Category Archives: Christology

Coronavirus/COVID-19 & the healing touch of Jesus

“I AM the Life and the Resurrection…Do you believe this?” -cf Jn 11:25

“I AM the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” -Rev 22:13

“Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is My beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased;
listen to Him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.” -Mt 17:4-8


-by Fr. Hugh Barbour, O. Praem., a convert from Episcopalianism

“Jesus came and touched them, saying, ”Do not be afraid.”

Delight is the full compliment of our powers of soul and body, for when we take pleasure in any thing or experience or person, when we have joy in these, then our powers have reached fulfillment. The sense of touch is the most fundamental power in us that can experience delight, and as we move up the scale of our appetites of soul and body we finally reach the delight of our spiritual appetite: the direct contact of our mind and will with Goodness itself, with God as He is in Himself, in the vision of heaven that we call beatific, which is Latin for “happy-making.”

Now in all our earthly experiences of delight, there is always an element making that delight imperfect. This element is fear. No matter how great our joy or pleasure or delight in this life, we know we can lose that which causes it. Something bad can take our happiness away.

There is only one delight that cannot be lost, and this is the possession of God as He is in Himself, in the vision of heaven. Anything else can and will be lost—at least for a time, if we count the loss of this earthly life in death before our resurrection. So in every earthly happiness there is still some fear to cast a shadow on our joys.

In this magnificent Gospel scene, we find the apostles rejoicing in the surpassingly beautiful sight of Jesus transfigured with His ordinarily hidden divine splendor; so much so that Peter wished in his ecstasy to be able just to stay and live on the mountain of Tabor! And we find the eternal Father declaring His delight in His beloved Son Who always dwells in Him. This last pleasure is unmixed with fear, but the apostles are about to find out that their joy can still suffer a fearsome jolt.

They are blinded, so they cannot see the surpassing beauties that they saw just a moment before. That which enchanted them is now and suddenly hidden, and they have no more power to find Him again than they had to make Him appear.

Notice how Jesus Our Loving Savior comes to their aid. He approaches them and He touches them, and He tells them not to be afraid. He begins to restore the delight they had just lost, starting with the most basic level of human experience and the most basic source of human delight: touch. This is a touch that drives away fear, like a sacrament of loving reassurance. As the Beloved Disciple, who had received this touch here on Mount Tabor and in the Cenacle on Mount Sion, says in his epistle, “Perfect love casts out fear.”

In our own lives together, certain great joys get snatched away. How can we reassure and console those closest to us? Following Jesus’ example, we might gently touch them. Nowadays this can be viewed as risky business, but common sense and charity will show us a chaste and loving way to console the frightened and the sorrowful. Certainly at least in the circle of our own families we should not omit to embrace and comfort with touch those whom we love and who need to be freed from fear.

Right now, they are telling us not to touch at the sign of peace at Holy Mass so as not to catch a disease; well, a far worse disease is indifference to the struggles of others. Even when touch is impractical, let us never fail at least to smile warmly to our neighbors, as if to say, “Do not be afraid.”

What an amazing faith we have that combines the heights of mystical enlightenment with the simplicity of child-like caresses. This is why the Son of God became man: to restore all things in Himself. Let us fearful creatures await His freeing (Ed. and healing) touch and give it to others!  (Ed. With hand sanitizer bought on the black market.  Any other ideas for obtaining?  Don’t forget disinfectant wipes and toilet paper while shopping on the black market.  Two day expensive delivery.) 🙂  (Not to make light.  Gallows humor?)

Love, health, joy in this life, and certainly in the next,
Matthew

The Consistency of Catholicism & Christian unity


-St Peter’s square, please not the circular arms of colonnades, evoking the symbolism of embracing the whole world. Please click on the image for greater detail.


Rev Dwight Longenecker, Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most of his life living and working in England.
Fr Longenecker was brought up in an Evangelical Protestant home in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the Fundamentalist Protestant Bob Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge and a country parson on the Isle of Wight. Realizing that he and the Anglican Church were on divergent paths, in 1995 Fr. Dwight and his family were received into the Catholic Church. In December 2006 he was ordained as a Catholic priest under the special pastoral provision for married former Anglican clergy. He now serves as parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, SC.

“Many non-Catholics—indeed, it could be argued, all Protestants—are cafeteria Christians, picking individual moral and theological viewpoints which happen to suit them. Often they are unaware that the different doctrines can be linked and unified. A non-Catholic Christian might hear Catholics talk about Catholic unity and think it means that Catholics all believe the same thing and are united in following the pope. But when a Catholic talks about unity its not just unity of faith and practice, but also the internal cohesion between all the different parts of Catholic belief. For Catholics, the different beliefs support and complement each other as the different parts of one body.

There are three particular areas that must be seen as a unity: Christology (what the Church teaches about the person of Jesus Christ), ecclesiology (what she teaches about the Church), and sacramental theology (what she teaches about the Eucharist). The “Body of Christ” is a three-fold but united concept—Incarnation, Church, and Eucharist are interrelated. To understand who Jesus really was, God has given us the Church and the sacraments. When our views on the person of Christ, the Church, and the Eucharist don’t support and reflect one another, heresy creeps in. Error in one area of belief soon infects the other areas.

So, for example, most Bible Christians uphold an orthodox Christology. They believe that Jesus really is the God-Man. But when it comes to sacramental theology, they say the bread and wine are merely natural things used to prompt our memory. Likewise, the visible church is a “human institution.” The Bible Christians’ view of the church and the sacrament match: Both are merely natural. But if you transfer what they believe about the church and the sacrament to the person of Christ, there is a clash. Apply their lack of supernatural qualities to Jesus Christ and you have Ebionism, an early heresy that denied the divinity of Christ and taught that he was merely human.

