Friday, July 19, 2013

Jaybird Tweets on Indulgences


A response to a friend:

When I became Catholic, I did so because I had become convinced that the Catholic Church was the Church established by Christ, that the gates of hell would not prevail against her and united to her, I would find a fullness of faith that had only been partially satisfied in my years as a Protestant.

At the time, intellectually, I was satisfied that the Catholic Church, as I said, had been established by Christ, that her sacraments, Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Marriage, Holy Orders and Anointing of the Sick, were all real means of grace and sanctification, and that the Pope truly was the successor of Saint Peter, the man given the keys to the kingdom.  However, at the time, up until this day, there are things I have accepted by obedience, with the hope that one day I would understand.  For as the apostle said, paraphrased, “Where else am I to go?”

One of the areas I knew I didn’t really “get” was Mary.  I know I have so much more to learn about the Blessed Mother, but I have grown a lot in my understanding and relationship with her, so much so that I kind of am forgetting what all the fuss over her before was about.  In other areas, where I “thought” I got it, I have been surprised by the fact that I didn’t, so I’ve had to regroup in order to grow in understanding.  This is because, unlike what I assumed, Catholicism is not Protestant Christianity with sacraments.  It is a whole different view of the world, and my place in it. I came in with Protestant glasses on, and I’ve learned that I need a new pair of glasses altogether.

Why? Because in leaving Protestantism, marked by denominations (pieces, sections, parts of a thing) and embracing the life of Catholic, which means “universal,” in the sense of “according to the totality” or “in keeping with the whole, ” that is indeed what I’ve entered: a new universe.  This definition comes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), paragraph 830, and I would like to cut and paste here the rest of that paragraph, as well as the next.



830   First, the Church is catholic because Christ is present in her. “Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church.”307 In her subsists the fullness of Christ’s body united with its head; this implies that she receives from him “the fullness of the means of salvation”308 which he has willed: correct and complete confession of faith, full sacramental life, and ordained ministry in apostolic succession. The Church was, in this fundamental sense, catholic on the day of Pentecost309 and will always be so until the day of the Parousia.
831   Secondly, the Church is catholic because she has been sent out by Christ.
All men are called to belong to the new People of God. This People, therefore, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and to all ages in order that the design of God’s will may be fulfilled: he made human nature one in the beginning and has decreed that all his children who were scattered should be finally gathered together as one.... The character of universality which adorns the People of God is a gift from the Lord himself whereby the Catholic Church ceaselessly and efficaciously seeks for the return of all humanity and all its goods, under Christ the Head in the unity of his Spirit.311


Before I go further, I want to say that before I was practicing my Catholic faith, I had a real and vibrant relationship with Christ.  I know countless people who also share that reality.  It was 500 years ago that, in a sense, our parents (Catholic and Protestant) seem to have gotten a divorce.  Our stories of what actually happened back there have been passed down to us, and we have accepted what we’ve been told in good faith.  God does not fault us for that, and he meets us where we are.  All who proclaim the true risen Christ, baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are indeed our Christian brothers and sisters.

One of the big stories that divides us involves the scandalous practice of some church leaders selling so-called indulgences back in the 16th century.   What is this silly “get out of hell or purgatory free” nonsense?  All to fatten the coffers of the greedy church in Rome.  Buying your way into Heaven?  Disgusting.  Martin Luther was incensed.  So apparently were a lot of other people in the church.  My aim now is not to give a history lesson in something that I’m not an expert, but to discuss indulgences, as I have come to understand them.

I am afraid I won’t finish this task if I try to set up a super systematic argument. I can, going back to the Old Covenant and showing how it’s fulfilled in the new, but that might make a book.  So let me just give some snippets and notes and you can see if it starts to make sense.  If not, you can ask questions.  Here’s some more from the Catechism:

2487    Every offense committed against justice and truth entails the duty of reparation, even if its author has been forgiven. When it is impossible publicly to make reparation for a wrong, it must be made secretly. If someone who has suffered harm cannot be directly compensated, he must be given moral satisfaction in the name of charity. This duty of reparation also concerns offenses against another’s reputation. This reparation, moral and sometimes material, must be evaluated in terms of the extent of the damage inflicted. It obliges in conscience. (1459, 2412)

2412    In virtue of commutative justice, reparation for injustice committed requires the restitution of stolen goods to their owner: (1459, 2487)
Jesus blesses Zacchaeus for his pledge: “If I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”193Those who, directly or indirectly, have taken possession of the goods of another, are obliged to make restitution of them, or to return the equivalent in kind or in money, if the goods have disappeared, as well as the profit or advantages their owner would have legitimately obtained from them. Likewise, all who in some manner have taken part in a theft or who have knowingly benefited from it—for example, those who ordered it, assisted in it, or received the stolen goods—are obliged to make restitution in proportion to their responsibility and to their share of what was stolen.


You know what the above passages say to me?  They say to me that I am so much more than a sinner saved and going to Heaven.  They say to me that I am an adopted child of God, bought by the blood of the Lamb, a co-heir of Christ, a minister of reconciliation, a child of the King, God’s agent.  Why does it say those things to me? 

Hebrews 12:6 says, “For whom the Lord loveth, he chastiseth; and he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”  Proverbs 3:12 says, “For whom the Lord loveth, he chastiseth: and as a father in the son he pleaseth himself.”

It’s fun sometimes to think about the royal family in London.  They are the closest thing to this image of children of the King that I can get.  Unlike the seemingly unruly and capricious way of parenting that happens in so many families here, there is an understanding in the royal family that “there are just some things we do not do.” Royal children dress the part, not in the tarty fashions of the age.  Royal children act a certain way.  Gracious, giving to the poor, kind to their subjects.  They dance they waltz.  They don’t “grind.” They don’t use course language.  The princes have undergone rigorous military training, unlike spoiled American celebrity kids, to teach them bravery and valor.  This is all the heritage of royal children.

