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"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, con
cerning the word of life -- the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it ...." I John 1:1-2 (RSV)

"After his resurrection the disciples saw the living Christ, whom they knew to have died, with the eyes of faith (oculata fide)." Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, 55, 2 ad 1, as quoted in D. M. Stanley, Jesus in Gethsemane (New York, Paulist Press 1980).

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Dunn - Prophetic Calling of Jesus

From Jesus, Paul, and the Gospels by James Dunn:

The Gospels also indicate that Jesus probably experienced something equivalent to a prophetic calling when he was baptised by John. So the Gospel writers could hardly fail to recount the beginning of Jesus’ mission from his baptism by John.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Jenson - Role of Old Testament

For some reason Christians lose sight of the fact that the God who saved Israel from Egypt is the God who raised Jesus from the dead.  Here Robert W. Jenson discusses the role of the Old Testament in the church: 

[W]hat did and should it mean for the role of the Old Testament in the church, that in some new way it is now "directed to Christ"? We see that our question must be limited: we cannot ask why the Old Testament is Scripture after Christ's resurrection, but only about the way in which the Old Testament canon actually functions within the risen Christ's community. 
When the narratives of the patriarchs' adventures, of the exodus, of the conquest of Canaan, or of the Lord's judgments and restorations of Israel are felt as alien, one of two things is likely to happen; both have actually happened, and both undermine the faith.  One possible and currently actual outcome is that preaching and teaching construe "the New Testament's God" simply by constructing a contrary of the supposed Old Testament God: the God of the gospel is pacific, nonjudgmental, and in general a really nice person. In much of the liberal church, in many Evangelical groups, and indeed among many "progressive" Catholics, theology has thus been replaced by sentimentality ....
We must therefore be careful in stipulating the difference that the crucifixion and resurrection made for the role of the Old Testament. In the New Testament itself, the Old Testament's theological authority is unaffected. The Old Testament's identification of the Lord as "the one who rescued Israel from Egypt" is indeed completed by "the one who rescued the Lord Jesus from death"; but it is not replaced (Soulen, God); and in general the New Testament simply assumes the whole of Israel's story about God's works with his people. Whatever problems the Old Testament law made for a soon predominantly Gentile church, Jesus' own remembered words confirmed that the law reveals God's will. And Israel's prophets were the very teachers from whom the primal church learned why Jesus is needed.

Canon and Creed (Interpretation) (Interpretation: Resources for the Use of Scripture in the Church)
by Robert W. Jenson  (Westminster John Knox Press 2010).

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Robert Jenson - God Enters History

I am reading Robert W. Jenson's great book of lectures to undergraduates titled,  A Theology in Outline: Can These Bones Live? (Oxford University Press 2016).

Jenson says:

The God depicted in the Old Testament does not ride serenely above the happenings of the temporal world. Israel’s God lives the history of this world together with us. And that means he has to live by and with the particularities and singularities of history. He has to enter history the same way that anyone enters history: by taking a particular place and doing particular things. And he does that the way anyone does: by identifying himself with a particular cause or people or movement—in fact, Israel.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Ecclesia de Eucharista John Paul II

This week I  have reflected on John Paul II’s encyclical, “Ecclesia de Eucharistia,” published the Vatican April 17, 2003.  This is a blog on  the words and deeds of Jesus.  Among his most important words were those spoken at the first Eucharist where he said of the bread, "this is my body," and of the wine, "this is my blood,"  and said  "take and eat." 

Section  22 explains how union with Christ makes his people a sacrament.  The Pope cites John 20:21 (as the father has sent me, so send I you).  The Pope says, “From the perpetuation of the sacrifice of the Cross and her communion with the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, the Church draws the spiritual power needed to carry out her mission. The Eucharist thus appears as both the source and the summit of all evangelization, since its goal is the communion of mankind with Christ and in him with the Father and the Holy Spirit.”

