Feeding Line, Dividing Line PART V: One Proposal, Two Answers

Marriage-proposalThe conversion of the heart and a paradigm shift is no small thing.  Changes converts make are radical to the core of how they live, love and hope which happen only in total surrender.  The preceding moments of  tension may be a setting of ones choosing, God’s choosing or a bit of both.  When one is about to convert, the tension comes in the understanding of life as we have known and not knowing the details of what we are getting.  When Jesus told the Jews one day that to have eternal life they had to eat his flesh it was time to leap forward or backwards.

Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.   But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”  Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” (  John 6:59-69).

Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever—  This could be the payoff if they get it.  The people in the time of Moses had manna from heaven which was the word for “What is it?”  Jesus comes as the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6) in a visible, sacramental context.

These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum— This is not an incidental statement by John.  John made a point here that the very scene where the Law is read is where teaching happens that brings interpretation of the first five books of the Bible.

This saying is hard; who can accept it?— In my experience as a Christian in post-modern America moral relativism has often sneaked into how people make decisions on truth.  If they are grounded in the divine, truth is discovered and obeyed.  If they are grounded by the wisdom of this age then it is up for a subjective vote and the pope is in the mirror.

Does this shock you?-  This is like a spiritual soundcheck.  He then asks if they would be ready to know the big picture.  This may have been rhetorical.  The answer was no for most but Jesus is out to propose and not to impose.

It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.— For those that read this verse and say it proves the Eucharist is not efficacious then they misunderstand what is being said.  Notice Jesus said here “the flesh” not “my flesh”.  In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus sees the disciples sleeping when they were supposed to pray.  He says there that “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).  The flesh is weak for the disciples in the garden because they were not engaging their flesh in obedience to the Holy Spirit in their hearts.  His flesh is spiritual life for the world because Jesus was 100% divine and 100% human.

As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him— This is the moment of decision.  They declined the invitation of Jesus for a communion that is oneness with God: a divine proposal.  They were along for a great ride and got free bread the day before.  Jesus proposed more.  As an addictions counselor working with clients in treatment I tell them their “addiction is outside that door doing pushups”.   In the same way the former life for even those that are complete converts is always wanting reunion.  To leave Jesus is to look at truth in the eye and say “No. Not going to do it”.

“Do you also want to leave?—  When I became a Catholic I had much joy but I still knew that following Christ still is a continual process.  At Easter Vigil the congregation reaffirms the faith that is “one, holy, Catholic and apostolic” (Nicene Creed 325).  Even for those that are baptized and confirmed there is an annual decision to make where one reaffirms the Catholic Christian faith.  And for my Protestant brothers and sisters, to leave the same Lord, faith and meaning of baptism is always up to you as well. We all have free will.

Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.—  The disciples are humble and thus tied to the wisdom of eternity rather than the wisdom of that age.  There is an objective truth, and they know Him as the all consuming reality (alethia).

We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God-  They have come to a conversion point and for each of them it has come gradually in how they came,  saw and were conquered. This is the nature of discipleship.

Each disciple of Jesus has a DNA in the church that Jesus started.  Together the Body of Christ is meant to be a bride to whom Jesus is returning. Jesus is The Bridegroom proposing marriage in the context of faith and reason sacramentally.

The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. “Will you also go away?”: the Lord’s question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only he has “the words of eternal life” and that to receive in faith the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 1336).  

Advertisements

Feeding Line, Dividing Line PART IV Divine Proposal To Action

partially-eaten-bread

 

I have often thought about Abraham Lincoln and the challenge to action.  Once there was a preacher with very eloquent speech who had a sermon for the sophisticated in his community that had flowery wording and gave everyone goose bumps except President Lincoln.  He was asked what he liked about the sermon and his reply was that he did not like it at all for the reason that it did not challenge him to action.  He was in a civil war and he know that eloquence was not the answer for the changes he wanted to make but action and resolve as a nation to change relationally.

What I would like to point to here is that the gospel, when presented in a sacramental context, is more fully the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:17) though it could offend the mind with offensive, even scandalous wording.  

Scandals can have many effects on a population.  They are often talked about where someone has done something shameful.  The central person or people in a scandal would rather they could undo what brought their odd thing out to the public.  One reason is because they become socially radioactive and no ones wants to be around them.  If they are a politician then no one wants to endorse them.

One of the shocking things about Jesus is that he points at himself in the gospels in a way that makes him socially radioactive.  He speaks foolishly to confound the wise with a moment of tension.  A common phrase used in the early centuries was the word scandalon.  We could think of it as a stigma.  Christians then and now see the cross of Christ as essential to expressing the selfless love of God even though it was the electric chair of the 1st century. With this irony the people who think they are wise in the things that matter and make sense are thrown by Jesus who keeps drawing them deeper.  These are the tensions where “faith and reason are two wings by which man takes flight” (Fides Et Ratio, John Paul II, 1991).  He lays out a scandalon to challenge those who would go from open inquirers or smart debaters to full disciples.  Like an x-ray of their hearts using shocking language.