When that royal child goes astray…maybe getting drunk at a friend’s parent’s house and throwing up on their $3,000 new sofa, the King will say, “You will go back to that person’s parents and apologize for your actions, but then you will also tell them that you will do what it takes to right this wrong. You will mow their lawn or work off this debt in some way.  Perhaps the King will take responsibility and pay the neighbor the $3,000, but then he will demand that his son work off his debt by whatever means he sees fit.  The boy may be forgiven, but “that is not the way children of the King behave.”  And so, we must strive to make right our wrongs.  Justice demands reparation of sin.

But Janice, didn’t Jesus forgive us our sins on the cross?  Yes, the guilt for our sins was paid entirely by Christ, and only He has the power to forgive sins.  Although he committed both adultery and murder, King David cried in Psalm 51, “Against you, and you alonehave I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.”  But what happened after that? God forgave him, but Nathan’s prophecy (in 2 Kings 12) that David’s child would die came to pass, even though David begged and prayed that God would spare the child.  The guilt was forgiven, but justice demanded reparation.  A life for a life.

It is tempting to want to skip by our sins, saying Jesus forgives, but as we see with
Zaccheus, Jesus is pleased when Z shows true remorse by wanting to give back that which he stole.

Okay, so this brings us now to indulgences.  What does that word conjure up in your mind?  A lavish gift.  Something above and beyond.

If one sins against God, and they are truly sorry, not because they are afraid of punishment, but for love of God and neighbor, they are going to want to make things right.  They are going to want to do whatever it takes. Remember the Prodigal son?  He saw he made a complete mess of things, and although I’m not sure he even had what we Catholics call “perfect contrition,” he hoped he could rely on his dad’s mercy at least enough to take him in as a hired hand.  By asking for his inheritance, he was basically saying to his dad, “I wish you were dead.”  So he came back, and yes, he should have worked the rest of his life to pay back his father’s kindness.  He should have received no pay for his work, grateful to have a roof over his head and food in his stomach.  BUT…his father surprised him.  Seeing his son’s sorrow, seeing his son realizing the folly of going after strange loves and carnal pleasures, he showed his prodigal lavish love for him.  His indulgent love for him.  Do you think if the son came home, like a drug addict who just wants to take advantage of anyone, that dad would have reacted the same way?  I do not.  For that would not be love.  The son would continue in his destructive ways, and perhaps end up dead in a ditch.  No, we see that the son “comes to his senses.”  He is contrite.

Now this is exactly the condition needed for what the church calls a “plenary indulgence.”  Maybe this is why I haven’t sought one, because I’m not sure I have this deep enough sorrow for my sins.  No, the Pope didn’t say that you can get a plenary indulgence for reading his tweets.  He said that if you prayerfully attend online to the upcoming World Youth Days, which are meant to be a time of spiritual retreat and renewal for the young people of the church, and you come to a place of true conversion of heart, where you have no attachment to your sins, then the Church, by the authority given it to Christ, can grant you this grace, provided you meet these and other necessary requirements.

How about if you’re not there?  Well, God acknowledges our weakness, as a loving father would.  For the rest of us, wanting to love and please God, wanting to right our wrongs, we should try to restore the reputations of those we’ve gossiped against.  We should pray for them.  We should be kind to them.  We should always be looking to make the world better by spreading goodness, truth and beauty, and trying to fix the things and people we’ve broken or hurt.  Here the church helps us by giving us practical ways to do that, when we make excuses and say, “I don’t know what to do!”  The church says, “If you, for example, prayerfully read the Bible for half an hour, you can get a partial indulgence.”  You are making a practical and tangible effort to pay for that $3,000 sofa you puked on.

It’s actually very ennobling.  Because royal children don’t act that way.  A huge difference between Calvinism and Catholicism is this… Calvinists say all you are is a pile of feces.  You’re no good.  Jesus had to come and cover you up, like snow, so God would see you through the lens of Christ and bring you in to his kingdom.  Catholics and Orthodox say, “No.”  God said everything he created is good.  But through sin, we are wounded.  Our relationship with God has been severed.  Through baptism, (the new circumcision, which of course is fine to give babies…let me know if you have questions about that), the stain of original sin is removed from us.  What is left is that tendency to want to sin.  Catholics call that concupiscence.  That push and pull that Saint Paul talks about in Romans.

Now, what do we need these indulgences for if we just die and go to Heaven?  Here’s the thing. God is all Holy.  The Bible says no one can look on God and live.  No unclean or unholy thing can be in his presence.  I am saved, and I hope for heaven, but I know that I am not spotless or sinless.  I am not at this time fit for heaven.  In this life, I want to conform myself to Christ’s holiness, but when I die, I ask him to put me through the fire, and remove all that is left that is not holy.  That is what we Catholics call Purgatory.  The fire.  Protestants absolutely believe in this concept, but they don’t want to admit it.  I liken it to that scene in the Wizard of Oz when everyone gets ready to meet the Wizard.  Dorothy gets that pretty dress with the big bow in her hair.  Toto gets a washing.  All of this is done TO them.   They can’t do it themselves.  What indulgences do is acknowledge that I can actually do something now, as part of the temporal punishment for the things I’ve done to displease God.

The Catholic faith is very participatory.  It is a full body religion.  It’s a training regimen.  It is a team effort.  It is incarnational in its reality.  I am not just once saved, always saved.  No.  I was saved at baptism, I am being saved by rejecting destructive ways and choosing a healthier and holier lifestyle, and I hope to be saved in the end, when I receive my eternal reward and my new glorified body.

All of this can only be accomplished by God’s grace working in me. Of course, there is so much more that can be said, but hopefully this can be a starting point for further dialogue.

