An offering … not an Execution!!

Today Maundy Thursday, I offer an extract from Scott Hahn which I mentioned previously in The New Covenant – sealed with the blood of the Lamb.

It is a timely reminder that in focusing on the sacrificial part of the passion of Jesus as if it was a sacrifice willed by God,  we forget the free ‘offering’.  Scott Hahn puts it  so eloquently :

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 “JESUS and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist. Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper”  – Brant Pitre

Sealed by the blood of the Lamb

Sealed with the blood of the Lamb

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!!

Picture Credit: Internet.  Origin or copyright unknown.

 

The night of love ….

Love one another

Image Credit : http://freefaithgraphics.com/2015/01/love-one-another/

…. that final night of Jesus’s life on earth – as he prepared to bid farewell to his friends.  He knew that on the morrow, their grief and loss at the loss of their Master, ‘Rabboni’,  would be compounded by fear and confusion;  their world – which began with a triumphant entry into Jerusalem just five days previously, would come tumbling down.

How can he console them, comfort them, give them hope that all is not lost.   How can he assure them of His love for them and the Father’s love ?

How would you say farewell to friends and family if you know you are going to die the next day ?

I’d like to share a previous post on the words of love that kept pouring out of Our Lord as he gazed on his disciples gathered around him in person for the last time.    Please click on the link which shares how our Master bid farewell to his friends,  and his instructions and guidance to us.

Can you feel the love tonight 

 

Are you man enough …

I came across this poem that gives you ‘knots’ in your stomach.  I am sharing the full  post on http://soulofachristiantriathlete.blogspot.com/2009/03/adrian-plass-poem.html whom I thank profusely for sharing this.

Adrian Plass Poem

 If you are interested on learning more about Adrian Plass, please visit his site at www.adrianplass.com.

When I became a Christian I said, Lord, now fill me in,
Tell me what I’ll suffer in this world of shame and sin.
He said, your body may be killed, and left to rot and stink,
Do you still want to follow me? I said Amen – I think.
I think Amen, Amen I think, I think I say Amen,
I’m not completely sure, can you just run through that again?
You say my body may be killed and left to rot and stink,
Well, yes, that sounds terrific, Lord, I say Amen – I think.

But, Lord, there must be other ways to follow you, I said,
I really would prefer to end up dying in my bed.
Well, yes, he said, you could put up with the sneers and scorn and spit,
Do you still want to follow me? I said Amen – a bit.
A bit Amen, Amen a bit, a bit I say Amen,
I’m not entirely sure, can we just run through that again?
You say I could put up with sneers and also scorn and spit,
Well, yes, I’ve made my mind up, and I say, Amen – a bit.

Well I sat back and thought a while, then tried a different ploy,
Now, Lord, I said, the Good book says that Christians live in joy.
That’s true he said, you need the joy to bear the pain and sorrow,
So do you want to follow me, I said, Amen – tomorrow.
Tomorrow, Lord, I’ll say it then, that’s when I’ll say Amen,
I need to get it clear, can I just run through that again?
You say that I will need no joy, to bear the pain and sorrow,
Well, yes, I think I’ve got it straight, I’ll say Amen – tomorrow.

He said, Look, I’m not asking you to spend an hour with me
A quick salvation sandwich and a cup of sanctity,
The cost is you, not half of you, but every single bit,
Now tell me, will you follow me? I said Amen – I quit.
I’m very sorry Lord I said, I’d like to follow you,
But I don’t think religion is a manly thing to do.
He said forget religion then, and think about my Son,
And tell me if you’re man enough to do what he has done.

Are you man enough to see the need, and man enough to go,
Man enough to care for those whom no one wants to know,
Man enough to say the thing that people hate to hear,
To battle through Gethsemane in loneliness and fear.
And listen! Are you man enough to stand it at the end,
The moment of betrayal by the kisses of a friend,
Are you man enough to hold your tongue, and man enough to cry?
When nails break your body-are you man enough to die?
Man enough to take the pain, and wear it like a crown,
Man enough to love the world and turn it upside down,
Are you man enough to follow me, I ask you once again?
I said, Oh Lord, I’m frightened, but I also said Amen.

Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen; Amen, Amen, Amen,
I said, Oh Lord, I’m frightened, but I also said, Amen.

 

And from me Amen ten times and more … tough Lord but I’ll try.

(PS. In following protocol of sharing the post I mention that the highlights of last verses are mine )

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!

The Paradox of the Cross and Christian Freedom

I have posted before my thoughts and questions on Why the Cross in which I asked “What did Jesus come to save us from”.

Whereas I fumbled with my answers   – this post on an Ignatian Spirituality website  (quoted  in its entirety), gives a beautifully simple answer to the question I had posed.

road - freedom theme

Jesus came to set us free. From what?

The kind of freedom Ignatian spirituality preaches is freedom from the attachments, fears, and blockades that inhibit our human flourishing.

One of those blockades, sin, is more than choosing to do wrong. Sin includes operating our lives from a place of fear—preventing us from being our truest selves. Blockades to the freedom of our flourishing are those places in our lives that seem comfortable and safe but in truth keep us stagnant in faith and keep us from our dreams.

For instance, in marriage I might like to keep an escape hatch open so I can get out “just in case.” What seems to be the freedom of keeping options open prevents me from genuine commitment. When the thought of financial freedom keeps me in a job that drains the life from me and does not utilize my gifts, I’m impeded from the freedom of developing my gifts. The fear of change and endless “what-if” scenarios may cause me to freeze in the safety of my current life situation.

The paradox of Christian freedom is that when we take risks and make choices, we don’t restrict our freedom; we increase it. God calls us to have freedom from our fears and attachments so that we may have the freedom for a full life. When we cling to our comfort zone in fear we sin, a sign that the evil spirit is trying to prevent us from fully living out God’s call. We must allow Jesus to lift our burdens from us!

The genuine freedom that comes from following the call of God to let go of the illusory “safe path” leads to greater trust in God and one another. When we let go of unhealthy attachments, fears, and other blockades, we gain the freedom to be our best selves, our most whole selves. And then our dreams can unfold, our relationships can be more trusting, and we can cultivate our gifts and talents in new ways.

Source: The Paradox of Christian Freedom – Ignatian Spirituality

Following Immanuel …

Another Christmas season will soon end.

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.

Foxes have holes ... but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head

No Crib for a bed

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

Communion for the Divorced … how would my Lord answer?

I was really shocked to read that Archbishop Gadecki, President of the Polish Episcopal Conference,had stated that they do not support the notion of admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to the Eucharist.

Yes I know .. this has been one of the most controversial topics at the Synod. And I know the traditionalists are all out to uphold the existing church teaching – but I just could not believe that they can make statements like the following :

“People can participate in different forms and bear witness to the hardships of family life.” Gadecki added that remarried divorcees had the “right to participate” in the life of the Church without receiving the Eucharist.”      How condescending!!

I have a lot of questions on this on his viewpoint  …if anyone cares to respond :

  • Aren’t we failing to practice the precept to ‘forgive seventy times seven’ the mistakes that people make?
  • Aren’t we at odds with our mission to “set the captives free” ?  i.e. set free those who have been bound by human weakness in graceless marriages?
  • Does ‘if your eye offends you pluck it out’, have any application to marriages that are a source of ‘un-grace’ – even a disgrace of the sacrament of marriage?
  • Aren’t these doctrines advocated by Gadecki – and written on Phylactories – to the precept that ‘salvation of souls is the supreme law’? 
  • In trying to uphold the sacrament of marriage, aren’t we guilty of withholding from persons the primordial sacrament, of Jesus in the Eucharist?

I penned a personal reflection some time ago on withholding the Sacrament from children …which is apt too for this subject of Communion for the divorced.

How would my Lord Answer?

We say that we are receiving the Body of our Lord;
That we receive his Real Presence at the table of the Eucharist.  
Can someone tell me , why then do we exclude little children from the banquet?

I know what the Church teaches: 
That we are receiving the Body of Christ;
That children should understand what they are doing …
That they should have respect for “the host”
That they may not understand, and desecrate It,
Even, spit it out.

When Adults, with full knowledge, deliberately  
and maliciously spat on him, He spoke …
“Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”
Would not these words extend to innocent children? 
And yet we hold their lack of knowledge against them.

