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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

BENEDICTUS MOMENTS

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Thursday, 22 June 2017

WHAT JESUS HAS TAUGHT US IN THE LAST WEEK


When I first came across the Charismatic Renewal back in the early 70's, in spite of the funny way they prayed, what delighted me was their accent on the Holy Spirit.   It seemed to me that ordinary Catholic life is simply awash with the Holy Spirit, but its extent was unrecognised.   Not only does the Holy Spirit  make us Christians at baptism, change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, forgive sins through absolution and lead us to live a sacramental life, he turns the Bible into the Word of God.    Whenever the Holy Spirit acts through the reading of Scripture and the celebration of sacraments, the celebrants, the proclaimers, the readers and the praying and singing community become instruments through whom Christ works, and he also fills Christians with his Spirit so that they can understand and be sanctified.

As Sacrosanctum Concilium tells us, Christ really does  speak when the Scripture is read in Church, and, to the extent that they are open to him, he gives the Spirit to the preacher and to those who are listening, giving them a real insight into the Word of God.

Hence I believe we can look at our celebration of the liturgy during any week and ask what Christ has been saying to us doing that week. Of course, this is a highly personal collection of thoughts, and that Christ will have used the same texts to say different things to different people.   Nevertheless, I think you will agree that he has given us a renewed understanding of the Christian life.

On becoming human

A Christian lives in two "worlds" at once.  He has been born into one and baptised into the other.  We were not asked to be born, and all of us who are so privileged will one day inevitably die.  We are made to love and be loved and to enjoy the happiness of being alive, but these gifts are imperfect and transitory.  The truth is that this world can only find its true meaning in the other world and is destined to be transformed by it so that, in the end, there will only be one world.

If the synoptic gospels give accounts of the institution of the Eucharist, St John places the Washing of the feet in their place and gives us plenty of teaching to inform us  on the significance of the Eucharist.   Within this central act of Christian worship, Christ offers himself totally and without reserve to each and all of us, as he teaches in chapter 6.  He dwells in each of us, and we dwell in him.  We share his eternal life, the life of his Resurrection, and shall be raised up on the Last Day.  This only happens because he gives himself so utterly and thoroughly.  


“Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant[c] is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

 In our turn, we must wash one another's feet.   We are his servants and messengers, and if he is able to serve humbly, being master and lord, we have no justification to withhold our humble service.  In fact, he gives us a new commandment, to love one another as he has shown he loves us.


 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Christ's love for us has its roots in his love for the Father and the Father's love for him.   If we are to love as he loved, our love too must be rooted in our love for him who dwells in us and his love for us.  This two-way love is nothing less than a participation by creation in the love of the Blessed Trinity and a reflection of the love of Blessed Trinity in creation; and, in the vocabulary of St John, in so far as it is visible and recognisable in concrete deeds and lives, it gives glory to the Father, revealing that "God is love," and also gives glory to the Son.   Thus, Christ says of his impending crucifixion:


 31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.

If we love as Christ loves, and that is our vocation as servants and messengers, we glorify the Father in the Son by reflecting God's presence in the quality of our love.   Without our Christian love, our teaching can be reduced to an abstract doctrine: our love, rooted in Christ who dwells in us, can make it for the world a living Presence.   Hence, we too share in his glory.   Jesus prays in John 17:

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

My teacher, Pere C. Spicq O.P. used to say that, in St John's Gospel, the Church is made visible by the quality of its love.  Where there is Christian love, the world can glimpse at the Church as Christ's body: without love, the Church is seen as just one other worldly institution.

Let us now turn for a moment to St Paul.  Jesus died for us and in the act of giving himself to us and, by the same act. he was offering himself in loving obedience to his Father.  This act of self-giving was total and is thus a characteristic of his risen self: he is "slaughtered and yet standing."   We are on his wavelength and capable to actively participate in his divine-human love to the extent that we share in his death to self  and his living for others with a death and life rooted in his; and in this way, we share in his resurrection. In the Eucharist, we share in his life to the extent that we share in his death, which is why we cannot separate communion from sharing in his sacrifice.

(2 Cor. 5, 14-21)
The love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died. He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer.

 

And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.


He has given us the "ministry of reconciliation". We have become "the righteousness of God" and instruments of the Father who is reconciling the world to himself in Christ.  The presence of Christ in us by the power of the Spirit that is renewed and strengthened in the Eucharist becomes visible in the quality of our love, living for Christ and for all humanity in Christ and thus, in St John's vocabulary, sharers in God's glory.   As we share in his life in the Eucharist, "becoming what we eat," so we share in his glory by loving as he loves.  We bear witness by our lives that "God is Love", and show that all this is not just words, but a concrete reality.