The traditional Lutheran subscribes to an orthodox view of Jesus Christ: that he is God and Man joined in a mysterious, hypostatic union. But the classic Lutheran view of the sacrament is consubstantiation—that the presence of Christ is “with or beside” the bread and wine. Luther’s view of the church is similar. He didn’t reject a visible church entirely, but thought it existed wherever the true gospel was proclaimed. In other words, like consubstantiation—the church exists “with or beside” the proclamation of the gospel. But use consubstantiation to explain the person of Christ and you end up in a heresy called Nestorianism. Nestorians taught that the divine and the human in Jesus remained separate, the divine Christ only coming “beside or with” the human Jesus.

Another non-Catholic view of the Eucharist is expressed as ‘real presence’, in contrast to the Catholic meaning of “Real Presence“.  This mostly Anglican view seems very close to Catholic teaching. “Real Presence” is the position that the bread and wine are vehicles for a real spiritual presence of Christ. The bread and wine are not substantially transformed, but they become channels for the real presence of Christ. Likewise, for many Anglicans the church carries a real spiritual presence of Christ. The church is visible and identifiable, but the presence of Christ is never more than spiritual; the institution of the church is still only a human institution. But once again, if you use their ecclesiology and sacramental theology to explain the nature of Christ you end up with a Christological heresy—this time it is Apollinarianism. Apollinarius taught that Jesus Christ was human, but that the Divine Logos replaced his human spirit. In other words, Jesus Christ was a vehicle for divinity.

A fourth view on the sacraments and the church is called receptionism. Many Anglicans and Lutherans, as well as some Methodists and Presbyterians, hold receptionism. According to receptionism, the bread and wine “become” the body and blood of Christ only to those who receive them faithfully. Likewise, the church consists of all true believers who are gathered together in Christ’s name at a particular place and time. Receptionism is subjective and open-ended, and it is very popular today among Protestants, but when it is applied to Christology another heresy is revealed—Adoptionism, the view that Jesus took on, or adopted, divinity as and when it was needed.

A final view on the Eucharist and the Church is also popular among both Catholics and Protestants: Confused and disturbed by theological wrangling, they refuse to define what they really believe about the church or the sacraments. So they say, “I accept that the Church is ‘the Body of Christ’ and that the bread and wine are a ‘sharing in the body of Christ,’ but what that really means I’m not sure. I don’t want to go any further than the Scriptures do.” But when this form of well-meaning agnosticism is applied to Christology, we find another heresy. This time it is the Homoean heresy. When the Church of the third century was debating the nature of Christ, the Homoeans were those Christians who tried to avoid conflict by saying no more than, “the Son is like the Father—according to the Scriptures.”

In each one of these five views the ecclesiology and sacramental theology parallel each other, but they are not integrated with the professedly orthodox Christology. It is only the Catholic view that most fully expresses the unity between Christ, the Church, and the Eucharist. Of all the Christian concepts of Eucharist, the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation reflects most closely the mysterious relationship between the divine and human in Jesus. We believe that the Church is a visible, historical institution, but it is also the mystical Body of Christ. Its historical and physical reality is not separate from its identity as the Body of Christ. As God “subsists” in the historical Christ, so the Body of Christ “subsists” in the Catholic Church. Thus the church, as Vatican II teaches, is the “sacrament of salvation.”

But does it matter if a Christian holds an ecclesiology and a sacramental theology that don’t reflect their view of Christ? I would argue that it does. To have the fullest understanding of the God-Man Jesus Christ, it is vital to understand how the Church and the sacrament support and complement that full Christology. So a recent teaching document of the Catholic bishops of Britain and Ireland says, “No individual thread of Catholic doctrine can be fully understood in isolation from the total tapestry. Catholic faith in the Eucharist and Catholic faith in the Church are two essential dimensions of one and the same mystery of faith.” Furthermore, “this faith embraces the making present of Christ’s saving death and resurrection, the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and the inseparable bond between the mystery of the Eucharist and the mystery of the Church.” In other words, a unified Christology, ecclesiology and sacramental theology are vital for the fullest expression and experience of Christ’s saving work.

Simply holding an orthodox view of the person of Christ is not enough to guarantee the fullest experience of his Incarnation. It is only as the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation, death, and Resurrection are applied in the Eucharist that the Body of Christ becomes most fully real to the Christian. Only as we affirm his real and substantial presence in the Eucharist can we fully affirm God’s real and substantial union with Jesus in the Incarnation. Similarly, only as one experiences Christ’s presence in the Church can one enter into the fullest understanding of Christ’s Incarnation in the world.

The necessary unity between Christ’s Incarnation, the Church, and the Eucharist is best expressed in the New Testament phrase “the Body of Christ.” Jesus first referred to the bread as his body at the Last Supper. It is no coincidence that Paul uses the same term for both the Eucharistic bread and the mystery of the Church. Paul echoes Jesus when he says the believer must “discern Christ’s body” in the bread of the Eucharist (1 Cor. 11:29). He also refers to the church as the “Body of Christ.” When he does so in 1 Corinthians 12, it might seem that he is only using this as an analogy to explain how Christians must all live in harmony. But in Ephesians 1:22–23, Paul says that God has appointed Christ head over all things for the Church which his body. He says the Church is “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Then, in Ephesians 5:29–31, Paul calls the church the “bride of Christ.” Just as in marriage man and wife “become one flesh,” so Christ is one in a mystical union with the Church.