God bless!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Fourth Cup by Scott Hahn


Transcript from the audio presentation "Answering Common Objections":

I'd like to cover a lot, and I'd like to tell you in advance what I'm going to tell you. I'd like to move from one to another to a third area. The first area I'd like to focus on is how it is that Christ in the Last Supper and in the Eucharist offers himself up as the New Covenant Passover, and how the Eucharist and the Old Testament Passover are in a sense two sides of the same coin. The second focus of our time will be on the Nature of the Mass, then, as a sacrifice. That was big problem for me, and that's a big problem for lots of people outside the church and I think for some people in the church too, who wonder about how it is that after Calvary we can still speak of any activity that is performed on earth as being a sacrifice of Christ. And then finally the third area for our consideration will be on what Our Proper Response would be to our Lord in the Eucharist, in the blessed Sacrament. In other words, why should we adore our Lord in the Eucharist as opposed to just any old place we happen to be? In other words, we'll conclude on the note of Eucharistic adoration, and why that is a fit, proper, and very necessary act of devotion in the family of God, the Catholic Church.

Let's go back to the first, the Eucharist as Passover. What I'd like to share in this first part is not what theologians would call de fide; it isn't infallibly defined dogma that binds the conscience, the intellect and will of every Catholic believer. Instead, what I'd like to do is just to share my own Scripture study in sort of an abbreviated form that led me to see something that I didn't think was possible - it led me to see that the Last Supper and Christ's sacrifice on Calvary and the Eucharist are all of one piece. Some scholars might dispute this. You can't find all Scripture scholars agreeing on anything these days, so I don't lose much sleep over the fact that there might be some scripture scholars who dispute this point. But through my own study (and I've checked this with others who are more qualified and better trained scholars than me) it helps. It's been an explanation that has provided insight for others as well. It's not entirely original, but for me it was a discovery of my own before I discovered it in the writings of other great and holy and wise authors.

New Covenant Passover
When we think about how Christ instituted the Eucharist, we're obviously taken back to the Upper Room. And just recall if you will some well known facts. He and the disciples were celebrating what well known feast? The Passover. Probably the most important feast in all the Jewish calendar back then, because it signaled the event - it signified the salvation deed of God, the work of God. Centuries, over a thousand years before, when Moses and the twelve tribes of Israel found themselves in bondage down in Egypt. And you know how it was that God called Moses from the burning bush and said, "Go and tell pharaoh the following: 'Israel is my firstborn son.'" Now that's a very interesting statement to begin with, because that idea of firstborn son is very essential to the Passover itself. "Israel is my firstborn son." God is saying something to Egypt and to all the other nations: 'You are enslaving and ignoring and mistreating your eldest brother'. It almost implies that all the nations in God's eyes are like sons, but that Israel back then held a kind of primacy, like the oldest brother. "Israel is my firstborn son. Go tell pharaoh that Israel is my firstborn son. Let him go to serve me or else I will slay your firstborn sons." And you know the story about the plagues and how they came upon Egypt and pharaoh kept hardening and turning away from God and wouldn't listen, or he would listen and act like he was going to give in but at the last minute he'd turn away and harden his heart some more. Until finally the tenth plague came, which was the plague of the angel of death visiting death upon the firstborn sons in Egypt. All firstborn sons would have died, not just the Egyptian firstborn sons, except for one thing - the Passover. If you and your household through the father took a lamb and slew that lamb and sprinkled the blood on the doorpost and ate the meal you would wake up and your firstborn son would be alive. And of course the Egyptian families didn't, the Israelite families did and with that they were brought up in the exodus out of Egypt to Mount Sinai where God made a covenant with them, where He, like a father, entered into a loving relationship with the son. It's almost like a bridal....it's like a marriage encounter.

That's the Old Testament background. What it all meant was that this was the covenant event. In other words, what God was interested in doing was to restore the family purity and the family communion of His children, the people of Israel. The Passover was the bonding agent that brought it about, through the blood of the lamb, that sacrifice. And so it was celebrated for thousands of years, and still is by Jews, as the sign of the Mosaic covenant. Now remember, a covenant is a sacred family bond; it's more than just a contract. And remember also that firstborn sons were marked for destruction. In other words, Egypt offered up a sacrifice and so did Israel. Egypt's sacrifice was unwilling: their firstborn sons. Israel's sacrifice was voluntary: the unblemished lamb. All of this is key, I believe, to understand the New Testament context of the Last Supper and our own Holy Eucharist, because when Christ institutes the Eucharist, as I said, it takes place in the upper room at the Last Supper. And what are they doing but celebrating the Passover? Luke 22:15: "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you." So likewise in Mark chapter 14: "His disciples said to him, 'Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?' And he gave them instructions and the disciples set out and entered the city and found it as he had told them and they prepared the Passover."

And you know the circumstances and details surrounding the Last Supper. I won't recount all of them, but let's just go over the more salient features. In Mark 14:22ff we read, "And as they were eating he took bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them and said, 'Take; this is my body. And he took a cup and when he had given thanks (the Greek word for that is eucharisto) he gave it to them and they all drank of it, and he said to them, 'This is my blood of the new covenant which is poured out for many.'" And then he adds a kind of unusual statement: "Truly I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." And then, when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the night to the Mount of Olives. Now that might not seem very significant to you but to scholars who study the gospel accounts of the Passover in the upper room, there's a big problem. Why? Because we know the way the Passover has been celebrated for centuries, for millenia; it's a very ancient liturgy, it's well known, it's no secret. Jews still celebrate it according to the same structure. There are four cups that represent the structure of the Passover. The first cup is the blessing of the festival day, it's the kiddush cup. The second cup of wine occurs really at the beginning of the Passover liturgy itself, and that involves the singing of psalm 113. And then there's the third cup, the cup of blessing which involves the actual meal, the unleavened bread and so on. And then, before the fourth cup, you sing the great hil-el psalms: 114, 115, 116, 117 and 118. And having sung those psalms you proceed to the fourth cup which for all practical purposes is the climax of the Passover.

Now what's the problem? The problem is that gospel account says something like this: after the third cup is drunk Jesus says, "I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until I am entering into the kingdom of God." And it says, "Then they sang the psalms." Every Jew who knows the liturgy would expect: and then they went ahead and said the grace and the blessing and had the fourth cup which climaxed and consummated the Passover. But no, the gospel account say they sang the psalms and went out into the night.

