Believing Before Seeing

Eucharistic-Bread“Seeing is believing” is a phrase said by skeptics and cynics alike.  No one wants to be conned out of right reason or resources.  Skepticism at least does serve a purpose for survival.

 

In the wake of Easter with empty plastic egg shells and tummy aches from too much chocolate, there can be Christian faithful that take faith for granted and cynics who over-emphasize reason. Christians could look at the central reason for Easter, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, as a nice historical bump and not see lessons of faith where light has not dawned in suffering or God seems to mysterious. The cynics could err on an extreme called scientism which is that if it is not quantified and measured conventionally then it is not real.

 

So what is a Christian believer to believe, how is one to believe it and yet not abandon reason? We have a lesson on that on the original “doubting Thomas” who is actually named Apostle Thomas.

 

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!”  Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed.Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”(John 20:21-29).

 

 

We just saw Jesus christen, literally, the Church.   He breathed the spirit which was an extension of the third person of the Blessed Trinity which is the Holy Spirit.  The Church has a mission because from here it isa mission.  Thomas was not present but neither was his sense of unity to his work which includes the Church.

 

 

There are several misguided presumptions Thomas made that kept him in the cynical side that prevents faith instead of facilitating it.  This was not just a collection of fishermen, teacher, tax collector or revolutionaries.  These were his brothers with whom he has had fellowship and a context of truth and power already demonstrated.  Just for those latter truths alone he could and should have inquired.  Augustine said he would not have believed the gospel had it not been for the Church.

 

Second, Thomas had already believed in an objective truth.  He had even declared willingness to die with Jesus when they were heading back to a dangerous area once (John 11).  It would have been worth it for Thomas to choose to respond from what he already believes than react from what makes sense in the moment.  By choosing the latter he was inherently inattentive to the moral obligation to seek truth at least from what he knows.  And what he knew was that the man he called Messiah had said he would rise from the dead no less than three times.

 

Third, he was making the error of what amounted to a proto-scientism.  “Unless I see in His hands….” is establishing God’s kingdom to meet his mindset for it to really true.  That is presumption and not the faith God wants.

 

My Lord and my God!-– – Thomas touches humanity, connects the meaning of the resurrection unique to Jesus Christ and connects to how he is also divine.  We can appreciate the cross but we must remember it is not fully in context unless we appreciate the resurrection for all that Jesus is and all that he did and does in “how hewas delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification”(Romans 4:25).

 

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed– – Jesus speaks an inconvenient truth for a fallen world to hear.  The fallen world wants things lined up and delivered per a contract for good and services. But in Christ is the New Covenant which is a communion of persons.

 

It is for this perspective I affirm the truth of Christ being all the gospel says.  “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer” (2 Corinthians 5:16).  So each Sunday, when I am in line to receive Jesus in his body, blood, soul and divinity I confess in faith Jesus is my Lord and God.

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A Time Not To Preach

Son of David

There is a common misconception in Christian affairs in the area of persuading someone to come into the fold. One may think it is about his or her self as the point of it all.  Even the means can blur the identity of Jesus and how he is prioritized because later traditions sometimes come up more from the culture than faith.

 

An example is  how my initial conversion to the Christian life I was with my cousin one afternoon when I was 10. She had me pray a semi-canned Sinner’s Prayer.  It has elements that amount to essential Christian doctrine but Jesus is the one who does the saving.  The Christian role in wishing my neighbor to convert or grow to another depth in the faith is as a vessel only.  And we should avoid the allure of evangelistic formulas that are too individualistic.

 

In the balanced presentation of the gospel, it really comes down to the following: the love of God in the cross, the truth of the resurrection of Christ and the objective response in right, communal sacrifice of praise when gathered in his name.  In other words the gospel of Jesus and his kingdom.  And make no mistake as will be shown below: this kingdom is liturgical.

 

To illuminate this, Christ, the day he resurrected, took initiative with two disciples who were full of background education but confused that their hope seemed to be just a corpse in a tomb.  Jesus came walking on the road to them and somehow they could not recognize him. He led them through a Bible study about how the Old Testament needed to be fulfilled.  As it got to the end of the day they badly wanted to keep his company though not knowing it was their Lord.  This is what he did. He did a work of the word and then a work of thanksgiving. He “did Church” with them that day in a way to be repeated now for 2,000 years.

 

When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was knownto them in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:30-34).