In doing this, we help to transform society in this world by inserting into it the life of the resurrection, the life of the world to come.   

Thus Rome was partly transformed by the love of Christians for the poor - in the time before  the Last Coming the transformation is always partial and transient and always needs being renewed -  and the Egyptian Desert was transformed by the lives of the monks who lived there.  The transformation continues: in my country, the churches are responsible for a large part of the caring for the poor etc.  If this is rooted in their faith and in their life in Christ, this isn't just social work, but Christ showing his love through their activity. Places become transformed by the Christian lives of those who live there. The Celts talk of "thin" places where eternity can be sensed in the world of time.  Monastery guest houses get fuller every year, and more and more people go on pilgrimage, because people  experience peace, tranquility and a sense of the sacred, even many secular people.   This transformation isn't the immediate purpose of the Christian life. which is to live in communion with Christ, but it is an important effect of the Christian life. 

As we wrote above, we inhabit two world, one we were born into and the other we were baptised into.  In the first, we had no choice in being born into it, nor can we choose not to die.  Likewise, it is the product of the Big Bang and will, one day, come to an end. Although it is very beautiful and is loved by God whose creature it is, it receives its meaning from human kind whose horizons are limited by death and distorted by sin.

The  horizon is very different in the world of Christ's resurrection.   We enter it of our own free will.  Even if we were baptised as babies, we are always free to opt out: even the gates of hell are locked from the inside.  To the degree we share in Christ's death, to that degree we share in his resurrected life which is eternal and, moreover, a participation in his infinite divine life.

In the world we are born into, where my horizon ends in death, humiliation is nothing more than humiliation, suffering nothing more than suffering, pain nothing more than pain, and death is the end of it all.  In the world we are baptised into, humiliation is glory, a share in Christ's humiliation, suffering a share in his suffering, pain in his pain, and death is the gateway to eternal life  Hence Christ's words make sense:




Gospel Mt 5:38-42
Jesus said to his disciples:"You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.  Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow."

 This world, which is the reality brought about in Christ's own body by his resurrection and into which we are baptised, embraces heaven and earth by his Ascension and is called the "Kingdom of heaven" or the "Kingdom of God" in so far as it is open to God's action.   "Kingdom" does not mean a territory, as in "United Kingdom" but rather where God is actually ruling, implying God's present activity.  For St Matthew, it is where God's will is done  on earth as it is done in Heaven. It is especially present on earth at the Eucharist in which the Church on earth joins the Church in heaven in its liturgy that is both heavenly and earthly, where angel choirs and human beings on earth sing, "Holy, holy, holy.."   Living the Christian life is living the Mass.   God is Love and the Cross glorifies God by manifesting his very nature as self-emptying love as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.   This love is manifested to us sinners as forgiveness. The will of God is done on earth as in heaven when we love as Christ has loved us, as God loves all of us, each of us, and his whole creation: hence the following passage:

Gospel Mt 5:43-48
Jesus said to his disciples:"You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy."  But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."

This forms the perfect context for understanding the "Our Father".  After addressing the Father and asking that his Name be hallowed, we ask that his kingdom come.  Here, it is an equivalent of invoking the Holy Spirit, the hypostasis of God's self-emptying Love, an epiclesis, so  that the Father's will is done on earth as in heaven.  Then we pray, "Give us this day our epiousion bread," which we translate as "daily bread" because it is the easiest translation though not the most probable.   The Douai Bible translated it literally as "supersubstantial bread"; but it could be translated "bread of the Coming" which, since the whole prayer is about the Kingdom, is highly probable.   As it is a Jewish prayer, it most probably has all these meanings at once.   Hence, "supersubstantial" and "bread of the Coming" mean the Eucharist.  That the central petition should refer to the central sacrament of the Christian life is very likely.  Thus there is a theme, the Coming of the Kingdom and the hyspostasis of love, the gift of the Eucharist which is vehicle of Christ's total gift of himself, our forgiving one another in love, and our deliverance from the evil one who is the very opposite of these things.

Finally, there is a warning.  All that glitters is not gold, and not every good work manifests the Kingdom.   We have noted that the kingdom is where God is active: where he is excluded by our egotism or lack of openness to God, where we are not mere instruments of God, allowing him to do as he pleases, where our works give glory to some cause or other, to our political party, to our country or to ourselves, and not to God, then these works are not works of the Kingdom and are being wasted, even if what we are doing is God's will, and the obstacle to God's activity is ourselves.  Hence:



Gospel Mt 6:1-6, 16-18
Jesus said to his disciples:"Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streetsto win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms,do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
"When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street cornersso that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
"When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.