I'm sure this doesn't seem like a big problem and for a long time it didn't seem big to me, but it had led many scholars to question whether he was celebrating a Passover at all because you just don't blow apart the liturgy that way. You don't just sidestep the most important part. It would be like saying the Mass and skipping the Eucharist, forgetting the words of consecration. So why did Jesus do it? Other scholars say, well back then there must not have been a fourth cup. But ancient revered traditions like that don't just spring up overnight and then cover the globe like the Passover liturgy has, with all four cups. And so it seems likely that there might be a better explanation. But where? Why did he skip the fourth cup? After all, he was raised a Jew, he'd been celebrating the Passover every year of his life since he was a little boy according to the strictest laws of Moses. Well, maybe there's a psychological reason. Maybe he was so anxious, so uptight about what he knew he was going to do, he - for instance, we read in Mark 14:32, "They went out to a place called Gethsemane and he said to his disciples, 'Sit here while I pray.' He took with him Peter, James and John and began to be greatly distressed and troubled, and he said to them, 'My soul is very sorrowful even unto death.'"

That's what our Lord was feeling, so some have said that maybe he just wasn't alert enough to get all the way through the liturgy; he was distracted. Doubtful, very doubtful. He wouldn't skip over something so essential and climactic as that. Everything else functioned according to plan. They sang the psalms and then they went out into the night. I think the answer lies elsewhere. Where did they go? Well, we just read, Gethsemane. And what did he do? He prayed, because his soul was so distressed. Notice what he prayed, and why, and how he did it. Three times he fell down to the ground and said to his Father, he cried out. "Abba, Father!" The most intimate of terms. "All things are possible to Thee. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt." Remove this cup. Take away this cup. What is this cup? Now, some scholars suggest that this harkens back to an image used by Isaiah and Jeremiah to speak about the cup of God's wrath that the Messiah, God's suffering servant, must drink. There's certainly some connection that can be made there, but much more likely, I think, is a connection between an interrupted liturgy that had been followed strictly up until the very end and this heartfelt, earnest plea and prayer of our Savior. Remove this cup. He also said, though, "I shall not taste of the fruit of the vine again until I enter into the kingdom."

So what do we see as the drama unfolds? Well, in Mark 15:23, on the way to Calvary, after being beaten and scourged and abused, what do some people offer our Lord? In Mark 15:23 they offer him wine mingled with myrrh, which was an opiate, a painkiller, but he wouldn't take it. Why not? Well, certainly because he was there to accept the suffering for the sins of the world. But he had also said, "I will not taste of the fruit of the vine again until I come into the kingdom." So He wouldn't take the wine. But then we turn to John, chapter 19 - (If you have a Bible, turn with me to John 19. If you don't have a Bible you're probably a cradle Catholic (laughter) Sorry, one of those convert jokes; shame on me! (laughter)) - John 19 describes in unique detail the sacrifice of our Lord. There's no mistaking the fact that St. John, the beloved disciple, understood our Lord's sacrifice as the culmination, the fulfillment of the Old Testament Passover. For instance, why is that Jesus happened to be wearing a seamless linen garment at the cross, when just coincidentally that's what the priest was legislated to wear when he sacrificed the Passover? Here is the true priest, as well as the true victim. And when he was crucified, unlike the two thieves whose legs had to be broken to expedite death, his bones were not broken. Why? To fulfill the scripture where it says, "None of his bones shall be broken." What's that talking about where it says, "None of his bones shall be broken"? One of the things is that if you took a lamb to sacrifice for the Passover and you discovered that it had a broken bone, you had to throw him out and get another one. The only fit sacrifice was a lamb without broken bones. John sees in this so much more than we can get into, but one thing in particular. Verse 28, "After this" - at the very end of his cruel sufferings - "Jesus, knowing that all was now finished said, in order to fulfill the scriptures, 'I thirst.'" Now, he's been on the cross for hours. Is this the first moment of thirst. No, he'd been wracked with pain and dying of thirst for hours. But he says, in order to fulfill the scripture, "I thirst." Why? To fulfill the scripture.

"A bowl of sour wine stood there. They put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch - the same kind of branch the Israelites had to use to sprinkle the lamb's blood on the doorpost, coincidentally enough - and held it to his mouth. Before when they offered him wine, what did he do? He refused it: "I will not taste of the fruit of the vine I am coming into the kingdom." He skipped the fourth cup and then he went to pray, 'Remove this cup, not as I will , but as thou wilt,' And now he has gone and fulfilled that will to the uttermost, in perfect suffering obedience to the Father, in an act of unspeakable love.

"They put a sponge full of the sour wine on hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine he said the words that are spoken of in the fourth cup consummation, "It is finished." What is the it referring to? That grammatical question began really bothering me at some point. I asked several people and their response was usually, "Well, it means the work of redemption that Christ was working on." All right, that's true, I agree it does refer to that, but in context. An exegete, a trained interpreter of the word is supposed to find the contextual meaning, not just import a meaning from a theology textbook. What is Jesus speaking of when he says, "It is finished?" I mean, our redemption is not completed once he - he's not yet raised. Paul says, "He was raised for our justification."

Nature of the Mass
So what is the it talking about? He said, 'It is finished', and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit, his breath. The it, of course you realize by now, is the Passover sacrifice. Because who is Jesus Christ? He is the sacrifice of Egypt, the firstborn son. Remember, the Egyptians involuntarily had to offer up their firstborn sons as atonement for their own sins and wickedness. Christ dies for Egypt and the world. Plus, he is the Passover lamb, the unblemished lamb, without broken bones who offers himself up for the life of the world. This fits with John's gospel, because as soon as Jesus was introduced in chapter 1 of the fourth gospel by John the Baptist, what did John say? He said, "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." And here is the lamb, headed for the altar of the cross, dying as a righteous firstborn and as an unblemished lamb. I believe that it's best to say in light of scripture that the sacrifice of Christ did not begin with the first spike, it didn't begin when the cross was sunk into the ground. It began in the upper room. That's where the sacrifice began. And I would also suggest that the Passover meal by which Jesus initiated the new Covenant in his own blood did not end in the upper room, but at Calvary. It's all of one piece. The sacrifice begins in the upper room with the institution of the Eucharist and it ends at Calvary. Calvary begins with the Eucharist. The Eucharist ends at Calvary. But in another way of thinking, it ain't over yet! Cause it ain't over till it's over. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, "Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed, therefore" - what? - we don't need to have any more sacrifice? Therefore we don't need to have any more ritual, therefore all we have to do is have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and invite him into our hearts and everything else is taken care of? No, he's too knowledgeable about the Old Testament to say any of that. He says, "Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed; let us therefore celebrate the feast." What feast? The whole Passover feast. It's not complete yet. What do you mean?