The summary of Paul’s understanding of the term “body of Christ” occurs in 1 Corinthians 10:16–17: “Is not the cup of thanksgiving which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread we break a sharing 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.” So Paul teaches that full unity with Christ is intimately linked with sharing the “one bread” of his body. And union with the “one bread” of his body is also linked with a full communion with his Body, the Church.

Beyond Paul’s words, there are four main Scripture pictures that convey the mystical and integral unity between Jesus Christ, the Eucharist and the Church. The first picture is the Last Supper. Here Christ establishes the Eucharist in union with his apostles. That moment in time becomes an icon of the unity between Christ, his Church, and the Eucharist. As the whole nation of Israel resided in the twelve sons of Jacob, so the whole Church dwells in seed form within the twelve apostles. The apostles gathered in a fellowship meal with Christ comprise a picture of the Church in unity with her Lord.

Two other Scripture pictures complement the scene at the Last Supper. It is no mistake that the gospel writers set these other two scenes in the same upper room. The setting indicates a unity between the three scenes. The second scene occurs after Jesus has been crucified. Once again the apostles are gathered for a meal in the upper room. Suddenly two other disciples burst in. They have seen the Lord while on a journey to Emmaus. As they speak to the Twelve, the risen Lord appears. He shares their food, reassures them, and promises to clothe them with power from on high (Luke 24:33–49). Here as he did at the Last Supper, Christ becomes one with them as they share a meal.

In the third scene a few others join the apostles in the same upper room. Mary, the mother of the Church is also there. Under Peter’s leadership they have been meeting regularly for prayer—waiting for the promised gift of Christ’s presence. Suddenly there is a rushing wind and tongues of flame descend filling the apostles with Christ’s power to preach the gospel. The church is established, and we are told that the new Christians all devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the breaking of the bread, and to prayer.

In all three upper room stories the infant Church makes Christ’s presence real through the fellowship meal celebrated in unity. In each picture a different element of this threefold mystery of Christ’s body is emphasized. In the first—on the eve of his passion—the emphasis is on the unity between Christ’s body and blood and the bread and wine. In the second, the emphasis is scriptural and sacramental. It focuses on the risen Lord’s presence through Scripture and in the breaking of the bread. In the third, the focus is on the unity between Christ and his body, the Church.

A fourth Scripture picture confirms and validates the mystical interpretation of the first three Scripture pictures. In the Book of Revelation we see the marriage banquet of the Lamb in heaven. In the center of the worshiping multitude is the “lamb looking as if it had been slain.” On thrones around the Passover Lamb sit the twenty-four elders—the twelve apostles as Christ promised (Matt. 19:28) along with the twelve patriarchs of Israel (Rev. 4:4, 5:6). Together they stand for the whole people of God. Then the multitude of angels and saints and every creature in heaven and on earth falls down before the lamb singing, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor glory and power for ever and ever.” Here Christ’s unity with his Church and the sacramental meal reaches its ultimate fulfillment: Christ the Lamb of God and Bread of Heaven is enthroned and worshiped by the Church led by the apostle elders.

Perhaps it seems like this insistence on a unified Christology, ecclesiology, and sacramental theology is theological nit-picking. It might seem like we Catholics are focusing on division when we ought to be concentrating on getting together with our fellow Christians. But an internal unity between these doctrines is essential because real outer unity can’t exist unless an inner unity of faith first exists. Doctrines that are dissonant within themselves cannot be the unifying force for a harmonious body of believers.

Because of this, and because all Catholic apologetics must be motivated by a passion for Christian unity, it is essential that our discussions of Eucharist and Church reflect back to what we believe about Christ himself. We should be encouraged that we share an orthodox understanding of our Lord’s incarnation with most non-Catholic Christians. It is from this point of agreement that we will most successfully move on to discuss sacraments and the church. If we can show the importance of an inner unity between Christ, the Church, and the Eucharist then we will help to move forward that unity for which Christ so passionately prayed.”

Love, unity, truth,
Matthew

Ecce, Res & Objective Truth


-“Ecce homo”, Andrea Mantegna, 1500, tempera on canvas, 72 cm × 54 cm (28 in × 21 in), Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris. In the painting, two messages can be seen in Latin script: Crvcifige evm[.] tolle evm[.] crvcifige crvc[…] (“crucify him, trap him, crucify [in the cross]”) to the left and to the right the similar Crvcifige evm crvcifige tolle eṽ crvcifige (“crucify him, crucify, trap him, crucify”). The text on the left pretends to be pseudo-Hebrew in cursive script.  Please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Br Ephrem Maria Reese, OP

“One thing that frustrates some, and fascinates others, about philosophical study, is that it takes ordinary things and makes them very, very complicated…

One feature of Catholic thinking that now fascinates people goes under the name “objective truth.” For many people, secular and religious alike, our world has been affected by “the turn to the subject,” or the tendency to say that truth mostly lies in the eye of the beholder, or depends on who the person thinking is. For truth to be objective, on the other hand, means that who the thinker is is not as important as what the thing they are thinking about is. The who needs to conform himself or herself to the what, not the other way around.

It is popular nowadays in Catholic theology to point out that Truth, in Jesus, became a person. In other words, Truth became a Subject. Indeed, He did. But a further twist to the story is that Jesus, Who is a Subject, also chose to become, for us and for our salvation, an Object. He became, among other things, a piece of food—a mere Thing. In the Eucharist, God so humbled Himself as to become, mysteriously, both thing and person—in theological language, we might say that He is both res et persona.