 The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”  Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  Whoever eats[s] my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.  Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:52-58)

This is where Jesus sends the inquirers in Capernaum to the edge.  The doubters get the scandal wanted. By reason only many walk away though with integrated faith and reason some remain.

How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?— This is a response by people that are closed off to mystery.  The premise is that God’s ways would have to fit into the intellect of humanity.

unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood—  This is loaded with messianic expectation fulfilled in Jesus.  The term “the Son of Man” is used in Daniel 

As the visions during the night continued, I saw coming with the clouds of heaven one like a son of man.When he reached the Ancient of Days and was presented before him, He received dominion, splendor, and kingship; all nations, peoples and tongues will serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, his kingship, one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).

Jesus has a dominion that does not end but a relationship with the chosen of God that does not end and is kingly, communal, and universal.

eats my flesh—  This time in the Greek text there is a transition.  Up to this point Jesus has been using a more polite term that would be used for biting or chewing but now he uses the word for gnaw (trogo) like an animal.  Jesus is upping the level of offensiveness to make his message even more scandalous for an important reason: if one gets Jesus only intellectually, then it is not a divine or transcendent encounter and would empty the cross of Christ of its power.

Jesus sees that the wise must be shown up for their lack of faith.  Again, faith and reason are meant for each other.  “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning (1 Corinthians 1:17).   What Jesus lays down in the gospel is a message that does not rest of eloquence because eloquence will not change lives but an inconvenient encounter with Christ does.  What Jesus lays down about consuming him is meant to be the default understanding of Christianity of an encounter in all its fulness and was seen so since early Church history.

What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the body of Christ and the chalice is the blood of Christ. This has been said very briefly, which may perhaps be sufficient for faith; yet faith does not desire instruction (Augustine, Sermons,  272).

Nobody eats this flesh without previously adoring it (Augustine, Explanation of the Psalms 99).

A Reflection On Will

Sky Reflection

It is no small thing to figure out what God’s will is, even  a piece of it, and go forward in life in accordance with it.  I might compare it to eating an elephant: one bite at a time.

But almost by assumption that the hearers know what the will of God is, Jesus includes this in the teaching of “The Our Father”.  What is more, Jesus teaches the hearers to ask for it to be done as follows.

“Your kingdom come.

Your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

The concept of God’s will being done should be understood first that God is love.  The type of love God is in the Greek is “Agape” which is divine, unlimited, unselfish love and always in the context of giving.  Just looking at John 3:16 we see, “God so loved the world that He sent…” you likely know the rest.  Within the communion of the Trinity the Father initiates and the Son reciprocates and the Holy Spirit proceeds always from both (the ancient word for this was the Filioque).  Time does not exist for these three Who’s of The Divine What.  This love with deference for the other two is an eternal “now”.  And thus the identity of “The I AM”.

But the world we live in is not made of agape.  It is made of eros.  Eros could be translated as, “I love you..based on what I can get out of you”.  With this is a blindness so par for the course with sin.  So much that when Jesus comes on the scene their hatred was considered from the blindness of their hearts and because their deeds were evil.  The evil deeds were part of a perpetual cycle of self-love that costs everything of a soul.  Jesus pinpointed on this about “gaining the world but losing your soul”.

So with that in mind, God wants to remedy this situation with creation coming into that communion as described above which is His will.  How would this be accomplished?

1:  All man’s effort.  Work for it in the midst of vague hints and the spiritual elite are full of the stuff to ascend to that.  This does not work because God is love and does not created people to the elitists.

2:  God coerces.  This would be God blowing our socks off so often with the piercing of natural cycles with the supernatural.  Such would be such an imposition that the independent will of the individual is hampered.

3: The still small voice in universal truth with a universal message with a universal community in mind.  And God would not use people despite their weaknesses but because of their weaknesses in light of grace.  And this use would be in cooperation.

But what would the cooperation look like? In the history of God’s interpersonal structure of the remedy of eros there were important people that were finite beings with fallen man patterns that made them cooperate imperfectly.  From so many there are imperfect models.

Until you come to a young lady in Nazareth, Palestine in the Year 0.  She says, “Let it be done to me according to your word” in context of being told she would bear the Son of God.

The conception happened in the context of her having been filled with grace.  Are you filled with grace now?  Then ask for it.  Then see how God could call you in your own unique way to carry the grace and truth realized in Jesus Christ into the world around you.  You could lose the world, but gain all that your soul is meant to be in giving recklessly to God and humanity at your side.