This seems to be directly contrary to Christ's command to let your light shine among men so that they will see your works and give glory to God.  However, as kingdom people, we are mere instruments in God's hands; and, if he wants to use us as a torch, he will know when to switch us on and switch us off.  We must concentrate on renewing our resolve to be his instruments.

Finally, we have come to the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
That great feast of the divine-human love of Christ for humankind and for the whole of creation tells us that the love which holds the universe in existence is not only a divine love that is beyond our understanding, but also a human love, because of the Incarnation.

The church fathers teach us that,at the profoundest level of human existence, in each human being, there is the place where God is loving us into existence and where Christ prays to the Father in the Holy Spirit. They call it the heart.  They invite us to enter the heart and unite our prayer to that of the Spirit.

Christ is a human being and therefore has a heart in which God becomes man, and from where the Holy Spirit unites him to every human being in all times and places.  This heart is the Sacred Heart of Jesus.   Read more about the feast here. 








Monday, 19 June 2017

THE THREE PILLARS OF CHRISTOLOGY: SCRIPTURE, TRADITION and EXPERIENCE by CARDINAL SCHONBORN



http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2010/cschonborn_threepillarsgshs_nov2010.asp 



Three pillars together support Christology: Scripture, tradition, and experience. The soundness of these three determines the soundness of Christology. Our first chapter is devoted to this trio and to their reliability.


I. The Three Pillars

The first pillar is Scripture. What we know (historically) about Jesus of Nazareth derives almost exclusively (apart from a few mentions in Pliny, Tacitus, or Jewish writings) from the New Testament, above all from the Gospels. These, in turn, are traditions about Jesus, about what he did and said. The entire canon of the New Testament is reviewed, assembled, and filtered tradition. Scripture and tradition are indivisible from the very beginning; Scripture is unthinkable without tradition; it is itself a "product" of tradition.

Because almost everything we know about Christ derives from the Holy Scripture, the question of the trustworthiness of the Gospels is thus of fundamental importance. For hundreds of years, no one questioned it. People were convinced that the Gospels reliably transmitted the experiences of the first witnesses of Jesus, of his disciples, his companions, those people who were eyewitnesses and who heard for themselves. Scripture is thus itself tradition, tradition for which there is written testimony, and it transmits concrete experiences of the people who were with Jesus.

And yet this tradition continues, as traditio apostolica, [1] as the handing on of the depositum fidei. It finds its particular expression in the great councils of the early Church, which unfolded and safeguarded the Christian confession of faith. The doctrinal tradition cannot of course be separated from the tradition of Christian living. Athanasius of Alexandria (d. 373) not only defended the divinity of Christ, he also wrote the life of Saint Anthony, in whom the whole power of the mystery of Christ shines forth.

The saints are "lived Christology". Not only Christology as taught, but Christology as celebrated is part of the tradition: the liturgy is a living wellspring of the tradition of the mystery of Christ. Not only is the story of Jesus read ever anew in the liturgy, it is also celebrated and, thus, present. Tradition is thus fidelity to this testimony about Jesus by the original witnesses (Scripture) at the same time as it is brought to life by the experience of discipleship, of Christian living. Tradition thus contains within it both Scripture and experience.

Finally, the living experience of the Lord as present and active is one of the foundations of Christology. Anthony heard the Gospel story of the wealthy young man one Sunday in Church, and he heard it as something that Jesus was saying to him right now: "Follow me!" (Jn 21:22). [2] In the encounter with Scripture, in hearing and entering Into what the New Testament witnesses are saying, its meaning, its beneficial value, its importance for salvation may be opened up. The experience of individuals, but also the shared experience of a whole people are part of the history of faith and, thus, part of Christology. Such experiences never take place in isolation but are always related to others—not just contemporary experiences, but also the experiences of generations before us. Liberation theology was an attempt to make the particular experience of the people productive for Christology. Christian experience can never be separated from Scripture and tradition.

Scripture, tradition, and experience are the pillars of Christology, by which we can be sure that even today we can talk about Christ, that we can truly preach him, the same person that the apostles knew, the man who was their teacher, whose words and actions they experienced directly and transmitted.