The Truth is a Person, a Subject, and is thus in perpetual conversation with us. He speaks interiorly. He comes to us as Word, speaking in our hearts, and even in other persons. But the Truth is also Thing, and as such, comes to us in Objects, called the Sacraments. One complaint that the early Protestant Reformers in England had with the Catholics is that our treatment of God is so thing-like. Their early charter, the 39 Articles, says: “The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about.” Well, yes and no. These most sacred Things are not to be merely thrown around, or treated superstitiously. But God did intend them to be mysterious realities. A “reality” is another word for “thing,” from the Latin res. In the Eucharist, and in the other sacraments (though in different ways), God makes His presence Real, in things. And that is something to be gazed upon, with reverent silence and song and humble prayer.

Before the person Who so humbled Himself as to be gazed upon in His torment, carried about in His death, worshiped and eaten in mystery, a true Christian will say: “yes, truth is objective.” He is more interior than my most interior self; He is more real than the realest exterior object. Ecce, Res.”

He lives,
Matthew

“Quid est veritas?” -Pontius Pilate, Jn 18:38

“Quid est veritas?” Its anagram, “Est vir qui adest” (“’It is the man’ before you.”)


-by Br Charles Marie Rooney, OP

“Every once in a while, we do well to ask ourselves why we are Catholic. Is it because the community at our local church is kind and welcoming? Because we enjoy the liturgy or like the priest? Or perhaps because we are nostalgic for the customs of our youth?

Though common, each answer puts the cart before the horse. First and foremost, we are Catholic because we know it to be true that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matt 16:16), for He alone has the words of eternal life (cf. Jn 6:68).

And yet, astoundingly, we cannot adjudicate the question on our own power. We believe Christ to be the Savior not because flesh and blood has deduced this but rather because the Father in heaven has made it known, and he has moved us to affirm His truth (cf. Mt 16:17).

This graced acceptance of and confidence in the truth of the Gospel is absolutely primary in the Christian life. Every human person has a visceral sense of what it means for something to be true: that it is. For as long as we can remember, we have instinctively understood that to lie is to tell what is not, what does not exist, what is not in fact real. Lying never ultimately feels good because it is contrary to what is most basic about human experience: that we receive and respond to an ordered reality that exists outside of ourselves. The liar, in taking what is real and recreating it in his own image for his own selfish purposes, commits an offense against the very being of things [Ed. helpful if you know a little, or as in my case very little, philosophy.]  We feel this all the more acutely when we discover that someone has lied to us, for then we have become victims of such a cheapening of reality, and our own natural, inquisitive desire for the truth—and our trust in its knowability—is wounded.

The act of faith heals these wounds because it perfects the human mind, elevating it to know the Way, the Truth, and the Life, who stands above and beyond our mere natural capacities of knowing. We can thus say with Blessed Columba Marmion that “faith is the homage of our intellect to the divine veracity”—a consecration of the mind to Him Who Is and to all that He has spoken. Faith is an expression of total trust that “Truth Himself speaks truly, else there’s nothing true” (Saint Thomas Aquinas, Adoro te devote, trans. Gerard Manley Hopkins).

Conversion to Christ must begin with the recognition that we are not artificers but recipients of truth. This always entails the humble realization that my life to this point has, to a greater or lesser degree, been a lie, and that a more fundamental truth exists to which I must conform myself. Indeed, it is this same recognition that enables ongoing conversion, as when Catholics are convicted to go to confession: we see that an act against the truth—an ontological lie—has been committed, that we have done it, and that only the truth Himself can restore us to the eternal end for which we are made.

Pope Saint John Paul II once said that “truth” is the most important word in the Gospels (Witness to Hope, 244). Indeed, the Lord says, “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). Truth alone liberates because truth alone illumines what we are and hence what is good for us. The light of faith shines upon the mind the brightest beam possible in this life. It communicates certain, saving truth—the knowledge that makes possible intimacy with Christ, Who frees us to turn toward what is and to shun what is not.

Our world, in denying this, sows doubt {Ed. and its own sorrow and destruction by doing so] about divine truth. But we are Catholic because we are convicted by grace that Christ is Who He says He is  [Ed. a difference between God and man is, what God says is] and does what He says He does. On this, everything hangs in the balance. Such, then, is our call: “for this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37).”

“What is truth? Pilate was not alone in dismissing this question as unanswerable and irrelevant for his purposes. Today too, in political argument and in discussion of the foundations of law, it is generally experienced as disturbing. Yet if man lives without truth, life passes him by; ultimately he surrenders the field to whoever is the strongest.”
—Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) from Faith and Politics

Love & His truth,
Matthew

Historical Jesus 2

-by Cale Clark, Cale’s two most amazing discoveries in life have been that Jesus Christ would forgive him, and that Patricia would marry him. In 2004, Cale returned to the Catholic Church, which was founded by Jesus Christ, after spending ten years in Evangelical Protestantism, with much of that time spent in pastoral ministry.

“I began to fall away from the Catholic faith during my high school years. One of the big questions I had at the time was, “How do I know that Jesus even existed?”

Back then, this wasn’t high on most people’s lists of doubts, but, my, how things have changed. As we delve deeper into the season of Advent, we watch for the annual appearance of blog posts, magazine articles, and TV shows asserting that the very person whose birth we are about to celebrate never lived at all.