 

It would be a failure on applying this passage to God revealing himself through scripture alone.  Jesus expressed himself as himself being the core reality.  In humanity there are seeds of truth with corresponding hunger. But this spiritual hunger is meant not for the creation made by God but for God himself.  “Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in you” (Augustine, Confessions, Chapter 1).  The teaching method I elaborate on below is not just a dry ritual but a communal rich of his will.  Jesus reveals himself in demonstration ofthe gospel of a liturgical kingdom.

 

He was at table with them– – Christians need to be among the world.  We must not be too good to eat with them.  To converse and understand is proper in the forum of life.  But most centrally Jesus condescends to us in the best sense of the word: he descends with.

 

he took the bread-– The gospel approaches the person in their understanding of need.  If it is about wants then the interaction by nature can be superficial. Three days prior he said “Take, this is my body”.

 

blessed,– – This is in part reminiscent of Jesus saying to his disciples when he sent the 70 into towns to speak peace over the households that takes them in.  The holiness of his Real Presence radiates on living matter.

 

and broke it, and gave it to them.- – In a natural way, we could say we are called to be good at sharing.  That is an approach from the historical-critical method skewed by post-modernism.  Keeping Christianity in the context of its ancient and mystical reasons, we must come from this passage with the emphasis on a relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior precisely since he was a sacrifice.  Under the appearance of bread, Christ promised himself in the Passover the prior year and said to have life one must eat his flesh and drink his blood.

 

The Bible says, “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).  In that I propose Christ makes himself known to this day both best and objectively.

 

they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight-– – This was needed so disciples would be prepared to stop seeing Christ in a worldly point of view as Paul later warned (2 Corinthians 5:16).

 

 

they told what had happened… he was knownto them in the breaking of the bread-– – The word for “known” here is ginoskowhich has a dominant usage of knowing deeply and by assumed familiarity. One can see that their flashpoint of insight about Jesus was in discerning his body correctly like Paul spoke of (1 Corinthians 11).  God is spiritual but manifests in the incarnation to bring redemption to the material world by the merits of his death and suffering on the cross but extended in each mass.

 

It is fitting to interpret this passage liturgically since God’s handiwork in the Jewish people for centuries before were building up to this.  Many rabbis in the centuries leading up to this said that when the Messiah would come all sacrificial ceremonies would be obsolete but the todahsacrifice.  This was Hebrew for thanksgiving.  But the word used by the Greek speaking Jews was something different: eucharistia, from which we get Eucharist.  This is Real Presence of Christ is the fruit of the cross. A sacramental Christian can say Christ is with us “to the end of the age” as we make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20) because he meant it with the mass in the universal Church he founded.  And so we shall do in a living memory of him.

LOVE FULFILLS

Jesus Holding The Bread

Ceremony and religion are not supposed to be dirty words. Sometimes they are interpreted that way because they are interpreted as making God distant.

What at first glance was done by Jesus as an example, a further look shows a substantive act is fulfilled done on the cross and echoing through the ages.  This echo of the cross of Christ in the work of thanksgiving as communion also called the Eucharist.  Christ had no patience for empty rituals but was pleased to connect with people based on Sacred Tradition with divine things that do matter.  Jesus wanted the fulfillment of God’s plan because he wanted the door open to the world for the ultimate connections. And this connection would be an exodus from the slavery of sin as the Israelites escaped the slavery of Egypt shown in part through the Passover meal.

Jesus reaffirmed he was the Lamb of God (John 1:19,29) when he said at Passover it was his body and blood.  But in that Passover Jesus did something unexpected for the Jewish tradition by ending it before the customary fourth and final cup.  That final cup was the Hillel one which in Hebrew means praise. Jesus was descended from Judah which in Hebrew also meant praise.

But the greatest cup of praise offering would be tied in his last breaths on the cross.  A short time after leaving the meal before the lamb was even consumed, Jesus in his own way addressed the cup not taken.  Instead of it being a cup of praise, it would be a bitter cup.

In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed about this.  He said, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus repeated this 3 times and sealed a sense of resolution that he would go forward to the cross.  Later when he is on the cross he is offered a cup and he took it.

THE SIXTH WORD

When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished;”
and he bowed his head and handed over the spirit.
John 19:30

 This saying is a powerful one. In receiving the wine Jesus was saying the Passover was finished since for him it was his fourth cup.  Jesus said this in Aramaic, but it is interesting to note that the Greek in the text is an idiomatic expression for “paid in full”.  Both are true.  One meaning is an internalizing of the family’s sacrifice and the other is a legal declaration.  Christianity is supposed to be an experience of both in Christ.  Christ said repeatedly that he had come not to destroy the Law but to fulfill it.  The lambs sacrificed for over a thousand years by this time were the shadow of things to come.  Christ is the living reality.