Well, go back to the Old Testament, to the book of Exodus. Suppose that night as head of my household and father, I sacrificed an unblemished lamb with no broken bones, and I sprinkled his blood on the door post, and then I said, "Family, we're safe, let's go to bed', and we went to bed. I'd wake up in the morning to tragedy. My firstborn would be dead. Why? You had to eat the lamb. It isn't enough to kill him. That is the satisfaction for sin, but the ultimate goal of sacrifice is not blood and gore and God making sure He sees the death. The ultimate goal is to restore communion, to have fellowship with God restored. And that's what's signified by eating the lamb. Who shares a common meal? Family. What is this a sign of? Covenant. And what is a covenant? A sacred family bond. In the Old Testament any family that sacrificed a lamb and sprinkled the blood had to eat the lamb. It wasn't enough to say, 'Well we don't like lamb do we, kids? Why don't we make lamb cookies? Little lamb wafers that symbolize the lamb? We'll eat those and those'll be enough, right? Symbolic presence of the lamb, and all that?' No, you'd wake up and you'd be dead. You ate the lamb and you burned what was left. But you ate the lamb to reestablish and restore communion with your heavenly Father through His firstborn Son and Lamb. That's the way it was in the Old Testament, and St. Paul recognizes that it's still the way it is in the new covenant, only in spades, only with more glory. Why? Because Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us. Once and for all on Calvary he's been put to death, therefore - what? Therefore we've nothing to do. Just celebrate the sacrifice, which is over and done with - No, something's missing. We need to eat the Lamb. We need to receive the Lamb to restore communion and to complete the sacrifice and to keep the feast. It's proper, and we now judge it to be necessary. 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, "Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed and now let us celebrate the feast." And the next five chapters in many ways St. Paul describes how the Eucharist is to be celebrated, because it's the culmination of the Passover sacrifice.

This is a true sacrifice. It's an unbloody sacrifice, because we're not killing Jesus again. This was something I never really understood as a Protestant anti-Catholic. I thought for sure that because you speak of sacrificing in the Mass, that therefore in some way you believe we're killing Jesus again and again and again, as though one dying is not enough. So we just assumed and I always taught that there was suffering imposed upon Christ supposedly in the Mass. This is blasphemous because his one act of dying wasn't enough and we had to continue to have him die and bleed and suffer, which is what the Mass is for. No way! That's anti-Catholic. No Catholic can believe that because the sacrifice of the Mass involves no bleeding , no dying and no suffering of the person of Christ, who is enthroned in glory and reigning triumphant in heaven. He is resurrected. He is ascended. He is enthroned, and he rules as king of kings.

How is it that he's enthroned? The New Testament answers that question in a very revealing way. At least it was revealing for me. I turned to the book of Revelation. In chapter 5:5-6 where John sees the scroll that is sealed seven times and he begins to cry because no body can break it open; no body can break open the seals to read the book. And the cry goes out, "Lo! The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David has conquered, the lion of the tribe of Judah is worthy to open up the seals to read the book." The lion of the tribe of Judah; the root of David; the conquering king, right? So John turns to see the Lion of the tribe of Judah and you expect to see this great lion with a dazzling mane like in Narnia or something, some beautiful royal beast and instead he turns and what does he see? In verse 6 John says, "I saw a lamb standing there as though it had been slain." The conquering king, the lion of the tribe of Judah , the root of David ruling and reigning in the new and glorified Jerusalem, up in heaven, and when you see him what's he look like? A lamb, looking as though he'd been slain. Why? because Revelation 5, and then 6 and 7 and 8 all describe what St, John saw in spirit on the Lord's Day up in heaven. And guess what? It's what you see in the spirit on the Lord's day down on earth. A Eucharistic liturgy. And the Lamb leads all of the saints and the angels and the people of God in this beautiful heavenly liturgy.

In the early Church fathers it went without argument, it went without saying that the liturgy on earth was patterned after the vision that St. John had of the heavenly worship. But notice the appearance of our conquering king. He's a lamb looking as though he'd been slain. Why? Because the Holy Spirit resurrected the body of Jesus and it was ascended into heaven and it was enthroned and it appears as a lamb because the sacrifice continues. Because the Passover sacrifice in the Old Testament was not complete until all of God's people who trusted the Lord and wanted to obey the ordinance received the Lamb and received the covenant and the sacred family bond of the Lamb. And so likewise the New Covenant, the heavenly family the spiritual supernatural bond that unties us as brothers and sisters - we are more brothers and sisters than your own earthly, biological siblings with whom you share a family for 60 or 70 years - we've got 70 trillion years and that's just the beginning. We are God's family; that isn't just quaint sentimental pastoral metaphors. That isn't just a nice emotional analogy that stirs our hearts and makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. That's more real than anything in this room. We are God's children, purchased with the Lamb's blood, and that Lamb is there for us to receive. The Lamb is a continual celebrant in heaven. He is our high priest and he is our king. He is our teacher, our prophet, and he is the one celebrant who leads the whole liturgical worship of the entire universe as an act of continual praise and offering through the Sacred Heart to the Father. All of us who are united to Him as members of His Mystical Body, our worship is only acceptable because of His sacrifice. He has covered our sins, he's made an expiation, and yet for the sacrifice to be complete, what must we do? We must receive him.

