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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, 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.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Encapsulation - Surprised by Hope

One last thing, from Surprised by Hope, at page 122:

The word eschatology, which literally means “the study of the last things,” doesn’t just refer to death, judgment, heaven, and hell, as used to be thought (and as many dictionaries still define the word). It also refers to the strongly held belief of most first-century Jews, and virtually all early Christians, that history was going somewhere under the guidance of God and that where it was going was toward God’s new world of justice, healing, and hope. The transition from the present world to the new one would be a matter not of the destruction of the present space-time universe but of its radical healing. As we saw in the last chapter, the New Testament writers, particularly Paul, looked forward to this time and saw Jesus’s resurrection as the beginning, the firstfruits of it. So when I (and many others) use the word eschatology, we don’t simply mean the second coming, still less a particular theory about it; we mean, rather, the entire sense of God’s future for the world and the belief that that future has already begun to come forward to meet us in the present. This is what we find in Jesus himself and in the teaching of the early church. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Easter 2016 - Back to Surprised by Hope

read N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope back in 2011 and decided to come back to it this year as an Easter celebration over the 50 days of Easter, which run from Easter to Pentecost.  This time I’m reading the book along with occasional glances at the  Surprised by Hope Participant’sGuide, where at page 26 Wright says:

The resurrection of Jesus is more than a belief that his body was dead and came to life again, though this is quite true. It is an awareness that there was a cosmic explosion when Jesus rose again, and the power and repercussions of this reality echo through the ages to our day and into eternity. From the earliest years of the church, followers of Jesus were uniform in their affirmation and confidence that Jesus had raised, bodily, from the dead. He had come through death, out the other side, and a new reality was born. The tomb was empty! The risen Jesus had met with them, taught them, shared meals, and instructed them. The one who had died on the cross was alive again. Because Jesus has risen, we have more than confidence that our eternity is secure. We have an invitation to become his ambassadors in the world today. Through his church, Jesus wants to bring justice, lift up beauty, and lavish his gifts on the earth. And the primary way he plans to do this is through you and me.

As to that last sentence, the kingdom of God is not going to come "through you and me."  God will finish that work himself.   But I get Wright's point.   Believers are part of God's plan of redemption, as participants in Jesus'  "new creation" or what he called at his last supper the "new covenant."  I've been listening to 1 Cor. chapter 15 over and over during this Easter time, where Paul calls the resurrected Jesus the "first fruits" of this transformed world.  He is alive today and he  continues to work, to "bear fruit,"  through his people.   That's the message of Surprised by Hope.