The New Covenant – sealed with the blood of the Lamb

Sealed by the blood of the Lamb

I’ve searched long for answers to the explanation of the Cross being a bloody and brutal sacrifice of the Son, willed by a merciless Father.  I’ve pondered on it, questioned it, written about it and prayed about it.  I believe I might have been set on the road to understanding today when the following words jumped out at me :

“it was that first Eucharist that transformed Jesus’ death from an EXECUTION to an OFFERING.  At the Last Supper HE GAVE his body to be broken, his blood to be poured out as if on an altar”

“It was the sacrificial blood that ratified the covenant because Moses said so in the one instance and BECAUSE JESUS SAID SO in the other. “

Now I have read and reflected before … and recognised the parallel between the old Passover and the ‘new’,  but the lead up to this sentence answered so many questions I had on ‘Why the Cross?”,   because it started from a point that I was and took me through to this one statement that was like a eureka moment of greater clarity and understanding. Here is the ‘lead up’  ……

At our remove of two thousand years, it seems natural for us to look upon Jesus’ crucifixion as a sacrifice.  Christians are heirs to a long tradition of talking that way, praying that way, thinking that way.  But first century Jews who witnessed the event would not and could not have seen the crucifixion as a sacrifice.  It bore none of the marks of a sacrifice in the ancient world. On Calvary there was no altar and no credentialed priest.  There was indeed a death, but it took place apart from the Temple, which was the only valid place of sacrifice in Judaism, and even outside the walls of the holy city.

St Paul, however, made the connections for his generation and especially for his fellow Jews.  In first Corinthians, after introducing the word of the cross (1.18) he calls Christ “our paschal lamb” who “has been sacrificed” (5.7).  Thus he makes the connection between the Passover celebrated as the Last Supper and the crucifixion on Calvary.

Indeed, it was that first Eucharist that transformed Jesus’ death from an execution to an offering.  At the Last supper he gave his body to be broken, his blood to be poured out, as if on an altar.

As Paul retold the story of the Last Supper (1 Corinthians  11:23-25)  he spoke of the event in sacrificial terms.  He quotes Jesus as calling it “the new covenant in my blood”, an evocation of Moses words as he made a sacrificial offering of oxen: “Behold(the blood of the covenant” (Exodus 24.8).  It was the sacrificial blood that ratified the covenant, because Moses said so, in one instance, and because Jesus said so in the other.  

Opening paras in Foreword by Scott Hahn in the book :  JESUS and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist. Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper – Brant Pitre

Today, Maundy Thursday,  the words ‘sealed with the blood of the Lamb’ takes on a new meaning – not as a sacrifice willed by a merciless God who wanted a scapegoat offering, but as blood willingly shed to seal the new covenant of love and reconciliation between God and man.

LOVE transforms suffering into sacrifice!!

Source picture : numerous sites on internet.  Origin or copyright unknown.

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At Calvary …

The years I spent in vanity and pride,
Caring not my Lord was crucified,
Knowing not it was for me He died
On Calvary.

    • Refrain:
      Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
      Pardon there was multiplied to me;
      There my burdened soul found liberty
      At Calvary.

Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span
At Calvary!

God Incarnate : The Mystery beyond Words

My response to an Essay Question “The incarnation of the Son of God and the problems that this doctrine has given to Christian believers and thinkers.”  in a Christology Classroom Exam, First Year, Degree in Theology.   The links have been added for this post. 

Extract Exam paper Christology

Extract – Answer Script

The historical fact of the birth and death of a man called Jesus Christ who entered history just over 2000 years ago – and changed its course so that the Western World counts time from his death – is not a matter of great dispute.

Neither is there any great dispute that this man was a preacher and moral teacher par excellence.  Even detractors of his time granted that he worked miracles and wondrous signs and healed persons, cast out evil spirits and performed many wonders.   The biggest problem was however the fact that he claimed to be the Son of God and that his followers believed him.

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Following Immanuel …

Another Christmas season has just ended.

With great nostalgia and sentiment we recalled the birth in Bethlehem.  We set up mini stables within our churches complete with statues of cattle and oxen and wise men.  For the twelve days of Christmas the baby Jesus lies in a manger to remind us of the Christmas story.

Epiphany – the visit of the Wise Men to the manger – is the official close of the Christmas season.  The decorations are taken down, the tree is packed, and the statues and the Baby Jesus wrapped in newspaper or bubble wrap and put away. We return to the Ordinary Time in the liturgical year whilst in our worship Jesus returns to the Tabernacle.

It often seems to me we are missing something. Something does not seem to fit.  