For example, a lapsed Christian and fellow Canadian named Tom Harpur (author of The Pagan Christ) recently opined that historians don’t have “a shred of historical evidence for the existence of Jesus.” A Catholic layman might read that and find the notion disturbing. This guy has written some books! As a published author, he must know of what he speaks.

But it’s important to know that Jesus-deniers such as Harpur represent the tiniest minority of voices on this issue. They really are considered to be the lunatic fringe, and no reputable scholar of history takes them seriously, no matter how much noise they make in the media.

The Facebook Challenge

John Dickson, who holds a doctorate in ancient history and is a senior research fellow at Macquarie University, got so tired of these false claims that three years ago he took to Facebook with a challenge: if anyone could give him the name of a single professor possessing a Ph.D. in ancient history who claimed Jesus never existed, he would eat a page from his Bible.

So far, Dickson has not had to “consume the word” in that literal sense!

Indeed, there’s a reason why Dickson could confidently make that challenge: there’s a veritable mountain of historical evidence for the existence of Jesus, both inside and outside the Bible. This is why no credible historians—even skeptical or anti-Christian scholars—doubt it. They don’t have to believe the Bible is the word of God, or even merely that it’s a good historical source, in order to affirm that Jesus was a real historical figure.

Even non-Christian writers and historians provide us with an abundance of evidence. Let’s take a look at perhaps the most important of those writers.

1. Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62-113):

“They (Christians) were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food, but of an ordinary and innocent kind (Epistles 10.96).”

“Pliny Jr.” was a Roman governor in Asia Minor, not to be confused with his father, Pliny the Elder, the naturalist who died when Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79. Pliny wrote to Emperor Trajan asking what ought to be done regarding the proliferation of Christians in his territory. Pliny explains what he had learned from interrogating these believers: especially noteworthy is their habit of Sunday worship, with a very early reference to belief in Jesus as divine.

As scholar Craig Evans notes, these Christians were likely slaves. The way Pliny treated them—even torturing them for information—means they were probably not Roman citizens. They awoke very early in order to worship before their work began, as slaves would have had to do. They also vowed not to do many of the immoral things that Roman slaves often did, including committing theft and sexual sin.

Of particular note is Pliny’s description of what, in all likelihood, was the celebration of the Eucharist. Some in the empire believed the Christians to be cannibals, because they had heard chatter about believers consuming the “body” and “blood” of a certain individual. Pliny, perhaps in response to this, notes that the food was “of an ordinary and innocent kind.” In other words, Pliny was describing the “accidents” of bread and wine, which Christians believed were transformed into the body and blood of Christ.

2. Tacitus (A.D. 60-120):

“Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus, and the pernicious superstition was checked for a moment, only to break out once more, not merely in Judaea, the home of the disease, but in the capital itself, where all things horrible or shameful in the world collect and find a vogue (Annals 15.44).”

Tacitus is considered one of the greatest Roman historians. Here he situates the death of Jesus in history—as does the Apostles’ Creed—linking it with the involvement of another known historical personage: Pontius Pilate, who governed Judea under Emperor Tiberius. Tacitus also verifies that the death of Jesus did not stop the movement he founded, which eventually established itself in Rome.

An interesting sidebar: some moderns have even doubted the historical existence of Pontius Pilate! This was laid to rest, though, by the 1961 discovery of a first-century stone inscription dedicated to Pilate in Caesarea Maritima.

3. Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37-100), the great Jewish historian of the times, was born shortly after the death of Jesus, and wrote about him in a famous (and famously disputed) passage known as the Testimonium Flavianum (“The Testimony of Flavius Josephus”). It’s disputed because most scholars believe that later Christian interpolators doctored the text to make it appear that Josephus was attributing more to Jesus than what, in all likelihood, Josephus actually had done. Since Josephus was not a Christian, it’s hardly plausible that he composed these disputed sections. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to spot what likely didn’t come from Josephus’s own hand (indicated below by brackets):

“About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man [if indeed one ought to call him a man], for he was one who wrought surprising feats and was a teacher of such people who accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. [He was the Messiah.] When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him. [On the third day, he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him.] And the tribe of Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared (The Antiquities of the Jewish People 18.3.3).”

If we delete the dubious portions of this passage, we still have solid evidence that Josephus wrote about Jesus as a historical figure. Josephus also corroborates much of what we know from Jesus’ biographies, the Gospels: namely, that Jesus was known as a miracle worker and convincing teacher and was condemned to death by the Jerusalem priesthood (“men of the highest standing”).

Josephus mentions Jesus again later on when discussing the death of James, the relative of Jesus who became the bishop of Jerusalem. This latter passage is relatively undisputed in terms of its authenticity:

“Possessed of such a character, Ananus [the high priest] thought that he had a favorable opportunity because Festus was dead and Albinus was still on the way (Festus and Albinus were Roman governors.). And so he convened the judges of the Sanhedrin and brought before them a man named James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and certain others (The Antiquities of the Jewish People 20.9.1).”

What we have here are three ancient, non-Christian writers who confirm the existence of Jesus. And in the case of Pliny and Tacitus, we have two “hostile witnesses” who are not at all sympathetic to the claims of Christ or his followers. There are other ancient, non-Christian writers who also corroborate the existence of Jesus. But this brief sampling should be enough to convince a reasonable person that, despite the bizarre claims that seem to rise to the surface every December, the Jesus whose birth we will commemorate at Christmas was indeed a historical figure who walked the Earth.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

God always wins


-by Br Isaiah Beiter, OP

What king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace. (Lk 14:31–32)

The King is coming. And He will give you peace—if you call for it. This is a parable. But it is also a lightly-veiled description of the situation between us and Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe. He is coming, and he will not fail to conquer all.