This fact was taught us long before the crucifixion. For instance in John chapter 6, let me read from verse 50 and following and see how it is that Jesus prepared the way and instructed his disciples so that they would know exactly what they were to expect. John 6:50, let's go back to 6:4: "Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews was at hand." In other words the backdrop for the entire bread of life discourse was the Passover season. Jesus says, "This is the bread that comes down from heaven that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread he will live forever and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." Passover season. The one who was introduced in John 1 as the 'Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world', at Passover time he tells us that, "The bread that I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh. The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?' So Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly' - in the original it's Amen, amen: we usually close our prayers with amen, but he begins this with it because he knows it's going to be so important, so true - "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him." And what response does he get? "Many of his disciples when they heard it said, 'This is a hard saying. Who can listen to it?' But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at him, said to them, 'Do you take offense at this?'" And we read on and find that many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.

What did Jesus say? Come on, guys, I was only speaking in symbols, huh? I was only using an image. I don't mean to offend you. Come on back. I'm about to lose a few thousand here; come on, Twelve, help me. No, he turned to the Twelve and he said to them, "Do you also wish to go away?" He's not going to water down the truth. Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life."
Underneath that tone of voice we hear, 'We might think about leaving, 'cause what you've said is rather incomprehensible if not downright offensive. Any advice on alternate messiahs? Who shall we go to if we leave you? Since there are no others, we'll stay by your side, uncomprehending.' Like many of his sayings, they didn't understand it until after he was raised, after he ascended, and after they had a vision of their risen, glorified and enthroned king. Enthroned as a lamb, 'looking as though he had been slain.' Because he bears those scars, and he continually postures himself before his Father on our behalf and for our sake as a sacrificial victim, uniting himself with us so that as members of his own mystical body we might join in with that sacrifice. St. Paul says in Romans 8 that we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered for God's sake, not just the Lamb, but we all enter into him and become identified with that sacrifice of the Eucharist in the Mass. So, what is the sacrifice? There's a once-and-for-all sacrifice on Calvary. Once and for all. Once and for all time it continues on into eternity as the one perfect sacrifice. I used to take it to mean once and for all and therefore it needs no repetition; it needs no representation. But then you read in Revelation 5 that Christ is continually re-presenting his paschal sacrifice as the Lamb of God, looking as though he'd been slain, before the Father forever, for our sake.

That's the significance of our earthly liturgy, of the Eucharistic banquet, of the Eucharistic Passover, whereby God's firstborn Son, the Lamb of God, has taken away our sins and calls us to unite ourselves with him. Baptism is the sacrament of faith in which we unite ourselves and receive the Holy Spirit. Confirmation is the sacrament of hope in which we gain the extra power to overcome the sin which we begin to consciously commit, because in confirmation we have solid reason for hoping that God's grace will overcome our sin. But faith, hope are nothing, are profitless, without love. And the Eucharist is the sacrament of love. It's an oath that God has sworn: "I love you. You don't believe me? I swear to God."

Our Proper Response
You know how people swear an oath: 'Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye,' as little kids say? 'Cut my heart into four pieces and gouge out my eyes?' An oath is a self-curse. "I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me, God." Meaning, 'I need your help, God, or I might perjure myself. And if I do and only you know, may the curses in this Book come down upon me. And if I tell the truth but am accused of lying and found guilty, may the blessings here come down upon me from heaven.'

That's what an oath means. God says, "I love you; do you believe me? Yyeeaaahh, sortta. "I swear by myself." He swears by Himself. He'll accept a curse upon Himself for our sake, so that we know He loves us. And then He calls us to unite ourselves with Him and He says, "Do you love me?" We believe you, we're baptized, we hope that Your grace and power is sufficient to overcome our sin, and so we're confirmed. And then when we receive the Eucharist we receive the sacrament of love by which we swear ourselves to God. We say, 'Swear to God, I love you, so help me, God. Give me the grace I need to overcome my defects.' That's what the Eucharist is. One of the passages that many people sidestep that I want to call to your attention is in 1 Corinthians 11. St. Paul says in verse 27, "Whoever, therefore, who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For whoever eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. And that is why many of you are weak and ill and some have died." Because they received the Eucharist in an unworthy manner. Now do you really believe that Paul really believes that people are weak and sick and dead because they received the Eucharist in mortal sin? It's exactly what he believes and teaches us to believe. He goes on, "But if we judged ourselves truly we should not be so judged, but when we are judged by the Lord we are chastened so that we are not condemned along with the world." If I tell you a big story about my 12 kids all of whom are doctors and lawyers it'd be a lie, right? It wouldn't be appropriate in a place like this, but it'd just be a lie and I couldn't get in any more trouble than to get my reputation discredited. But suppose that this were a different kind of place, a courtroom, and this were a different kind of setup here and this was a witness stand and I proceeded to tell those same things. What would you call it then? A lie? Perjury. Lying's a sin. Perjury's a crime. I couldn't go to jail for a sin like lying; why could I go to jail for a sin like perjury? As the judge in Perry Mason says, "I remind you, you're still under oath." The Latin word for oath is sacramentum. Jesus Christ says to all of us, 'I remind you you're still under oath. You have sworn yourself to me.' You say, 'So help me, God, I promise to live the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me, God. You know me, God, better than I know myself. Help me, God! And if I play games with you and the world doesn't know, I know you do, and I won't be surprised if I become weak or ill or die. So help me, God! Help me because you've pledged yourself to me and now assist me in pledging myself to you.' That's what the Eucharist is all about It's a sacrifice because sacrifice is the essence of love. You don't just give your things, you give yourself. Christ continues to give himself because Christ continues to love us so much. So what can we make of all this? First we can see that the new covenant Passover is the Eucharist which is a re-presentation of Christ's once and for all sacrifice on Calvary. We don't kill him again, he doesn't suffer and bleed, he's not humiliated again on the cross on Calvary. That was once and for all that he died, and now his death and resurrection are re-presented forever in heaven as the Lamb leading them all in worship, and it's re-presented here below as the Eucharistic Lamb leading all of us in worshipping the Father as good faithful children in His family. That's the heart and soul of our faith, that's the ground of our hope; that is the soul of our life as Christians, as the mystical body of Christ, the corpus Christi. We are what we eat.