I ask myself,  “Are adults any better than children?
Can we really, give due respect to the Body of Christ –
… respect that is worthy of our Lord? 
Can I ever receive the Blessed Sacrament in a worthy manner?

If I cannot, how can I withhold the Sacrament from the innocent children?

We feed our children, sometimes force feed them, with 
food for physical nourishment when they are young.
Even though they may not know what it is they drink or eat
We still ensure that they get their daily diet. 

Why then do we not give them spiritual nourishment
in the same manner … ?
but wait until we have “prepared” them
to receive the Lord?
Why do we not “share” our Lord with them at the banquet?
Can you answer why ?  

I know many of the answers that I will be given:
Church teaching, catechetical instruction, doctrine  etc  
But I am not convinced and I still ask for explanation.

If my Lord were here in human form right now,  I know
I would rush with all my nieces and nephews  …
To place them in His arms
Without waiting till they are prepared to “receive Him”
For IT IS HE WHO RECEIVES THEM !!!  welcomes them, embraces them.

But at the Eucharistic table, I “shoo” them away,
For they are not yet “ready”;  they have to “be prepared” !!
To receive the Lord “worthily”
When it is really He and only He
Who can make us worthy of Him.

So I ask myself … If my Lord was standing beside me
At the Eucharistic table and I asked him
“Shall I give Thee to these little children?”
What would His answer be?

Today, if my Lord were standing in front of me, I would point to the latest Report on the Synod and ask him again … “My Lord … can we give thee to Divorced and re-married people.”

I think I know how my Lord would react. I think I would see him bend down and write in the sand.

Jesus writing in the sand

John 8:6-11

Credit picture : new.rejesus.com.uk

Vatican II, Synod on the Family … two Popes

And Guadium et Spes  or The Church in the Modern World. (document of Vatican II).  

Three months after his election,  Angelo Guiseppe Roncalli,  the new Pope John XXIII surprised the world by convoking the Second Vatican Council.

There had not been a Council in nearly 100 years … and this was to be an Ecumenical Council with  the Bishops of the universal church in attendance, not just European and Italian prelates.

His famous words open these windows and let the fresh air in’,  were a prelude to the historic event that has been  pivotal for the Catholic Church.

Opening the windows would no doubt raise the dust of centuries that had settled on the Church. There was, as can be expected, opposition and prophets of doom!

Prophets of Doom

Despite all naysayers, this great visionary inspired the Universal Church to reflect on how she could build and strengthen the faith in the cultural changes following two World Wars. The Council Fathers were inspired by two principles:

aggiornamento (Italian for “updating”) and ressourcement (French for “going back to the sources”).   So the reforms either returned to more ancient practices or took on modern practices and approaches.

The deep introspection and sharing that was the spirit of Vatican II, led to many changes in religious practices so that the light of Christ could shine out visibly.  The pot in which the seed of faith had been transplanted from Rome to distant lands was broken so that the seed could germinate, be in-culturated in,  and draw its nourishment from the local soil

In essence, St. John XXIII believed in the sacramental nature of the church as a sign and instrument of communion with God and unity amongst all men.

It is the same spirit and belief which our beloved Pope Francis carries vocally and visibly in his core message :

“The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. … And you have to start from the ground up “

I pray that the Spirit that led to the convening of this Synod, and the declaration of a Year of Mercy, will continue to guide all Bishops in their decisions.

On this October 11 anniversary of the commencement of the Council, also declared as the Feast of St. John XXIII,  I wish to honour his memory by recalling his words as he lay dying on his bed in May 1963 :

Today more than ever, we are called to serve mankind as such, and not merely Catholics; to defend above all and everywhere, the rights of the human person and not merely those of the Catholic Church…’

‘It is not that the Gospel has changed: it is that we have begun to understand it better … the moment has come to discern the signs of the times, to seize the opportunity and to look far ahead. “

Thank you beloved Papa John XXIII  for giving us Vatican II   … and thank you Papa Francesco for the Synod on the Family.  May the Spirit continue to lead you in steering  the barque of the Church into Kingdom waters.

Opening - Synod on the Family 

Synod on the Family, Rome October, 2015.  Source : www:catholicnewsagency.com