The fact is: God has enemies. Or at least, there are people who make themselves enemies of God. Saint Paul speaks of a time when we were all enemies—before we received Christ’s mercy (Rm 5:10). He tells us what it is to be an enemy of God: to set your mind on the things of the flesh. That mind is unable to submit to God’s law, unable to please God, and receives no reward but death (Rm 8:6–8; 6:23). The King in another parable has hard words for them:

As for these enemies of Mine, who did not want Me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them before Me. (Lk 19:27)

The enemies will not withstand the attack. Christ’s victory is already announced, and really, already achieved: “I have conquered the world” (Jn 16:33), Jesus says to His disciples, even though “we do not yet see everything in subjection to Him” (Heb 2:8).

Usually, when a king advances against his enemies, the whole situation is bad news for these enemies. And this is the difference between every other king and Jesus, the King of the Universe. His coming is good news to His enemies. He came to make friends out of His enemies.

While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son. (Rm 5:10)

No man has greater love than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (Jn 15:13)

And if we receive Him—if we become friends of the King Who comes to conquer, we become conquerors, too. “Who is it that conquers the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the son of God?” (1 Jn 5:5). In the Revelation given to John, Jesus makes many promises to “the one who is victorious” such as these:

I will give him to eat of the tree of life. (2:7)

He will not be harmed by the second death. (2:11)

I will give him authority over the nations. (2:26)

I will give him to sit with Me on My throne, as I Myself conquered, and I sat down with My Father on His throne. (3:21)

The fact is: Jesus is the King of the Universe, and He has enemies. The enemies have a choice. If they reject Him, they will face defeat and death [Ed. and already do/have]. If they seek peace, they will be His friends and reign with Him.

The King stands before His enemies, ready to give them peace. He is only waiting to be asked.”

The wicked mob screams out:
“We don’t want Christ as king!,”
While we, with shouts of joy, hail
Thee as the world’s supreme king.

May the rulers of the world publicly honor and extol Thee;
May teachers and judges reverence Thee;
May the laws express Thine order
And the arts reflect Thy beauty.

May kings find renown
In their submission and dedication to Thee.
Bring under Thy gentle rule
Our country and our homes.

Glory be to Thee, O Jesus,
Supreme over all secular authorities;
And glory be to the Father and the loving Spirit
Through endless ages. Amen.
-traditional hymn for First Vespers

Love, & Hail!! King of the Universe!!,
Matthew

The Kingdom of God & Grace


-by Br Dominic Koester, OP

“A meritocracy is a political system in which political power and economic goods are bestowed upon citizens based on their achievements rather than social standing or wealth. In short, people get what they deserve. We Americans tend to like this idea: people should not be rewarded just because they were born into the right family, but because they truly earned it! Many a medieval king gave wealth or choice property to friends; they bestowed important government positions to family. We look askance on this unenlightened political system. Rather, we assert that wealth ought to be a reward for hard work, not for friendship; government roles ought to be bestowed based on one’s competency, not one’s family ties!

Christ is a king, and like any king, He has a kingdom: the “Kingdom of God.” Is this Kingdom of God a meritocracy? One could be inclined to think so. Not just anyone gets into the Kingdom of God, but only those who live good and upright lives! The kingdom has laws one must follow if he is to be a citizen: give alms to the poor, know the faith well, don’t bury your talents, go to Mass on Sundays, do not eat meat on Fridays of Lent, etc. If you want to be saved, it’s not enough to be born into a Christian family or to inherit a Christian culture. No, you have to earn salvation yourself, right?

No, of course not. Salvation is a free gift. It is impossible for man to earn it. As St. Paul writes, “By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—not because of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8-9). Here we have a classic case of trying to fit God into our human categories. A human king can bestow favors in response to the good works of his subjects, but he lacks the power to enable his subjects to do these good works. God, on the other hand, not only bestows favors after our good works, but also gives us the ability to do the good work in the first place so as to deserve the reward. Thus, in a certain sense, God’s kingdom is a meritocracy, for we do truly merit rewards from him on account of our good, free actions. However, at its core, God’s kingdom is not a meritocracy, for all our merits are principally God’s gifts. They stem from the grace He gives. The king Himself says to us, “without Me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5).

For God, human categories break down. On the one hand, having status in His kingdom is about being in the right family. In making us His subjects, He adopts us into His own family without our deserving this gift. On the other hand, God is not guilty of nepotism, for He also transforms us in such a way that we are truly subjects worthy of our places in the kingdom. God does not want us to try to earn His love. Christian life in the kingdom is not principally about what we accomplish for God. Both our adoption and our merit follow upon the free gift of God’s grace. In response to His grace, more than anything else the Lord wants us to do simply this: rest and rejoice in His love for us.”

“Almighty and everlasting God,
Who in Thy beloved Son,
the King of the whole world,
hast willed to restore all things,
mercifully grant that all the families of nations
now kept apart by the wound of sin,
may be brought under the sweet yoke of His rule.”
– traditional Collect for the Solemnity of Christ the King.

Love, & His love,
Matthew

I AM the Way!!

I LOVE St Thomas; yes, his incredulity. But, moreso, his crankiness. He is very easy to imagine as that ONE in any group who is THE negative Nel, apologies to all Nels out there, Bob Bummers, Debbie Downers, etc. He whines. He complains. WHAT a ray of JOY & LIGHT in a group, no?