2. The Pillars Give Way

For hundreds of years this unity was seen and lived out without any problem. The current difficulties are all the more explosive. When one of these three pillars gives way, the whole of Christology—indeed, theology altogether—starts to totter. Today Christology must face the fact that in recent centuries—to be more precIse, sInce the Reformation—one pillar after another has given way. We will now briefly outline this process, which characterizes modern Christology. In doIng so, we will also be able to show, however, that in the struggle with the foundations of Christology, the living figure of the Lord also emerges with new clarity.

The first crack is the Reformation. It calls tradition into question and from there proceeds to the supposition that the original pure teaching, the "pure Gospel", has been adulterated, that "Rome", the papacy, the Catholic Church, has no longer preserved it in its pure form. It is therefore a matter of getting back to the original—this is the approach of Martin Luther (d. 1546)—bypassing tradition to go directly to the Bible. Scripture alone is valid; it is the only criterion—sola scriptura! Yet how shall we attain certainty about Scripture if the interpretations of it contradict each other? Hitherto tradition, understood as the transmission of living interpretation of Scripture, has been the hermeneutical means to this end. Luther puts an end to that. Yet who was to tell him what was consonant with Scriptures, "what", in his own words, "promotes Christ" ("Was Christum treibet")? As Gerhard Ebeling has shown, in Luther, sola experientia complements sola scriptura. Experience thus becomes the criterion of what promotes Christ. Scripture and experience enable Luther to attack the magistri and doctores, tradition and Scholastic theology. That is how the Reformation solves the hermeneutic problem, by reducing the three pillars of Christology to two. For Luther, "Scripture and experience" are "the two unanimous witnesses that may be trusted unconditionally". [3] His own experience is the sure starting point: "Sola . . . experientia facit theologum", [4] he says. It is established as equally certain that this experience of his agrees with Scripture, or is at least suitable for understanding Scripture in the correct sense. Scripture and experience safeguard the access to Christ. The third element, tradition, has become suspect.

The Enlightenment breaks the next pillar. The sola scriptura also becomes questionable. From Hermann Samuel Reimarus (d. 1768) onward, radical historical biblical criticism puts Scripture on the side of tradition, which falsifies and retouches. [5] Scripture, too, conceals, falsifies, and covers up the original, which it is now necessary to ascertain by historical criticism: the Bible is subjected to merciless criticism. Little of the certainty that Luther believed he found in Scripture now remains. With Friedrich Schleiermacher (d. 1834) and Rudolf Bultmann (d. 1976), theology withdraws to the final sure pillar, that of experience, and abandons Scripture to historical criticism. For Bultmann it is not historical certainty concerning Jesus that is important but the existential effect.

With psychology, especially with Sigmund Freud, but even as early as Ludwig Feuerbach (d. 1872), religious experience likewise becomes problematical. It is exposed as a projection of human needs and, thus, as illusion, which basically is concealing something else that can now be laid bare: man's secret desires, which can be discovered as the real content behind these projections. Behind the religious projections stand, in reality, other needs, sublimations, and projections.

What can Christology build upon, then? If tradition can no longer be trusted, because it is seen to be merely a retouching with the tints of dogma that obscures the original simple figure of Jesus; if Scripture itself comes under the suspicion of already being tradition, which distorts the original Jesus; if, finally, personal experience is subject to the suspicion of creating the figure of a savior and redeemer from the projection of the person's own desires—what foundation is still sound? Upon what can Christology still be built?

ENDNOTES:

[1] This concept is used by Vatican II in the Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, no. 8.

[2] Athanasius of Alexandria, Vita Antonii (SC 400). The story of the conversion of Anthony was also a decisive milestone on the path leading Saint Augustine to faith. Augustine, Confessions 8, 6, 14-15 (CC Ser. Lat. 27:121-23).

[3] G. Ebeling, "Die Klage über das Erfahrungsdefizit in der Theologie als Frage nach ihrer Sache", in Wort und Glaube, vol. 3: Beiträge zur Fundamentaltheologie, Soteriologie und Ekklesiologie(Tübingen, 1975), p. 12.

[4] WATR I; 16, 13 (no. 46, of 1531). For further references, see Ebeling, "Die Klage über das Erfahrungsdeflzit", p. 10.

[5] A. Schweitzer, Die Geschichte der Leben-Jesu Forschung, 5th ed. (Tübingen, 1933); trans. by W. 
Montgomery as The Quest of the Historical Jesus (Mineola, N.Y.: Dover, 2005).