Let's renew and deepen our commitment to Christ by renewing and deepening our commitment to the Holy Eucharist in the blessed sacrament of the altar. This isn't superstition or hocus-pocus. I was teaching class earlier this week, and about 30 of my students were there and I said to them, "Suppose you're in your dorm room tonight and you were watching the six o'clock news and all of a sudden you saw Roger Mudd come on and say, 'There's evidence now, the report is confirmed now, that Jesus Christ is back on earth and is walking the streets of Jolliot about two blocks from the College of St. Francis.' You're hearing this and you're sitting back with your feet up on a chair and suppose your roommate came in and said, 'What's that?' You say, 'They say Jesus is walking around a couple of blocks from here, and they're trying to get an interview with him.' What would you do?" They all said spontaneously, "I'd run to see him." Now what would you say to your roommate if he replied, 'Aw, Jesus is God and God is everywhere; I can talk to Jesus right here or in the bathroom or out in the country, so why go out and see him?' No, no, if you love Jesus and he's really there two blocks away, you'd go rush to see him. If you love him. And then I said to my students what I'm going to say to you: He's less than two blocks away.

Do we really believe that? I don't understand why it is that in thousands of parishes across this country people receive the Eucharist, sit down and then do the hundred yard dash to the parking lot even before the blessing is finished. Why? Some people have to leave even before they sit down. I call that the Judas shuffle. He received out Lord and then went out into the night. They receive our Lord and go out into the morning or afternoon. Do we really believe that we're receiving the second Person of the blessed Trinity, the Logos, the Creator, the Redeemer, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? He has just entered into our body and soul, we've just received him body and blood, soul and divinity. Do we believe that? Do we act like it? Is there enough evidence to convict us of such a belief? God, I hope so. If not, let's start stockpiling more evidence, let's make the case against ourselves much easier for the world so they look at us and say, 'They really do believe that they're receiving the God-man.

The early Church was accused of cannibalism; the world saw and understood - partially. It's not cannibalism, he's alive in glory, with power - for us who need it most - if we love and believe that much. The Eucharist is our oath, our pledge and God's assistance. So what about Eucharistic adoration? Is it pre-Vatican II? Is it an outmoded, medieval rite? Is it some meaningless ritual just for those old fuddy-duds who like the old Latin Mass and need everything the way it was a hundred years ago? No. it's for every man, woman and child of God. Why? Why is adoration of the blessed Sacrament so important? Because it's Christ whom we adore - the most adorable being in the whole world.

I want to read to you some things that occurred to me last night in prayer and study. I came across a statement by St. Cyril of Alexandria who said about the early Church - this is a belief that goes way back to the beginning - "Neither Christ is altered nor his body changed, but the force and power and vivifying grace always remain with it - the Eucharist." St. Augustine: "No one eats the Flesh without first adoring it. Not only do we not commit a sin by adoring it, but that we do sin by not adoring it." St. Augustine taught as a Doctor of the Church that we do sin by not adoring the Eucharist. Pope Paul VI: "Such visits are a proof of gratitude, an expression of love, an acknowledgment of the Lord's presence. The pope recalled Vatican II. Pope John XXIII once said, "To keep me from sin and to prevent me from straying from Him, God has used devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the blessed Sacrament. My life seems destined to be spent in the light radiating from the tabernacle, and it is to the heart of Jesus that I must go for the solution of all my problems."

St. John Vianny - the Cure of Ars - said, "To pray well there is no need to talk a lot. One knows that the good God is there in the holy tabernacle. One opens his heart to him, one rejoices in his presence; this is the best prayer." Pope John Paul II, our Holy Father said, "I wish to reaffirm the fact that Eucharistic worship constitutes the soul of all Christian life. The visit to the blessed Sacrament is the great treasure of the Catholic faith. It nourishes social love and gives us opportunities for adoration and thanksgiving, for reparation and supplication. It becomes a prefect and yet simple, loving prayer."


Our Lord is just a few feet away. He is no less real here and now that he was two thousand years ago on the dirty streets of Judea. It's only our five senses that block our view. The eyes of faith can see it, and we are the ones who walk by faith and not by sight. Do we really believe that? Do we really love him? Will we really commit ourselves to receiving all that we need as we tell him, 'I solemnly swear to live the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me, God.'

Someone once said, "He hides his adorable humanity in the humble appearance of ordinary bread and wine so that we might find that peace and joy that comes from being despised and rejected as he was in his life." He hides his adorable humanity. Do we adore it? In the humble appearance of ordinary bread and wine? He will sustain our soul and the life of the Spirit like bread and wine sustain the life of the body. So that we might find that peace and joy that comes from being despised. The world would laugh at such a statement. The Eucharist is proof that it's true. Peace and joy that comes from being despised and rejected as he was in this life. In the Eucharist he is forgotten, rejected and sacrilegiously received and profaned, yet he remains there to nourish us with his precious body and blood." When I first read those words of Brother Francis Mary right before Christmas, having received this mailing from Marytown, I had to leave the room and confess my sins and I cried, and I'm not that emotional. But I tell you, the Sacred Heart of Jesus calls out to us to deepen our love, and if we don't have what it takes, he says, 'Come and get it.' It's free. It ain't cheap, but it's free. He says, 'It cost me my life, but I give it to you for free, just for the asking and seeking.'

Do we love him that much? Do we believe him that much? Let us pray. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Our Father in heaven, we thank you for the glory of the gospel. This world is too small to contain it. Our bodies are too small to live it and to contain it in its fullness, so spend us, Lord, and make us a living sacrifice united with Christ, so that through his holy and acceptable offering we might be holy and acceptable, that through our life, through our suffering, through our loving, through our words and deeds, Christ might live and die and be raised in the world around us, in his mystical body. These truths, Lord, are not truths that we sense or see. Increase our faith and help us adore You more, and help us to commit ourselves with resolution and consistency to regular time of adoring You in the holy Eucharist., We thank You for this holy and august sacrament. Impress upon our hearts and minds how incomparable it is, inestimable in value, that it might be the treasure that we store up in heaven, and it might be that for which we live and work on earth. Hear us, Lord, as we join together in the family prayer that our Lord taught us so long ago. Our Father.....