Were it up to the Apostles, they would surely have thrown Thomas in a well or over a cliff, or whatever it took to get RID of him!!! Imagine waking up to hear, listen to Thomas complain, whine, albeit unrecorded, each morning!!! A REAL upper!!!!

If it weren’t for the miracles and Jesus, it would be a horrible existence to have to live with Thomas. His family must have been GLAD to get rid of him!!! Yet, the Boss, Jesus, knows him, loves him, calls hims, gives him, knowing Thomas, special status. Jesus KNEW Thomas would be the one to openly doubt after the Resurrection.

Some of the Apostles, the ingenues, the younger ones, John, may have believed right off the bat due to their youthful naivete’, or sincerely; but the older, more sodden with experience ones, understandably, were thinking what Thomas said out loud, and took the easy way out to let Thomas do it. See, there’s the rub. The annoying one also always does a great service. He gets to do unpopular work of asking the uncomfortable questions, to the benefit of the group. That is likely why any group keeps them around, to provide that good service despite being annoying.

Jn 11:16


-by Br Isidore Rice, OP

“Where I AM going you know the way.”
Thomas said to Him,
“Master, we do not know where You are going;
how can we know the way?” (John 14:4-5)

“Here Thomas denies the two things that our Lord affirmed.” St. Thomas Aquinas’ first take on his namesake’s question finds St. Thomas the Apostle contradicting the Lord. Whatever St. Thomas the Apostle’s weaknesses, he at least had no trouble speaking his mind.

Jesus claims that Thomas knows the way. Thomas audaciously responds that he doesn’t. His reasoning is as flawless as that of Yogi Berra: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.”

But lest we think that the disciple has bested the master, Aquinas reconciles Jesus and Thomas’ conflicting claims, stating that “both statements are true: for it is true that [the apostles] knew, yet they did not know that they knew.” The apostles know the way because they know Jesus, Who is the way. They know the destination because they know Jesus, Who is the truth and the life. “I AM the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by Me” (John 14:6).

Our destination is God. A life GPS set to anywhere else or to nowhere in particular will not lead us there. It is not an easy thing to go to God and see Him face to face. “No one has ever seen God” (John 1:18a). But there is one way: “The only Son, God, Who is in the bosom of the Father, has made Him known” (John 1:18b).

It took St. Thomas a while to understand. The same boldness that urged him to object that he did not know the way would later specify the way he could come to belief: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). St. Thomas came to believe not only in the resurrection of Jesus, but also that Jesus is Himself the way and the goal: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

Love,
Matthew

Counterfeit Christ: Socialism

The Huffington Post seems to think so – On Christmas 2016, HuffPost published the online article Jesus Was A Socialist

In the Stern Dining Hall of Stanford University there is a painting by Antonio Burciaga called The Last Supper of Chicano Heroes.

It’s an homage to Da Vinci’s Last Supper but with Hispanic heroes in place of Jesus and the apostles.

The mural has generated controversy because of its depiction of socialist revolutionary Che Guevara in the place of Jesus Christ. One outraged student wrote in a Stanford newspaper, “Che Guevara was a butcher and a tyrant. It is utterly disgusting, offensive, and ignorant for Casa Zapata to deify him on its walls.”

But many people think it’s entirely appropriate to compare Che to Jesus because both men were “socialists” who liberated the poor.

In her popular book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, Barbara Ehrenreich says Jesus was a “wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist” whose inconvenient message about helping the poor the Church tries to suppress.

In 2015, Bolivian president and head of the Movement for Socialist party Evo Morales gifted Pope Francis with a “Communist crucifix.” It depicted Christ crucified on a hammer and sickle (the symbol of the communist party in the Soviet Union) in an effort to show that socialism and Christianity are compatible with one another.

Pope Pius XI said “no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist,” but this counterfeit Christ says the exact opposite: the only good Catholics are true socialists. If you really cared about the poor, if you really accepted the call of Christ to care for the “least among us” (Matt. 25:40) then you would support socialist policies to eliminate poverty.

But how can that be true if . . .
…Jesus Did Not Preach Socialist Policies

If you define a socialist as “a person who wants to help the poor,” then Jesus was a socialist—but then so is almost everyone else. What makes someone a socialist is not his desire to help the poor but his belief about what kind of economy provides the most benefit to the poor.

Capitalism, for example, is defined in terms of private ownership of the means to produce goods and services. Usually, this kind of capitalism takes place within a “market economy” that allows for the free exchange of goods and services as a means to create profit. Capitalists believe that this voluntary series of exchanges makes everyone in the economy wealthier and that this is the most effective way to lift people out of poverty.

Socialism, on the other hand, refers to the collective or “social” ownership of the means to produce goods and services. There are several different kinds of economic models that have been called socialism, but according to The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought, “By its very nature [socialism] involves the abolition of private ownership of capital; bringing the means of production, distribution, and exchange into public ownership and control is central to its philosophy.”

Socialists claim the best way to alleviate poverty is through a central authority like the government (as opposed to decentralized forces like the market) distributing a society’s wealth among its individual members.

If this is what is meant by “socialism,” then Jesus was not a socialist because Jesus did not seek to abolish the private ownership of capital (like money or natural resources) or the means of production like organized farms and manufacturing technologies.

According to economist Lawrence Reed, “The fact is, one can scour the scriptures with a fine-tooth comb and find nary a word from Jesus that endorses the forcible redistribution of wealth by political authorities. None, period.”

But even if Jesus didn’t preach socialist political policies, couldn’t we say he preached socialist values when it came to individuals? After all, he told the rich man that if he wanted to inherit eternal life he should sell what he had and give it to the poor (Mark 10:21). Doesn’t this mean that Jesus wanted the rich to give away all their money to the poor?