Section 23 explains the communal aspect:  “[O]ur union with Christ, which is a gift and grace for each of us, makes it possible for us, in him, to share in the unity of his body which is the Church.”

And the Holy Spirit?  The Pope says, “God the Father is asked to send the Holy Spirit upon the faithful and upon the offerings, so that the body and blood of Christ “may be a help to all those who partake of it ... for the sanctification of their souls and bodies. The Church is fortified by the divine Paraclete through the sanctification of the faithful in the Eucharist.”

And finally for this post I note section  24.  The Pope is realistic.  He knows that there is disunity in the world, and in the church:  “The seeds of disunity, which daily experience shows to be so deeply rooted in humanity as a result of sin, are countered by the unifying power of the body of Christ. The Eucharist, precisely by building up the Church, creates human community.”

What do I take from all of this? We have this great gift which brings Jesus close to us and makes us more like Christ. It also creates a fellowship like no other among believers, a closeness. How do I make this happen in real life? I attend a large church, the largest church in the entire Milwaukee archdiocese, and I know very few people there.  At Mass I am not sharing with people whom I know. How do I make what JP II describes actually happen? Start with prayer.  Ask God to bring people into my life who will help with all of this.  That should be a prayer that God will answer.  But be patient. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Jesus in the Gospels

Here is a long blog post from Larry Hurtado, which is wonderful:


Larry concludes:

In short, it is a fallacy to pose a genuinely human Jesus such as we have in the Gospels over against the “high” Christology reflected in Paul’s letters and other various early Christian texts. Instead, at least in the various circles that comprised the emerging “proto-orthodox” Christianity of the late first century and thereafter, various affirmations about Jesus were seen as compatible and complementary, and various literary genres were appropriated to express Jesus significance.

Monday, September 5, 2016

John P. Meier - The Future Kingdom in the Beatitudes of Jesus

This is my second post on the book,  A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus Vol. 2 - Mentor, Message and Miracles by Fr. John P. Meier,  Volume 2  of Meier's five-volume study of the historical Jesus. 

Meier provides background information on the structure of OT beatitudes in the Psalms and Proverbs. He states that "sometimes the reward or fortunate consequence of such wise action is mentioned in the context," as in verse 3 of Psalm 1 (shall be like a tree planted near streams of water).  Meier at 324. 

Credit:  alittleperspective.com
What is a beatitude?  In the OT and in the Intertestamental literature it is a “cry of admiration, congratulation, and felicitation.” Meier at 323.   The wisdom teacher describes the happy person and "while formally descriptive,”  the beatitude is“functionally parenetic.” P. 323. The happiness “explicitly described is implicitly held up as a goal to be pursued.” P. 323. While the OT beatitudes are "basically sapiential [focused on rewards in this life] rather than eschatological," the beatitudes of Jesus reflect the change that came post-exile.   

After the exile, the beatitudes become more realistic (Book of Job), and then after the Seleucid persecutions with apocalyptic literature the horizon extends to the next world, and we see this view of the future kingdom in the beatitudes of Jesus. 

Jesus' beatitudes come in this form: 1) the makarios (happy are), 2) followed by the designation of the sufferers and 3) the  hoti or causal clause which promises the reversal of their "present misery" by an eschatological gift or action from God. Meier at 330.

In the background here is "the whole OT picture of God as the truly just king of the covenant community of Israel, the king who does what Israel's human kings often failed to do: defend widows and orphans ...." Meier at 331.

In Jesus' beatitudes:

“We begin to see why Jesus was not interested in and did not issue pronouncements
about concrete social and political reforms, either for the world in general or for 
Israel in particular. He was not proclaiming the reform of the world; he was
proclaiming the end of the world.”  

Meier at 331.  Here Jesus differs from the prophets who were concerned about the social and political evils of their  day.  Jesus, by contrast, did not denounce slavery, Roman rule in Judea, unjust economic practices “oppressing the poor in the face of inflation,” because:

“The definitive arrival of God’s kingly rule was imminent; calls for social and 
political reform, launched - and often botched - by human beings, were thus beside
 the point.”

