Feeding Line, Dividing Line Part III : From Mystery to Scandal

Jesus Holding The Bread

Often religion gets a bad rap and often for undeserved.  One example is being ethnocentric on God’s the favor. But the message of Christianity is a universal in design and meant to be expressed that way.  To be a Christian is to grow in holiness while being holy.  Christians have fallen short at times in keeping Christianity moved by the world rather than moving the world.

It is worth noticing how the gospel’s proposal is unfolded with universality, mystery and challenge.  Unfortunately the proposal is met with unbelief and cynicism.

Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen [me], you do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me,  because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it [on] the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day.” The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets:

‘They shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”  (John 6:31-51).

It was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven—  Jesus begins to challenge them to the transcendent.  If the manna, which means “What is it?”,  is drawn back only to Moses and the past then the faith is only a subjective religious experience.  Instead Jesus draws their attention to God the Father in the context of the present.

For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world— The distinction here is that this sustenance, coming only come from God, is for the world.  This revisits John 3:16 in that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son….”  Jesus is to be consumed and it is from divine love that resurrection life touches those from everywhere.

Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said… “whoever comes…whoever believes ….Everything that the Father gives me will come to me—  They have a hard time discerning how serious Jesus is about the nature of offering himself.  Jesus speaks to them with a qualifier about the “whoever”  and points to the heavenly Father.  To speak of this kingdom is by a family table and in mystery.  Also one can see the conversion is “both/and” in coming to Jesus by destiny and choice at the same time.

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life— But the context is in coming and believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  If it is just by a worldly point of view that he is just a carpenter, good teacher, great prophet or nice guy then there is little redemptive.  Such a perspective of all that Jesus is has  much emptiness.

Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’? —-  Paul addressed this to early believers who could have, and likely were, swayed by the philosophies of their day. Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer” (2 Corinthians 5:16).  However, in the context of this whole passage it is worth considering the same for the Eucharist.  To the eyes of the flesh when Jesus died not he cross it was just a Roman execution.  Likewise, to the eyes of the flesh now one could just see a wafer at an altar of Catholic, Orthodox or Coptic parish and wonder what thus fuss is about.  But with eyes of faith the perspective changes when a priest hold up the Eucharist and says.  “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”.

I will give is my flesh for the life of the world— A beautiful thing happens in the path of conversion to Jesus.  One does get that introduction through evangelization  like what happened with the first two disciples by John the Baptist.  Then the disciples on that day by the river ask where Jesus is staying.  He said, “come and see” (John 1:39).   The measure of God’s love for the world of John 3:16 is  infinite.  The most normative way for us to respond is repentance, faith, obedience and with the greatest virtue of love.  From this we thank God for sending Jesus.  This is what early church communion was in Greek using the term for communion: eucharistia.

The Eucharist has been present since Jesus ascended and is an extension of The Sacrifice of Jesus who said he would be with us “To the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). This is not a later interpretation.  A eucharistic  interpretation was noted by St. Justin Martyr in 155 in his Dialogue with Trypho.

“And this food is called among us Eucharistia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” – (First Apology, 66. 155 AD)

St. Ireneaeus of Lyon agreed with this interpretation in 189 in Against All Heresies.

Then, again, how can they say that the flesh, which is nourished with the body and with His blood, goes to corruption, and does not partake of life? Let them, therefore, either alter their opinion, or cease from the things mentioned. But our opinion is in accordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn establishes our opinion. For we to Him His own, announcing consistently the fellowship and union of the flesh and For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the of the resurrection to eternity. (St. Ireneaeus  Against All Heresies Book IV, Chapter 18).

One interpretation is right and one is wrong. One embraces Jesus today for all he presented himself and the other has limitations. Such is the dichotomy of scandal or mere symbolism as I will address next.