The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us – ” (John 1.14)

The Lord of all exchanged his glory above for humble surroundings. God desired to live amongst us – not in splendid isolation in the heavens. He did not even, in a sense, remain in the Holy of Holies – the Sanctum in the  temple at Jerusalem built according to His own decree for the Ark of the Covenant.

With the Incarnation, the glory of God -The Shekinah – now resides in Jesus Christ who walked amongst his people.

He had no fixed dwelling place – “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests,  but the son of Man has no place to lay his head” was Jesus’ response to the rich young man. (Luke 9.57).  The message is clear. If you wish to follow Him, you would find Him amongst his people.

Yet ironically we seem determined to put God back where we think He belongs – in cathedrals and temple  edifices. The wise men found him amidst his family and Creation;  Shepherds heeded the call to go to the manger.   We seek Him in buildings of stone.

I do not deny our need for sacred places, sacred spaces, to help us transcend our secular world.  Yet is there a vague possibility that we build our churches to satisfy OUR needs, rather than for the glory of God – the God  who gave up all grandeur  to get his feet dirty and walk amongst us?

As we put away the statue of Baby Jesus  carefully protected with bubble wrap until next year,  let us also not lock Him up in a box in a church.  Rather let us  go out and find him amongst this people  – for he dwells amongst us still.

No crib for a bed ….

Credit : https://manyalaphotography.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/the-son-of-man/#comment-158

Can you feel the love tonight ?

Uncannily, as I was reflecting on the Last Supper of our Lord, I heard a station playing “Can you feel the love tonight” (From the Lion King.)  Listening to the words, I thought of the love that must have been present on Jesus’ final night on earth; that (Maundy Thursday) night when he commanded his apostles to love and instituted the sacrament of Love.

The song echoes in the background – Can you feel the love tonight? How its laid to rest.  It seems so appropriate .. a love hymn of worship.

Jesus knew his life and mission will soon end. He loves his friends so dearly but the hour has come to return to His Father.  It is time to say goodbye.

It is the most momentous farewell in the history of man. God became man and dwelt among us.  And now he is leaving us.

The success of Jesus’ entire mission  could hinge on what memories, message and instructions he leaves behind.   What is the single most important instruction or act in the final hours of his life as he bids farewell to his beloved friends?

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Letting God work on us

Prayer has far more to do with what God wants to do in us than with our trying to “reach” or “realize,” still less “entertain,” God in prayer.

This truth eliminates anxiety and concern as to the success or non-success of our prayer, for we can be quite certain that, if we want to pray and give the time to prayer, God is always successful and that is what matters.

What we think of as our search for God is, in reality, a response to the divine Lover drawing us to himself.  There is never a moment when divine Love is not at work.

This work is nothing other than a giving of the divine Self in love.

The logical consequence for us must surely be that our part is to

let ourselves be loved,
—let ourselves be given to,
let ourselves be worked upon by this great God
and made capable of total union with Him. “

This reflection extracted from Ruth Burrows Essence of Prayer  so closely resembles my Advent wish ‘Receive His Love’  from a different perspective that I thought I would share it as my Christmas post.

My wish for my Christian brothers and people of all faiths is that we will let God – whoever you conceive Him to be – to work on us this Christmas so there is peace on earth,  good will and love amongst men.

See more at: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-spiritual-exercises/an-ignatian-prayer-adventure/week-1/#sthash.4vWR0i0k.dpuf

When life gets in the way …

Dawn breaks gently on another Advent morn.

A barrage of thoughts crash their way into my mind – forcing me awake earlier than I wish; forcing me to get off the bed and start the day.

But I linger a while longer, reflecting.  So many things to do today Lord, where do I start?   The list is endless.  I am not going to be able to handle all of these unless you send me some help  – or take over the tasks  – or me;  one of the two – or nothing will get done and I am getting stressed at the thought of the never ending list that is looming large in front of me.

I can’t seem to handle these daily issues any more.  Every thing is like a mountain to climb.  I know they are little hillocks  –   not even that … but even a grassy mound seems a big obstacle when you want nothing more than to lie down in stillness, in quiet, and just BE  … a human BE-ING  instead of a human DO-ING!

But I can’t seem to be still because there are so many things that are both urgent and important.   You know they are not frivolous things Lord and they have to get done. In fact I have neglected them too much. I have not been a good steward of what you have given me and I am trying to rectify that without further delay.  Your Word last Sunday – no the previous Sunday – was sharper than the two edged sword which cuts  to the marrow.  I felt convicted.  How can I be trusted with the Kingdom if I don’t take care of the things you  have given me here on earth? if I am not faithful in little things and fail to multiply the talents given me? (Matthew 25.14-30)

So I am trying to correct this with a long list of TO DO’s.  This list would not have piled up on me so LARGE if I had remembered a stitch in time saves nine. Procrastination is such a thief of time, and money, and relationships. So many things I want to do Lord … so many elderly people I want to visit before it is too late.