Meier at 331.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

John P. Meier - Jesus' Two "You Petitions"

For the next four weeks I will be posting on the book,  A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus Vol. 2 - Mentor, Message and Miracles by  Fr. John P. MeierVolume 2  of Meier's five-volume study of the historical Jesus.  My citations to this book will be to "Meier" or "Meier Vol. 2."  

At page 317 Meier states: 
[T]he historical Jesus did expect a future coming of God's kingdom, and that kingdom was in some way a transcendent one, surmounting this world's barriers of time, space, hostility between Jews and Gentiles, and finally death itself.  A completely un-eschatological Jesus, a Jesus totally short of apocalyptic traits, is simply not the historical Jesus, however compatible he might be to modern tastes, at least in middle-class American academia.

What does the prayer which Jesus taught his disciples tell us about these kingdom expectations?  Jesus begins the prayer with, "Our Father," Greek pater which reflects Jesus' "striking use" of the address,  Aramaic "Abbe" which means  “my own dear father” for God. Meier at 294. The petitions of the prayer "are meant to reproduce the trusting and unaffected attitude of a child dependent on an all-powerful and loving father." Meier at 294.

In the words of the prayer, “Your kingdom come,” we have a petition asking for this kingdom to come soon. Meier at 295, 297.  The "symbol of God's kingship is central to his message." Meier at 294. That may be common knowledge to believers and we take that for granted, but God's kingship is a message which is not central to the NT outside of the Synoptic Gospels and is not central to the OT or to ancient Jewish literature. God's kingship soon coming to this world was an expectation of Jesus that he brought to this prayer, the only prayer in the NT which Jesus taught to his disciples. Meier at 294.

There is beautiful parallelism in the two phrases:  “hallowed be your name,” and “your kingdom come.” Meier at 295. In both the Aramaic and the Greek there are two beats in both, one on the verb and one on the noun, both ending with the same sound (from the pronoun)  and that creates a rhyme in the prayer.  Meier at 295.   This means that these two parallel lines go together and help to explain each other. And what does this  have to with Jesus' thoughts of God's kingdom?

Jesus says, "hallowed be your name." To hallow is to sanctify the name of God. This means two things. First, Israel should "sanctify God's name, as opposed to profaning it" (Meier at 295): "This sanctification includes believing God's word, trusting his promises, standing in awe of his majesty, praising him in worship, and observing his precepts in cult and in everyday life."  Meier at 295.  

Second, to sanctify the name of God means he manifests power and glory "in the blazing of a theophany that can bring either salvation or condemnation." Meier at 296 (citing OT). Meier discusses the “equivalence of a person and the name of the person …” Meier at 296.   God does this "by manifesting his power, glory, and holiness (= his transcendence, his "otherness," his "God-ness") ...." Meier at 295-296.  He sanctifies himself by a “powerful intervention.” Meier at 296 (citing Ezekiel where God brings his scattered people home to their own land).  

Which of these two meanings of "sanctify your name" does Jesus have in mind here? In the context of this prayer, the call to sanctify God's name "is probably neither a prayer that people will honor and praise God's name nor, as it were, an exhortation to oneself to do the same." Meier at 297. For Jesus the "theological concentration" here (citing OT, Qumran literature and the OT) is a petition for God himself to sanctify his name:

God alone can rightly and fully manifest himself in all his power and glory, that is to say, God alone can sanctify his name, which, it is hoped, he will do soon. This interpretation is supported by the close connection between the first and second "you petition." Certainly only God can make his kingdom come; the tight parallelism between the two petitions would seem to argue that the same is true of sanctifying the name.

Meier at 297. 

The prayer creates a picture of a great change coming, not from human actors  but from God (“Abba”), our loving Father.   For those who are praying with Jesus, there is no need to fear.