Related Ignatius Insight Articles and Excerpts:

• Jesus In the Gospel of Luke | Excerpt from Jesus, The Divine Physician: Encountering Christ in the Gospel of Luke | Christoph Cardinal Schönborn
• A Shepherd Like No Other | Excerpt from Behold, God's Son! Encountering Christ in the Gospel of Mark | Christoph Cardinal Schönborn
• Encountering Christ in the Gospel | Excerpt from My Jesus | Christoph Cardinal Schönborn
• The Church Is the Goal of All Things | Excerpt from Loving The Church | Christoph Cardinal Schönborn
• Excerpts from Chance or Purpose? | Christoph Cardinal Schönborn
• Reincarnation: The Answer of Faith | Excerpt from From Death to Life: The Christian Journey | Christoph Cardinal Schönborn
• The Truth of the Resurrection | Excerpts from Introduction to Christianity | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
• Seeing Jesus in the Gospel of John | Excerpts from On The Way to Jesus Christ | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
• The Challenge of Jesus of Nazareth | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
• The Divinity of Christ | Peter Kreeft
• Jesus Is Catholic | Hans Urs von Balthasar
• The Religion of Jesus | Blessed Columba Marmion | From Christ, The Ideal of the Priest



Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, O.P., (born 1945) the Archbishop of Vienna, Austria, is a highly regarded author, teacher, and theologian.

He was a student of Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) and with him was co-editor of the monumental Catechism of the Catholic Church. He studied theology and philosophy in Bornheim-Walberberg, Vienna, and Paris. He was ordained a Dominican priest by Cardinal Franz König in December 1970 in Vienna, and later studied in Regensburg. From 1975 he was professor at Freiburg im Uechtland. In 1980, he became a member of the international theological commission of the Holy See, and in 1987 he became editorial secretary for the Catechism. He speaks six languages and has written numerous books.

Several of his books have been translated and published by Ignatius Press; see his Ignatius Insight author page for a complete listing.



David Bentley Hart on the Intersections of Scripture and Theology



N.T. Wright: The Jesus We Never Knew






Sunday, 18 June 2017

THE CONTEXT OF THE EUCHARIST


If the synoptic gospels give accounts of the institution of the Eucharist, St John places the Washing of the feet in their place and gives us plenty of teaching to inform us  on the significance of the Eucharist.   Within this central act of Christian worship, Christ offers himself totally and without reserve to each and all of us, as he teaches in chapter 6.  He dwells in each of us, and we dwell in him.  We share his eternal life, the life of his Resurrection, and shall be raised up on the Last Day.  This only happens because he gives himself so utterly and thoroughly.  


“Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant[c] is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

 In our turn, we must wash one another's feet.   We are his servants and messengers, and if he is able to serve humbly, being master and lord, we have no justification to withhold our humble service.  In fact, he gives us a new commandment, to love one another as he has shown he loves us.


 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Christ's love for us has its roots in his love for the Father and the Father's love for him.   If we are to love as he loved, our love too must be rooted in our love for him who dwells in us and his love for us.  This two-way love is nothing less than a participation by creation in the love of the Blessed Trinity and a reflection of the love of Blessed Trinity in creation; and, in the vocabulary of St John, in so far as it is visible and recognisable in concrete deeds and lives, it gives glory to the Father, revealing that "God is love," and also gives glory to the Son.   Thus, Christ says of his impending crucifixion:


 31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.

If we love as Christ loves, and that is our vocation as servants and messengers, we glorify the Father in the Son by reflecting God's presence in the quality of our love.   Without our Christian love, our teaching can be reduced to an abstract doctrine: our love, rooted in Christ who dwells in us, can make it for the world a living Presence.   Hence, we too share in his glory.   Jesus prays in John 17:

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

My teacher, Pere C. Spicq O.P. used to say that, in St John's Gospel, the Church is made visible by the quality of its love.  Where there is Christian love, the world can glimpse at the Church as Christ's body: without love, the Church is seen as just one other worldly institution.

Let us now turn for a moment to St Paul.  Jesus died for us and in the act of giving himself to us and, by the same act. he was offering himself in loving obedience to his Father.  This act of self-giving was total and is thus a characteristic of his risen self: he is "slaughtered and yet standing."   We are on his wavelength and capable to actively participate in his divine-human love to the extent that we share in his death to self  and his living for others with a death and life rooted in his; and in this way, we share in his resurrection. In the Eucharist, we share in his life to the extent that we share in his death, which is why we cannot separate communion from sharing in his sacrifice.