So many good intentions but with all these things on my plate … I can’t do them!   And I cannot ‘still’ myself to focus on Advent which starts today.

Don’t you think that sometimes Lord, life gets in the way of LIFE ?!  

Love is our Salvation

One month more for Christmas  –  the day that Love came down.

Fleeting thoughts … a thread floating in my mind waiting to be drawn, pulled together, stitched …

I’m Ok you’re Ok …  is not OK.  It forces  you said Anthony Mello to be OK before others accept you as OK;.  Better rather he suggested  “I’m an Ass …you’re  an Ass!”

Beethoven suffered because people appreciated his music but not his person – incredibly sad.

Success tells me that my work is fine while LOVE tells me that I am fine – 

Love me for a reason and let the reason be love …

Wonderful creative redemptive love that came to save me from myself

Grace freely given … without measure, without judgement, without demands

For God so loved the world that he gave his Beloved Son that whoever believed in Him might be saved. (John 3.16)

Saved from the world of conditional love

To the world of PERFECT LOVE

For only when we receive His love, can we be truly ONE with Him.

In LOVE are we saved … perfected.

RECEIVE HIS LOVE THIS CHRISTMAS

It is our SALVATION.

Image Credit : https://glenelmadventblog.files.wordpress.com

It seems to me a strange thing mystifying

That my Lord came to this earth “to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4.18)

And yet we who call ourselves Christians because we wish to follow him, do the very opposite.

We get into our ivory castles where we are beyond reproach, and from the safety of this castle we throw stones at those who are not like us in religiosity, in piety, in following the letter of the law.

We are in fact, following the Pharisees rather than following Jesus.

In a recent homily, Pope Francis  exhorted that we ask ourselves the reason the doctors of the law (the Pharisees) did not understand the signs of the times and invoked an extraordinary sign. And he proposed several answers:

The first was “because they were closed. They were closed within their system, they had organized the law very well”. It was “a masterpiece. All of the Jews knew what one could and could not do, where one could go. It was all organized”. But Jesus caught them unprepared, by doing “curious things”, such as “going with the sinners”, and “eating with the publicans”. And the doctors of the law did not like this, they found it “dangerous”, putting at risk “the doctrine which they, the theologians, had been making for centuries”. This happens, said the Pope,  when you forget that you are people on a journey:

“when one is on journey  one always finds new things, things one does not know. And in the law, they had to accept these things in a heart faithful to the Lord”. But, also in this case, “a journey is not absolute in itself, it is a journey toward an end point: toward the definitive manifestation of the Lord”.

For this reason,  Pope Francis explained, Jesus defined them as an “evil generation”, inasmuch as “they did not understand that the law they protected and loved was a pedagogy toward Jesus Christ”. Indeed, “if the law does not lead to Jesus Christ, does not bring us close to Jesus Christ, it is dead”.

And this is why Jesus scolds the members of that generation “for being closed, for being incapable of recognizing the signs of the times, for not being open to the God of surprises, for not being on a journey toward the Lord’s triumphant finale”, to the point “that when he explains it, they think it is blasphemy”.

We who live in ivory towers, closed to the signs of the times, need to reflect on Pope Francis’ words:

Am I attached to my things, to my ideas, closed? Or am I open to the God of surprises?”.

“Am I a stationary person or a person on a journey?”.

May we lose no time  in seeking to bind up open wounds and to rekindle hope in so many people who have lost hope, in setting captives free, and doing the ‘curious things’ that Jesus did as we follow our Master and not the Pharisees.

“A heart that loves the law, for the law is God’s”, but “which also loves God’s surprises”, for his “holy law is not an end in itself”: it is a journey, “a teaching which leads us to Jesus Christ”.

Bible-Verses-About-Mercy

Excerpts (re-arranged with comments) from a homily by Pope Francis on 13 October 2014 on the God of Surprises.

Thinking with my heart!

Retreat with Pope John XXIII

Jesus living wisdom

Shorten the distance between my head and my heart.

Teach me how to THINK WITH MY HEART

so that all my thoughts are filled with love.

Show me that wisdom is truth tasted in all its beauty.

Walk with me as I learn from life how wisdom becomes my friend.

 

Mary, Wise woman, pray for me

that  I may receive the gift of wisdom

and the love which makes it possible.

Holy Spirit, your first gift is wisdom.

Breathe on me, breath of God, and immerse me in this gift.

Take away my fear and fill me with love.

Show me that courage is a heart that acts,

Which is a way of saying that WISDOM 

FLOWS FROM THE HEART

Opening prayer from A Retreat with John XXIII .