These texts, which are typical of several others, (John 10:10; 20: 30; 6:35; 6: 35; 6: 47; 1 John 3: 1) proclaim the same message of rebirth and new life in Christ and identify the salvation Jesus achieved for us by His unconditional trust and total love for the Father as experienced and expressed by His death on the Cross. Each of our seven Sacraments is a realization and experience of some particular aspect and task of the new life given in Baptism, nurtured in the Eucharist, restored when lost by serious sin in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, etc. The gift of Sacraments, sharing God's divine life, was won for us by Jesus on Calvary. The death of Jesus COULD and DID occur but ONCE in the entire history of the world. How do we come to an understanding of the truth of this statement? The Eternal Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us. His name on earth was Jesus. The Bible clearly identifies Jesus and the Word as one person, human and divine , as one of us on the one hand and equal to the Father on the other. The experience of death for a human being relates to all that we have, from head to toe, inside and out. With to love taken as meaning to give, and the more we love the more we give, Jesus reminded us "there is no greater love than this, than to lay down one's life for a friend." If we give it all, there is nothing left to give. This can happen only once in the life of any and every human person , including Jesus. Secondly, the Word, one with the Father, is eternal and infinite. Death is a limitation. The Word, without limits, cannot die. In Jesus, truly human, we can say God died. It could happen only once. If the death of Jesus were as far as the story went, we would be left with a knowledge and experience of that death as it was given in the Gospels and handed down through the generations until our day. It would be a precious memory but it would be a memory of someone else's experience. If this were God's plan, our faith and trust in the memory that was handed down as an expression of God's personal love for us could have been an instrument of God' forgiveness of sin and our restoration of innocence before Him. But the story takes the step of a day in time, away from the physical death of Jesus on the Cross. We find Jesus, on the night before He died, gathering with His chosen Apostles in the Upper Room to celebrate the official memorial of the liberation of God's People from the political slavery of Egypt. This time the celebration would apply to Jesus in the official act of liberating all mankind from the spiritual slavery of sin. Jesus had been living among us on earth for about thirty years. All that He thought and said and did was the will of His Father. All of it would reach its physical climax tomorrow in the unconditional trust and total love of Jesus on the Cross. In the midst of the official ritual of the annual Passover Supper Jesus took some of the bread that had been offered to God and said of it: "This is my body, which shall be given for you". Then He took the wine that had been offered and said of it: "This is my blood, blood of the New Covenant poured out for you for the remission of sins. Do this in memory of me." The unconditional trust and total obedient love that sent Jesus to His death on the Cross is the same unconditional trust and total obedient love with which Jesus spoke those words which transformed the bread and wine before Him into the sacrificial reality of God's Beloved Son, offering Himself now in a Sacramental mode as He offered Himself in a physical mode on Calvary. I see this illustrated by way of analogy like this: If I tell you while standing before you face to face I love you that is one way of doing it. If I move to Chicago and send you a letter from there saying I love you that is a different way of sharing with you the same love. Then if I moved to California and told you on the phone I love you that would be still another way of doing it but it would be the same love. It is something like this with the physical death of Jesus on the Cross and the Sacramental death of Jesus in the transformed bread and wine of the Passover Supper. In both instances the love that redeemed the world was the same total obedient love of Jesus for the Father and the Father's eternal love for us in Jesus. It is the same love we are invited to share when we offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass today and until the end of time, infinitely greater than awesome! Thank You, Jesus!