Shadows of Things To Come

HInts

Dear Reader,

Below is my paper for my second class in the Kino Catechetical Institute.  For those who are unfamiliar about typology, it is looking at one thing that foreshadows what is fulfilled later.  This is a term used for where Old Testament stuff points to New Testament.  The words in bold are from the assignment itself and I had to write comments that support each thesis statement. Enjoy!

Thesis #1

Typology is is integral to the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament because Christians read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen.  

  • Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself.105 Besides, the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old. Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament.106 As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New (CCC129).
  • Abraham offered his only son who was conceived in the context of his covenant to God.  He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, and he received Isaac back as a symbol” (Hebrews 11:19).  Also it should be noted that Isaac carried his own wood for the altar of sacrifice while Jesus carried his cross for his sacrifice that was followed through with to the end.
  • In the Old Testament there are physical signs that point to the sacramental life that is lived out in the Church: the New Testament quhal (assembly).  The circumcision that comes with Abraham points to the circumcision of the heart when one is baptized per the gospel.  The Passover meal is fulfilled in the Eucharist.
  • There are Christophonies that could be interpreted in the Old Testament.  `The rock that is present in the wilderness is a shadow of things to come in Christ as indicated in 1 Corinthians 10.
  • The righteousness of God, forensically applied to Adam and Eve after the fall when the Lord slaughters animals and clothes them with skin points to the righteousness of God in Christ that is appropriated in the New Covenant.  “My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (John 6:55).

Thesis # 2 

Man encounters the Holy Trinity in the liturgy.  

  • Liturgy is a term used for work in the economy of salvation.  Therefore one could say that there was a liturgical work done in creating man since it is said, “Then God said: Let us make[e] human beings in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).
  • Also in the work of creation is shows that the Spirit of God hovered over the waters.  Every time God spoke in that context Jesus was the reflection of that spoken work because he was the Logos, or Word, that finalized the Father’s will.
  • When Moses encounters God in front of the burning bush he is in front of the I AM.  The voice is of the Father, the fire is the Holy Spirit and the fact that this agriculture burns but is not destroyed is like Jesus being the Bread of Life that is not consumed to nothing.
  • In the liturgical act of levitical sacrifice, the lamb slaughtered before God the Father is a shadow of things to come with Jesus as the Lamb of God.  The Holy Spirit came down as a cloud over all liturgical habitations in the Old Testament.
  • Hundreds of years before God introduced himself as the I AM, the patriarchs, especially Abraham, “called on the name of the Lord” in context of building altars (Genesis 12:8, 13:4, 21:33, 26:25).  His action with the altar pointed to the fullness of Deity.
  • “There he built an altar and called the place El-Bethel, for it was there that God had revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother” (Genesis 35:7).  This pointed to a context of thanksgiving that is fulfilled in the revelation of God in Christ.  Here Jacob builds the altar that points to the pattern of thanks as shown in the todah meal in Hebrew or eucharistia in the Greek.

Thesis #3 

Covenant relationship is significant to the one’s understanding of the Old and New Testaments.  

  • The progression of covenants through the Bible show a larger and larger scope of application.  God steps up an area of influence in stages that correspond to covenants (see Understanding The Scriptures page 15).
  • God related in covenant to Abram When the sun had set and it was dark, there appeared a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch, which passed between those pieces [split pieces of animals sacrificed for covenant]. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram” Genesis 15:17-18a”.
  •   A covenant is implied later when the Red Sea is parted for Israel to walk through under the leadership of Moses who was a type of Christ. The parts of the Red Sea are like the pieces in the Abraham passage above.  They were baptized into a new covenant (1 Corinthians 10:2).
  • Because Abraham understood he had a covenant with God that was actualized with Isaac, he had hope that God would have Isaac carry on where he had uncertainty and stress when he had to send Ishmael away.  No covenant, no peace with the son of the bondwoman.
  • When God communicates to Israel his faithfulness he assures how longstanding his presence is due to the covenant with the patriarchs.  This is significant because God reinforces that covenant goes beyond death.  Israel even applies this to the Gibeonites and their descendants and lets them live in peace.