Both meanings are essential for conversion and discipleship of the believer and should not be left unsaid. Both elements speak to the interior change that makes the spiritual formation happen. Christ being our Passover Lamb is an answer to why a Christian can have a life in grace as the ongoing fruit of the cross.  “And it is by God’s will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).

The inspired author goes on to point to how Christ is to continue to be known through an altar outside of the old covenant and old theocratic government into the kingdom he started.

We have an altar from which those who serve the tent[c] have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing abuse for him.[d] For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come (Hebrews 13:10-14).

This is application is not only at initial conversion. It is initial justification andsanctification (also called ongoing justification).  James described an organic wording in how the word of God transforms us in “the engrafted word, which cansave your soul” (James 1:21) when he was writing to Christians.  There is something in our “being crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:19) that keeps on going.

Paul built on this and not that of dry religion or mindless obedience to rules but in relationship to Jesus that accomplishes something in Christian communion as a family at the new altar/table (same word in Hebrew).  “Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, inasmuch as you are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthinans 5:7).

Another thing we should communicate is that in becoming Christians, one is not to be stuck in a shame mentality but to be mindful of guilt and assured that Jesus wants to forgive us and cleans of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9).  We can be convicted of our sin with guilt in the right context but stuck as slaves of sin if shame is our only lens.  Shame keeps us in our spiritual Egypt.  Christ as our Passover Lamb changes the conversation with God himself when we acknowledge any recurring slavery to sin in our lives.

The author of Hebrews built on this.

Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:19-22).

Thus to preach Jesus as the Passover Lamb fully, is to preach the gospel of grace for the new and ongoing Christian life. Yes, the convert is called to holiness but by way of regular forgiveness in healthy guilt and not shame.  For shame forgets what is truly finished in the sacrifice of the Lamb, while rightly informed guilt runs to it. It is thus through Christ that we cry with the familiarity of “Abba, Father” for the cup of praise by the merits of Jesus and find our redemption.

MY SECOND SIGH

Walking on a roadFor any religion to be true to itself they need to have a truth at it’s core and keep a visible unity or it falls apart of the definition of who the believers are.  Looking at early Christianity when I was a young adult I sighed looking at the beauty of the early church and lamenting that it died waiting for some ultimate movement to find the key and get it back on track.  The following passage made me sigh and makes me sigh now but for different reason. 

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47). 

apostles’ teaching– – Everything that has been covered in what I wrote in Hebrews 6:1-2. 

fellowship- – Not a mutual admiration society.  It is a bond they have in the Holy Spirit. 

breaking of bread– – As indicated in what has already been covered, the believers not only understood the sacramental life but acted out on it. 

the prayers- – They reached out to God.  Some of it was formal and some not. 

Awe came upon everyone- – Now we get to longstanding traits that stand the test of time of right Christian practice and outreach.  Awe was not of the apostles but Who they taught about.  The center was the living Christ.  It was a sense of reverence. 

many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles- – Christianity is supposed to have the miraculous.  Miracles point to God in times of refreshing. 

All who believed were together and had all things in common- – Social justice teaching was something that was developed in articulation and practice over time.  But loving ones neighbor needs it since resources get complicated over time. 

Day by day, as they spent much time together- – They hang together, have joy in their hearts and have true and unified worship as a community. 

the Lord added to their number those who were being saved- – Simply put, they were obedient to the Great Commission.  They had a revolution that was spiritual and practical that Jesus is Lord in an empire that said Caesar was Lord.  This is only natural since in the Great Commission Jesus said “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:18-19a). 

And here it stands today.  I have readers who are Christians of different backgrounds.  Most affirm the even more articulated declaration of the Nicene Creed of 325.  Possibly you are a reader who is unsure of what Jesus is and if it is worth it to be a part of any context of the Body of Christ since it is full of sinners.  To you, I would say I am one and there is room for one more.  But if Jesus is all he said he was and did all he said he would do, then to surrender to his bond in the cross is the greatest adventure of all.  And it is an adventure meant to be planted in the soil of what he founded which is “the Church. The pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). 

And now I return to the aforementioned sighs.  In my youth I saw a deadness of church that was dependent upon brief revivals that would be reflective of something kind of like the “real church” of the roots or early days.  Later I came to see verses like the “pillar” reference which made me question my beliefs of church.  It made me look for golden threads.