He has given us the "ministry of reconciliation" so we become instruments of the Father who is reconciling the world to himself in Christ.  The presence of Christ in us by the power of the Spirit that is renewed and strengthened in the Eucharist becomes visible in the quality of our love, living for Christ and for all humanity in Christ.   As we share in his life in the Eucharist, "becoming what we eat," so we share in his glory by loving as he loves.  We bear witness by our lives that "God is Love", and show that Catholic teaching is not just words.

In doing this, we help to transform society in this world by inserting into it the life of the resurrection, the life of the world to come.   

Thus Rome was partly transformed by the love of Christians for the poor - in the time before  the Last Coming the transformation is always partial and transient and always needs being renewed -  and the Egyptian Desert was transformed by the lives of the monks who lived there.  The transformation continues: the churches are responsible for a large part of the caring for the poor etc.  If it rooted in their faith and in the Eucharist, this isn't just social work, but Christ showing his love through them;  Places become transformed (the Celts talked of "thin" places0 by the Christian lives of those who live there.  Monastery guest houses are full, in spite of the secularism, because people  experience peace etc.   This transformation isn't the purpose of the Christian life. which is to live in communion with Christ, but it is an important effect and a function of the Church.  To fulfil this role, obviously, we must be reconciled with God. 


(2 Cor. 5, 14-21)
The love of Christ impels us,
once we have come to the conviction that one died for all;
therefore, all have died.
He indeed died for all,
so that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh;
even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh,
yet now we know him so no longer.

And all this is from God,

who has reconciled us to himself through Christ
and given us the ministry of reconciliation,
namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
not counting their trespasses against them
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

So we are ambassadors for Christ,

as if God were appealing through us.
We implore you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.
For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin,
so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.




Solemnity of Corpus Christi, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI
The humble and patient logic of the grain of wheat

The profound meaning of the Church's social presence derives from the Eucharist, the Holy Father said at the Mass he celebrated on Thursday evening, 23 June [2011], in the Papal Basilica of St John Lateran. Afterwards he led the traditional "Corpus Christi" procession down Via Merulana to the Basilica of St Mary Major. The following is a translation of the Pope's homily, which was given in Italian.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Feast of Corpus Christi is inseparable from Holy Thursday, from the Mass in Caena Domini, in which the Institution of the Eucharist is solemnly celebrated. Whereas on the evening of Holy Thursday we relive the mystery of Christ who offers himself to us in the bread broken and the wine poured out, today, on the day of Corpus Christi, this same mystery is proposed for the adoration and meditation of the People of God, and the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession through the streets of the cities and villages, to show that the Risen Christ walks in our midst and guides us towards the Kingdom of Heaven.

What Jesus gave to us in the intimacy of the Upper Room today we express openly, because the love of Christ is not reserved for a few but is destined for all. In the Mass in Caena Domini last Holy Thursday, I stressed that it is in the Eucharist that the transformation of the gifts of this earth takes place — the bread and wine — whose aim is to transform our life and thereby to inaugurate the transformation of the world. This evening I would like to focus on this perspective.

Everything begins, one might say, from the heart of Christ who, at the Last Supper, on the eve of his passion, thanked and praised God and by so doing, with the power of his love, transformed the meaning of death which he was on his way to encounter. The fact that the Sacrament of the Altar acquired the name “Eucharist” — “thanksgiving” — expresses precisely this: that changing the substance of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is the fruit of the gift that Christ made of himself, the gift of a Love stronger than death, divine Love which raised him from the dead. This is why the Eucharist is the food of eternal life, the Bread of Life. From Christ’s heart, from his “Eucharistic prayer” on the eve of his passion flows that dynamism which transforms reality in its cosmic, human and historical dimensions. All things proceed from God, from the omnipotence of his Triune Love, incarnate in Jesus. Christ’s heart is steeped in this Love; therefore he can thank and praise God even in the face of betrayal and violence, and in this way changes things, people and the world.

This transformation is possible thanks to a communion stronger than division, the communion of God himself. The word “communion”, which we also use to designate the Eucharist, in itself sums up the vertical and horizontal dimensions of Christ’s gift.

The words “to receive communion”, referring to the act of eating the Bread of the Eucharist, are beautiful and very eloquent. In fact, when we do this act we enter into communion with the very life of Jesus, into the dynamism of this life which is given to us and for us. From God, through Jesus, to us: a unique communion is transmitted through the Blessed Eucharist.

We have just heard in the Second Reading the words of the Apostle Paul to the Christians of Corinth: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10:16-17).