But another important point from they turning point person in salvation history is the simple message of Mary when speaking to the servants preparing the way for Jesus to change water to wine, “Do whatever He tells you”.

For the will of God is expressed through Jesus Christ in the message of His life and atonement on the cross.  When we “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:19) we become scandalized by what we look at because our deeds are evil.  But if in humility and enlightened by grace we get past that, the scandalous Christ on the cross becomes our righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

So to pray for God’s will to be done, holistic salvation of the entire person, is to be inextricably linked to the wild ride of seeing the power of God manifest in prayers in divine harmony.

“How much more reason have we sinful creatures to learn obedience – we who in him have become children of adoption. We ask our Father to unite our will to his Son’s, in order to fulfill his will, his plan of salvation for the life of the world. We are radically incapable of this, but united with Jesus and with the power of his Holy Spirit, we can surrender our will to him and decide to choose what his Son has always chosen: to do what is pleasing to the Father (Catechism of The Catholic Church 2825).

So the further we go in such communion, the more lined we will be in God’s purposes and holistic salvation is not just a theory but a lived our reality.  “Consider how Jesus Christ teaches us to be humble, by making us see that our virtue does not depend on our work alone but on grace from on high. He commands each of the faithful who prays to do so universally, for the whole world. For he did not say “thy will be done in me or in us,” but “on earth,” the whole earth, so that error may be banished from it, truth take root in it, all vice be destroyed on it, virtue flourish on it, and earth no longer differ from heaven”  (St. John Chrysostom 4th century).   This is one boundary that we do want blurry when it is for the one between heaven and earth.  What is stopping us?

Sundays with Simon Peter– Truly Caught.

Image

A little early for Valentine’s Day, I know.  But bear with me.  There is a lot to learn about love.  Especially when it is paired with suffering as we will see in a moment.

If we were forgiven by someone we loved and betrayed, would we still know how to talk with them with the “new normal” of grace?  If the stain of guilt gets in us, we can seem to be much harder on ourselves than God. But if we have let God down, maybe Him forgiving us and giving us a mission can up the ante.  That being an ante of faith and broadening our perspective on something.  We are blessed not unto ourselves but to be a blessing to those around us. That is what love can be so uniquely when we have a true encounter with this mysterious carpenter.

This is the conundrum that Simon Peter finds himself in this story.  He denied Jesus in his darkest hour, but jumps off the boat and swims to Jesus after the resurrection knowing first that He is Lord.  Then Jesus invites them all to Denny’s…sort of.  Then….

John 21:15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

Jesus is up to something here, but we have to look beyond our modern English language perspective to appreciate it.  Jesus asks in Greek, “Do you love me with a willing love?”  Like a divine sense of intentionality.  But Peter doubts himself possibly because he keeps responding with the word for brotherly love only.  Jesus lays down the dare, “Do you love me with a brotherly love?” When it says that Peter is hurt, it is because he thinks Jesus casts a shadow on his ability to love Him at the most simplistic level.

But Jesus is out to show how much faith He has in Simon Peter and that he is a part of the grace agenda for His Church.

18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Elsewhere, Jesus says a lot about taking up your cross and following Him.  He even talks about seeking to lose your life in Him and finding it.  Jesus calls for martyrdom for only some but never forces someone.  If you do not have the disposition in your heart to give all for Jesus, then you are in unbearable suffering.  But if you suffer with love, it changes everything.  Jesus is confirming that Simon Peter will indeed walk in a willing manner.  But He needed to make the conversation raw and authentic.

Okay.  I get it Jesus.  But the mission of feeding your lambs, tending your sheep and dying like you is a lot.  How about if I deflect the pressure about how I should not be singled out for such a life and death?

20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

To follow Jesus takes a lot of simplicity with passion. When Peter decided to jump in the water he said simply, “It is the Lord.”  Whatever our mission is.  A big one or small one.  We just need to keep in touch with Him.

But how?  Holy communion comes to mind.  In the eyes of the flesh, they went to Denny’s with Jesus.  In the eyes of the spirit, it was a mass.

12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.”

1: The accepted the invitation of Jesus and joined him.

2: The disciples undoubtedly discerned the personhood of Jesus (look at 1 Corinthians 11 for a related theme).

3: They took the bread.  To take the bread of Jesus is to make practical in every way His atonement for your sins that He can be vibrant in you.

4: To take the fish is like being catechized in the fullness of truth fitting for those who are captured in Him.  When Peter caught the fish Jesus called him to, it was men or mankind. If you are a baptized Christian, consider what it is to be caught in His divine plan for the big picture of His Church and the small picture of your life.  That is your greatest promotion in this life: in being in Him. As Paul said, “To know Him.  In the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.”