So I will now look at the development of the Christianity with more focus on the Nicene Creed written at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.  It defined Jesus being 100% God and 100% man.  It defined the Trinity.  It was their shoulders that successors stood on a few generations later when the canon of Sacred Scripture was first defined. This body of teaching authority in that same council referred to “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.”   

Let us see if the threads hold up 300 years after the church was founded by Jesus. 

apostles teaching of 1st Century— apostolic in the 4th

prayers and awe of the 1st—- is holy in the 4th 

fellowship and social conscience in the 1st- one and with “communion of saints” in the 4th

breaking of the bread in the 1st——catholic and eucharistic in the 4th.   Is this last one a stretch?  Catholic figuratively means universal.  But literally in the etymology means “according to the whole” in Greek.  The universal tied of Christ being present in beautiful in the preaching of the word but is substantial everywhere through a universal church.  For this church that would pierce the kingdom of darkness it would be authoritative and would re- present the sacrifice of Calvary in a supernatural way.  Below is ironically a passage of the Old Testament that shows us the way but the early church fathers quoted often. 

For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts (Malachi 1:11). 

This can be described as a “cosmic sign of the rising sun which symbolizes the universality of God” (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger,The Spirit of the Liturgy, 2006 p. 64).  But follow the line of consistency on these overlapping traits shown in Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and history.  When Malachi wrote this, no valid sacrifice could happen except in Jerusalem but the sacrifice of the mass being a universal re-presentation of Calvary.  But a valid Eucharist requires a valid priest.  A valid priest requires laying of hands.  Valid laying on of hands would require a tracing all the way back to the upper room when Jesus breathed on his disciples and hence gave the power of the authoritative church in an authoritative priesthood.  And so the Catholic Church stands.  “You are Peter.  And upon this rock I will build my Church.  And the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16: 18).  And this is my second sigh.  It stands now and by the grace of God in Christ Jesus it will always stand. 

KINGDOM OF LIGHT: CONTINUING TO DO SO

Son of DavidI have been writing about early teaching foundations of the early church which were good for what they are as a compass or boundaries on the shape of the faith.  To not lay the foundations again because someone has a spiritual amnesia is important.  The writer of Hebrews mentions in the next breath there is a momentum to go forward in growth.  “And we shall do this [going beyond the basics], if only God permits”(Hebrews 6:3).

I had a surgery resident friend who who said an organism is either growing or dying. In the next verses the writer of Hebrew sounds out a clarion call for the believer to continue on in holiness and not assumption.  The writer had touched on judgment in the prior verse but next it is shown how judgment needs to be put in context of also those who have been touched in a salvific way as well.  The Christian is called to a marathon of faith and not just a judge’s affirmation that the “fire insurance” was paid in Bible camp decades ago.  However, some who have the foundation of being saved, evangelized and catechized may want to take it all for granted. 

For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt. Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over (Hebrews 6:4-8). 

For it is impossible to restore again to repentance- – This seems at first to be literally damning unless one looks more broadly in the New Testament. 

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible’ (Matthew 19:24-26).

Seeing the words of Jesus here we are reminded by him pointing to his Father in heaven that salvation of any kind is tethered to his grace.  Now in returning to the context of Hebrews 6 we see a context of catechizing and spiritual formation by the authority of the church.  The church is called to bring the gospel and give the formative teaching which is God working through the flesh of imperfect, finite people.  When that is done, the church has done all it is called to do.  But in what Jesus said is that God does not know the meaning of the word “impossible”.  God can still reach the converted who fall away.   

who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit– – These parts underly the point that there was a sacramental context to the life of a fully initiated believe.  There had been catechesis which is an early church term for the handing down of Sacred Tradition.  By scripture and early church fathers we see that to be baptized is to be enlightened, to taste of the heavenly gift is to be baptized, partake of the Eucharist and to share in the common bonding effect of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Confirmation.   

tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come– – Another reference of the tasting but not only of ceremony. This an emphasis of a current encounter with life.  Strongs Confordance defines it as “that which is or has been uttered by the living voice, thing spoken, word” (G4487).  This puts the context of being  Christian disciple as being holy and always fresh with what I would call the objective and subjectively understood reality of God’s kingdom. 

But if it produces thorns and thistles….- – This is dire and calls out the nature of man with the Parable of The Sower of Jesus in the background which illuminates how the seed of God’s word is not to be received as shown below. 