St Augustine helps us to understand the dynamic of Eucharistic communion when he mentions a sort of vision that he had, in which Jesus said to him: “I am the food of strong men; grow and you shall feed on me; nor shall you change me, like the food of your flesh into yourself, but you shall be changed into my likeness” (Confessions, vii, 10, 18).

Therefore whereas food for the body is assimilated by our organism and contributes to nourishing it, in the case of the Eucharist it is a different Bread: it is not we who assimilate it but it assimilates us in itself, so that we become conformed to Jesus Christ, a member of his Body, one with him. This passage is crucial. In fact, precisely because it is Christ who, in Eucharistic communion changes us into him, our individuality, in this encounter, is opened, liberated from its egocentrism and inserted into the Person of Jesus who in his turn is immersed in Trinitarian communion. The Eucharist, therefore, while it unites us to Christ also opens us to others, makes us members of one another: we are no longer divided but one in him. Eucharistic communion not only unites me to the person I have beside me and with whom I may not even be on good terms, but also to our distant brethren in every part of the world.

Hence the profound sense of the Church’s social presence derives from the Eucharist, as is testified by the great social saints who were always great Eucharistic souls. Those who recognize Jesus in the sacred Host, recognize him in their suffering brother or sister, in those who hunger and thirst, who are strangers, naked, sick or in prison; and they are attentive to every person, they work in practice for all who are in need.

Therefore our special responsibility as Christians for building a supportive, just and brotherly society comes from the gift of Christ’s love. Especially in our time, in which globalization makes us more and more dependent on each other, Christianity can and must ensure that this unity is not built without God, that is, without true Love, which would give way to confusion, individualism and the tyranny of each one seeking to oppress the others. The Gospel has always aimed at the unity of the human family, a unity that is neither imposed from the outside nor by ideological or economic interests but on the contrary is based on the sense of reciprocal responsibility, so that we may recognize each other as members of one and the same Body, the Body of Christ, because from the Sacrament of the Altar we have learned and are constantly learning that sharing, love, is the path to true justice.

Let us now return to Jesus’ action at the Last Supper. What happened at that moment? When he said: “this is my body which is given for you, this is the cup of my blood which is poured out for many, what happened? In this gesture Jesus was anticipating the event of Calvary. Out of love he accepted the whole passion, with its anguish and its violence, even to death on the cross. In accepting it in this manner he changed it into an act of giving. This is the transformation which the world needs most, to redeem it from within, to open it to the dimensions of the Kingdom of Heaven.

However, God always wishes to bring about this renewal of the world on the same path followed by Christ, that way which is indeed he himself. There is nothing magic about Christianity. There are no short-cuts; everything passes through the humble and patient logic of the grain of wheat that broke open to give life, the logic of faith that moves mountains with the gentle power of God. For this reason God wishes to continue to renew humanity, history and the cosmos through this chain of transformations, of which the Eucharist is the sacrament. Through the consecrated bread and wine, in which his Body and his Blood are really present, Christ transforms us, conforming us to him: he involves us in his work of redemption, enabling us, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, to live in accordance with his own logic of self-giving, as grains of wheat united to him and in him. Thus are sown and continue to mature in the furrows of history unity and peace, which are the end for which we strive, in accordance with God’s plan.

Let us walk with no illusions, with no utopian ideologies, on the highways of the world bearing within us the Body of the Lord, like the Virgin Mary in the mystery of the Visitation. With the humility of knowing that we are merely grains of wheat, let us preserve the firm certainty that the love of God, incarnate in Christ, is stronger than evil, violence and death. We know that God prepares for all men and women new heavens and a new earth, in which peace and justice reign — and in faith we perceive the new world which is our true homeland.

This evening too, let us start out: while the sun is setting on our beloved city of Rome: Jesus in the Eucharist is with us, the Risen One who said: “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20). Thank you, Lord Jesus! Thank you for your faithfulness which sustains our hope. Stay with us because night is falling. “Very bread, Good Shepherd, tend us, Jesus, of your love befriend us, You refresh us, you defend us, Your eternal goodness send us in the land of life to see”. Amen.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English

29 June 2011, page 8



Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Saint John Lateran Square
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
my source: Aleteia

« Do this in remembrance of me » (1 Cor. 11 :24-25).

Twice the Apostle Paul, writing to the community in Corinth, recalls this command of Jesus in his account of the institution of the Eucharist. It is the oldest testimony we have to the words of Christ at the Last Supper.

“Do this.” That is, take bread, give thanks and break it; take the chalice, give thanks, and share it. Jesus gives the command to repeat this action by which he instituted the memorial of his own Pasch, and in so doing gives us his Body and his Blood. This action reaches us today: it is the “doing” of the Eucharist which always has Jesus as its subject, but which is made real through our poor hands anointed by the Holy Spirit.