It should first be noted that giving away your money to the poor is a charitable value rather than a socialist one. Jesus’ commands for individuals to give alms to the poor (Luke 12:33) did not include whether those individuals should give that money directly to the poor, donate it to charities who serve the poor, or allow the money to be taxed and redistributed though government subsidy programs.

Helping the poor is a non-negotiable issue for Christians, but there can be reasonable disagreement among believers over which methods are the best way to reduce poverty.”

Love & freedom, and love of freedom,
Matthew

Cease!! The Heart of Jesus is with me!!!

“I say to myself, I will not mention His name, I will speak in His name no more. But then, it becomes like a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones, I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.” -Jeremiah 20:7-10

It’s a difficult time to be Catholic.  The McCormick family has a very special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  In it we find inexpressible joy and peace, no matter what is occurring to us, or in  the world around us.  A little spooky we wound up at a parish named Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary!! My mother had a badge of the Sacred Heart on a small length of “ball and chain” ring of 3, maybe four inches. She kept her religious medals on this ring. I still have it today.

“You woo me…
with birdsong in the morning
daffodils in the garden
gentle waves on the shore
gifts of glass from the sea
a warm breeze in the evening
a playful, loving family
friends who listen and share
the kiss of Eucharist on my tongue
daily, intimate, hour-long conversations in a silent church
drawing me ever more deeply into the fire burning
within Your Sacred Heart, allowing me to feel the pain of sin
that consumes you, letting me experience
Your intense suffering for love of me and all of Your children,
sharing Your sorrow
with the one You love,
this little nobody
that You woo
so expertly,
so divinely,
so sweetly

I can’t resist Your desire for me

I am wooed into Your eternal embrace
so tender and loving….

Never let go
I am Yours forever…”
Anne Bender, “Wooed by His Sacred Heart”

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Jesus, deign to take me into Your Sacred Heart. Grant that it may be the sanctuary where I may be recollected, sheltered, and find my rest.

MEDITATION

The liturgy of the Feast of the Sacred Heart presents to us the Heart of Jesus as the ark of salvation, our shelter and our refuge. “O Heart of Jesus, ark … of grace, pardon and mercy, O Heart, inviolable sanctuary of the New Law, Temple more sacred than the ancient ark!… Who would not want an eternal home in this Heart?” Sacred Heart our refuge(Roman Breviary). “Close to these blessed wounds in the Heart of Christ,” exclaims St. Peter Canisius, “I shall find refuge; in them I shall build my nest in full security.” This has always been the hope of contemplative souls, of interior souls: to take refuge in the Heart of Christ as in their chosen asylum. St. Teresa Margaret of the Heart of Jesus wrote in her last resolutions: “My God, I wish to enclose myself now and forever in Your most loving Heart as in a desert, to live there in You, with You, and for You, a hidden life of love and sacrifice” (-Spirituality of St. Teresa Margaret of the Heart of Jesus). The soul who wishes to sound the depths of the mysteries of Christ and to understand something of His infinite love, will find no better way than to enter within His Heart or, as St. John of the Cross says, “to hide itself in the breast of its Beloved, for to these clefts He invites it in the Canticle of Canticles saying: ‘Arise, and make haste, my love, my fair one, and come into the clefts of the rock, and into the cavern of the enclosure” (Spiritual Canticle 31,5). Let us take refuge then, in the Heart of Christ and contemplate His mysteries and His love, but seek there, too, a shelter for our interior life. This is a place of retreat which is always at our disposal and we can retire there even in the midst of occupations and duties. When rumors, curiosity, gossip, and the vanities of the world threaten to overwhelm us, let us quickly retire by a swift interior movement to the Heart of Jesus; there we shall always find recollection and peace.

COLLOQUY

“O most sweet Jesus, the treachery of my sins would forbid my entering Your Heart. But since an inconceivable charity enlarged Your Heart, and since You, who alone are holy, can purify what is defiled, cleanse me from my faults, O good Jesus, and deliver me from my sins. When I am purified by You, I can approach You, O purest One, and enter and abide in Your Heart all the days of my life, to know and to do what You wish me to do.” (St. Bonaventure)

“Truly, where is there sure and lasting safety and rest for one who is weak if not in Your wounds, O my Savior? I dwell there all the more securely as You are powerful and can save me.

The world rages around me, the body weighs upon me, the devil lays snares for me, but I do not fall because I am founded on You, the firm rock…. If then, O Christ, the thought of Your wounds comes to my mind, if I recall such a powerful and efficacious remedy, I can no longer be terrified by the fear that any harm may befall me. Filled with confidence, I shall take what I need from Your Heart, O Lord, for mercies abound there, and Your wounds are open to permit these mercies to flow forth. They pierced Your hands and Your feet, they opened Your side with a spear; and through these clefts I am able … to taste and see how sweet You are, O Lord!…

The blade pierced Your soul and reached Your Heart so that You might know compassion for my infirmities. Through the wounds in Your Body, the secret of Your Heart, that great mystery of love, was revealed; the inmost heart of Your mercy was opened, through which You came to us from the heights of heaven. Where then can we see more clearly than in Your wounds, O Lord, that You are sweet, gentle and full of mercy? No one indeed shows greater mercy than He who gives His life for the condemned, for those sentenced to death. Hence, all my hope lies in Your mercy, O Lord, and I shall never be deprived of it so long as You are merciful.” (-St. Bernard)

Love,
Matthew