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.









Saturday, May 25, 2013

"Fides Et Ratio"


I've only read the first five of over 100 points, and I'm over the moon.

"I wish to reflect upon this special activity of human reason. I judge it necessary to do so because, at the present time in particular, the search for ultimate truth seems often to be neglected. Modern philosophy clearly has the great merit of focusing attention upon man. From this starting-point, human reason with its many questions has developed further its yearning to know more and to know it ever more deeply. Complex systems of thought have thus been built, yielding results in the different fields of knowledge and fostering the development of culture and history. Anthropology, logic, the natural sciences, history, linguistics and so forth—the whole universe of knowledge has been involved in one way or another. Yet the positive results achieved must not obscure the fact that reason, in its one-sided concern to investigate human subjectivity, seems to have forgotten that men and women are always called to direct their steps towards a truth which transcends them. Sundered from that truth, individuals are at the mercy of caprice, and their state as person ends up being judged by pragmatic criteria based essentially upon experimental data, in the mistaken belief that technology must dominate all. It has happened therefore that reason, rather than voicing the human orientation towards truth, has wilted under the weight of so much knowledge and little by little has lost the capacity to lift its gaze to the heights, not daring to rise to the truth of being. Abandoning the investigation of being, modern philosophical research has concentrated instead upon human knowing. Rather than make use of the human capacity to know the truth, modern philosophy has preferred to accentuate the ways in which this capacity is limited and conditioned.

"This has given rise to different forms of agnosticism and relativism which have led philosophical research to lose its way in the shifting sands of widespread scepticism. Recent times have seen the rise to prominence of various doctrines which tend to devalue even the truths which had been judged certain. A legitimate plurality of positions has yielded to an undifferentiated pluralism, based upon the assumption that all positions are equally valid, which is one of today's most widespread symptoms of the lack of confidence in truth. Even certain conceptions of life coming from the East betray this lack of confidence, denying truth its exclusive character and assuming that truth reveals itself equally in different doctrines, even if they contradict one another. On this understanding, everything is reduced to opinion; and there is a sense of being adrift. While, on the one hand, philosophical thinking has succeeded in coming closer to the reality of human life and its forms of expression, it has also tended to pursue issues—existential, hermeneutical or linguistic—which ignore the radical question of the truth about personal existence, about being and about God. Hence we see among the men and women of our time, and not just in some philosophers, attitudes of widespread distrust of the human being's great capacity for knowledge. With a false modesty, people rest content with partial and provisional truths, no longer seeking to ask radical questions about the meaning and ultimate foundation of human, personal and social existence. In short, the hope that philosophy might be able to provide definitive answers to these questions has dwindled." - Pope John Paul II, Fides Et Ratio

The whole thing is here:

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_15101998_fides-et-ratio_en.html

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Man Fully Alive

 I can't even find the words...

Eros




"Did ever a people hear the voice of the living God speaking from the heart of the fire, as you have heard it, and remain alive?" Deuteronomy 4:33

I see the all-consuming love of God all over this passage from Deuteronomy.

"Batter my heart, three-personed God . . .
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me." - John Donne

http://www.bibliacatolica.com.br/new-jerusalem-bible/deuteronomy/4/#.UZzZ9KKsiSo



Thursday, May 9, 2013

He May Have Been the Dragon Slayer, but Her Beauty and Heroic Virtue Slays ME.



Saint George was a young soldier, who caught the emperor Diocletian's attention with his derring-do. Diocletian offered him a commission in his army. All was good until Diocletian started persecuting and killing Christians. Saint George rebuked him in a defiantly cheerful manner, ripping up his commission in the process. Although he was the big emperor and stuff, Diocletian didn't like being criticized. So...Diocletian did the noble thing. He had George tormented, and eventually beheaded. George was 23 at the time of his death in 304AD. His feast day is April 23rd.

A year earlier, that big man on campus, Diocletian, tried to woo a rich young girl of only 13 years to be his wife, therefore making her the Empress of Rome. She, however, had already pledged herself, body and soul, wholly to God. Her parents begged her to marry D. She said no. So, again, D did the manly thing. He threw her in prison, loaded her with chains. How dreamy! He thought so too, cuz he let her out and thought he could woo her now. She stayed steadfast, so he decided to strip her naked in public and have her lashed. Well, the soldiers agreed to the lashing, but they didn't feel comfortable ripping off her clothes (that's nice). I guess she was sort of dressed, in that she was covered with blood, so now, they sent her back to prison to die. She didn't. Two angels came and ministered to her. Diocletian saw that she looked really good, so he told her that it was the god Jupiter who healed her. And the healing was a sign from Jupiter that she should indeed be the Empress. He really wanted her now. Guys love when a girl plays hard to get! Again, she'd have none of it. So he had her thrown in the river with a heavy anchor. Oops, a couple more angels came along, and released the anchor. Philomena emerged from the water, completely dry. The people on the shore saw this, and they cried out, many embracing Christianity immediately. Diocletian was sure this was a magic trick, so...he had Philomena dragged through the street and showered with arrows. Then he threw her back in the dungeon to die. Nope. Didn't happen. She went to sleep and woke up cured. So he decided to shower her with darts again, but gosh, the darts just wouldn't hit the target. They ended up turning around and killing the people that fired them (six in all). Well, that was that. Heck yeah, there were massive conversions during all of this spectacle! And finally, off with her head. Saint Philomena was born in 290 and died in 303. (Her Feast Day is August 11)

These saints are special to me, as I have a third-class relic of Saint Philomena, a cord touched to her tomb (discovered in the 1800s). Surely, George knew of or knew Philomena. That makes me feel close to the famous saint, who was the legendary slayer of the dragon. That story is legend, but the young man was real.

Pray for us, you crazy kids!