“Do this.” Jesus on a previous occasion asked his disciples to “do” what was so clear to him, in obedience to the will of the Father. In the Gospel passage that we have just heard, Jesus says to the disciples in front of the tired and hungry crowds: “Give them something to eat yourselves” (Lk 9:13). Indeed, it is Jesus who blesses and breaks the loaves and provides sufficient food to satisfy the whole crowd, but it is the disciples who offer the five loaves and two fish. Jesus wanted it this way: that, instead of sending the crowd away, the disciples would put at his disposal what little they had. And there is another gesture: the pieces of bread, broken by the holy and venerable hands of Our Lord, pass into the poor hands of the disciples, who distribute these to the people. This too is the disciples “doing” with Jesus; with him they are able to “give them something to eat.” Clearly this miracle was not intended merely to satisfy hunger for a day, but rather it signals what Christ wants to accomplish for the salvation of all mankind, giving his own flesh and blood (cf. Jn 6:48-58). And yet this needs always to happen through those two small actions: offering the few loaves and fish which we have; receiving the bread broken by the hands of Jesus and giving it to all.

Breaking: this is the other word explaining the meaning of those words: “Do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus was broken; he is broken for us. And he asks us to give ourselves, to break ourselves, as it were, for others. This “breaking bread” became the icon, the sign for recognizing Christ and Christians. We think of Emmaus: they knew him “in the breaking of the bread” (Lk 24:35). We recall the first community of Jerusalem: “They held steadfastly… to the breaking of the bread” (Acts 2:42). From the outset it is the Eucharist which becomes the center and pattern of the life of the Church. But we think also of all the saints – famous or anonymous – who have “broken” themselves, their own life, in order to “give something to eat” to their brothers and sisters. How many mothers, how many fathers, together with the slices of bread they provide each day on the tables of their homes, have broken their hearts to let their children grow, and grow well! How many Christians, as responsible citizens, have broken their own lives to defend the dignity of all, especially the poorest, the marginalized and those discriminated! Where do they find the strength to do this? It is in the Eucharist: in the power of the Risen Lord’s love, who today too breaks bread for us and repeats: “Do this in remembrance of me.”


May this action of the Eucharistic procession, which we will carry out shortly, respond to Jesus’ command. An action to commemorate him; an action to give food to the crowds of today; an act to break open our faith and our lives as a sign of Christ’s love for this city and for the whole world.

HOMILY OF ABBOT PAUL


Corpus Christi 2017

            “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” I am frequently reminded by the nurse who looks after me at my local surgery that, “You are what you eat.” She is a fervent Baptist, so I doubt she realises the theological implications of speaking to a Catholic like that. “You are what you eat.”

            St Basil wrote, “Through the Holy Spirit we acquire a likeness to God; indeed, we attain what is beyond our most sublime aspirations – we become God.” In the Creed we proclaim, “Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine et homo factus est.” Through the Holy Spirit God becomes man and through the Holy Spirit we become God. St Paul is really saying the same thing when he writes to the Corinthians: “The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in this one loaf.”

            Through our communion with the Body and Blood of Christ, we become one with him and, together, we become one in him. “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him.” These are the words of Jesus in John’s Gospel. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God became incarnate and through the power of the Holy Spirit bread and wine become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats me draws life from me. Whoever eats this bread will live for ever.”

            Today we give thanks for God’s infinite love and mercy and we give thanks for the particular way in which he chose to save us and share his life with us. God’s way is that of total self-giving, the way of the Cross. Jesus invites us to enter into communion with his death and resurrection by dying ourselves to sin, to all that separates us from God and goes against his will.  We are not mere passive recipients of the sacraments, but are called by God to cooperate actively, fully in Christ’s redemptive sacrifice. This is our Christian vocation. We too give our lives for the salvation of the world. “This is my body. This is my blood.” Total configuration to Christ, this is the meaning of the Mass, of Holy Communion and of Eucharistic Adoration. It is a two-way process.

            May our adoration and praise today lead us to a deeper commitment to live our lives in Christ, so that Christ can live his life in us. His words, “Do this in memory of me,” take us beyond the Eucharistic celebration to a life lived as Eucharist, a life of sacrifice and self-giving, a life of praise and thanksgiving, a life centred on Christ, a life in Christ, until God’s glory, love and mercy are fully manifested in each one of us and God is all in all. Amen.

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