And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing (Mark 4:18-19). 

But what if someone hardens their hearts and is too spiritually blind to admit that they are fallen away?  Maybe they fabricate a convenient Jesus of their own choosing?  Though they are not responsive to the finite reach of the church, the Holy Spirit the word can come in a level that is not seed form, is sudden and for that fallen believers repentance.  Call it a divine illumination as detailed below. 

Let us [Christians] therefore strive to enter that rest, that no one fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:11-13). 

In a word, God wants to break the heart of the one who is religiously fluent in their head but hard of heart. 

So for the Christian the sobering news is that you are not in heaven yet.  However, later in the same book there is good news is that maintaining salvation is possible when attached to God in grace. One can pivot from servile fear to a balanced fear of the Lord in his love knowing Jesus knows how hard it is to live a holy life on earth with its struggles.    

 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).

But this drawing one can do is perfectly natural if filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.  Jesus founded his Church that way to be a light to the world in Him. There is in God’s “permitting” a holy people who can go forward by the merits of Jesus and in communion with the saints.  This last point is important in how the ongoing growth in holiness in the believer is not meant to be solo.  Christ built his church and said it will not end.  He even said that it would be on the offense overall so that the gates of hell would not prevail against it.  How that works in theory and practice is worth now looking at beyond the individual believer and more broadly to the macro level.

THE RESURRECTION ENCOUNTER

Jesus Holding The Bread“I love God but I hate religion” is a common phrase today.  But religion can have connection if one can find it in its purest from.  If there is a pure form to connect with Jesus, one would hope he knew about it and said something about it . Otherwise he would not be a rightful founder of the Christian faith which includes in its elemental teaching “the resurrection of the dead” (Hebrews 6:2). 

First, in moving from our individual experience of Christ in the power of his resurrection, there is a context to corporate worship being a worship in spirit and truth.  To illuminate this, Christ in his resurrected body took initiative on the day of his resurrection.  He came walking on the road to Emmaus with two disciples who somehow could not recognize him.  He led them through a Bible study about their crucified leader they mentioned and how the Old Testament needed to be fulfilled.  As it got to the end of the day they badly wanted to keep his company though not knowing it was their Lord.  This is what he did. 

When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:30-34). 

First what we can notice is the structure of it.  It is preceded by an overview of the scriptures with an explanation of their meaning.  In my church we call that the Liturgy of the Word.  Then Jesus is at “table with them”.  This can be a setting for a meal but “table” is often interchangeable in the Old Testament with the word for altar.  So it is allowable for it to be a sacrificial setting.  “He took the bread” possibly could be the todah sacrifice of thanksgiving which in Greek is eucharistia.  Then with “and broke it” is reminiscent of Jesus saying several days ago “this is my body, broken for you” when he proclaimed a new covenant. The main pattern is consistent with the mass or Divine Liturgy in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.  Properly understood, to partake of the Eucharist is a not like partaking of Christ: it is partaking of Christ.

[H]e become a grain of wheat that dies; thus in the Eucharist he makes a gift of himself to all, gives himself to us and is held in out hands as the true Bread of Life.  Thereby the Eucharist becomes seeing, as happened in an exemplary manner to the disciples at Emmaus.  In the breaking of bread we recognize him, and it is as though the scales fall from our eyes. In the Eucharist we behold him whom they have pierced, the bleeding head now wounded (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, On the Way To Jesus Christ, 1994). 

The Greek word used here for “known” is ginōskō again which denotes an enhanced level of intimacy. This is what Jesus was getting at a year before calling people to eat his flesh and doubling down with “gnaw” (trogen).  It continues as a central experience for the early church as we see in Acts  how they “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). 

This comes up again with “day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts (Acts 2:46). The author did not repeat anything about apostles teaching, fellowship and prayer but mentions breaking bread.  This is central to a gospel of the kingdom with baptism as the default, material and spiritual entrance and continues with the Eucharist.

So last, we return to Paul.  He told the Corinthians that their disorder in communion offends the Lord’s body but does not say they offend the symbol.  And shortly after his comment to the Philippians about knowing Jesus in the power of the resurrection he says this for the environment of this Christian life. 

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4-7). 

One should keep in mind that it was customary for the letters of Paul to be read in front of a congregation.  If the highlight of their meeting was “the breaking of the bread”, then much is taught here. 

The Lord is at hand– – If the early Christians believed in what is called the Real Presence in how the bread was Christ’s flesh (John 6), then the highlight of Christ coming in communion was substantially at hand. 

with thanksgiving– – The word here is eucharistia. This is where we get Eucharist.  The Greek translation of the Old Testament uses eucharistia for the thanksgiving sacrifice.  This could be just saying thanks, but the other words imply the more likely eucharistic interpretation. 

let your requests be made known to God– – This is connected with the ancient practice of the “prayers of the faithful” which occurs after the Eucharist and has the recurring refrain of “Lord, hear our prayer”.   

the peace of God, which passes all understanding– – This points to the mystery and transcendence of God.  In context of this passage and others, I would suggested the context of this peace was in an early but developing context of the mass. 

This is further suggested to be the case in the early church writings.  Among themes expressed by Ignatius are the Eucharist as a holy, substantial, eternal and a reference point for the on true faith. 

I have no delight in corruptible food, nor in the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, the heavenly bread, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards of the seed of David and Abraham; and I desire the drink of God, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life (Ignatius Letter to the Romans 110). 

They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes (Ignatius, Letter to Smyrnaeans, 110). 

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.

This is also reinforced as a holy work by Justin Martyr. 

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- – (Justin Martyr, First Apology, 66, 154 AD).

And finally with Ireneus we see Eucharist as the summit of faith that brings together the Cross, The Resurrection and the judgment to come. 

And just as a cutting from the vine planted in the ground fructifies in its season, or as a grain of wheat falling into the earth and becoming decomposed, rises with manifold increase by the Spirit of God, who contains all things, and then, through the wisdom of God, serves for the use of men, and having received the Word of God, becomes the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ; so also our bodies, being nourished by it, and deposited in the earth, and suffering decomposition there, shall rise at their appointed time, the Word of God granting them resurrection to the glory of God (Ireneus of Lyon, Against All Heresies, Book V, Chapter 2, 180 AD).

This work of the salvation begins and ends with God.  It is on the terms of Jesus and not religion that man makes up on the fly.  The articulation of it is intimate but also is always in development.  Therein lies the patience of faith. 

See, Stay and Go

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In the heat of the day, a woman of one ethnicity meets a man from another ethnicity at the well.  She gets the water then because she is an outcast socially from her people.  This stranger just called her out on her current life of emptiness but she chooses to stick around anyway.  She is challenged but intrigued.

 

See

This woman just got served by Jesus.  Unfortunately for her she was served in the sense of her sinful past being laid to bare.  But to her credit, she rolls with it pretty well all considered.  He challenged her on the issues of living with a man unmarried and having 5 husbands so he could propose to her for something better. 

The woman said to him, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”  Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus said to her, “I am he,the one who is speaking with you.” At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking with her?” The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” (John 4:19-29).

Sir, I can see that you are a prophet— A turning point in anyone’s conversion is recognizing Jesus has at least some valid authority. As a Samaritan she had an imperfect formation by Jewish standards in what to hope for but she does see something big is going since a prophet discerns truth.  Her perspective is broadening. 

…this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem— This woman is centering on spiritual mysteries that seem to have no discernible purpose and doing that based on her own cultural lens.  Jesus responds with a coming agenda, a kingdom, that would not be bound to her culture or his and has a broader purpose.  Jesus acknowledges the foundation on how salvation history through the Jews but points to importance of blessing the world.

I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed— She points in hope how somehow someone will be anointed by God. It is implied the Holy Spirit will do the anointing. In further developed articulation of Christianity one can see an abundant life full of the Holy Spirit. Such a life is informed by the work of Christ on the cross drawing one to a fully formed life the Holy Trinity.  Below are dynamics of the persons of the Holy Trinity that we can understand in fully articulated Christianity that is, again, of spirit and truth. 

The One whom the Father has sent into our hearts, the Spirit of his Son, is truly God. Consubstantial with the Father and the Son, the Spirit is inseparable from them, in both the inner life of the Trinity and his gift of love for the world. In adoring the Holy Trinity, life-giving, consubstantial, and indivisible, the Church’s faith also professes the distinction of persons. When the Father sends his Word, he always sends his Breath. In their joint mission, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct but inseparable. To be sure, it is Christ who is seen, the visible image of the invisible God, but it is the Spirit who reveals him (Catechism of the Catholic Church para. 689). 

The work of the Holy Spirit is partly to point to Jesus as the visible member of the Godhead.  Working as “Breath” (the word for spirit and wind is the same in Hebrew), there is a relational context that the believer is invited to of unity (John 17:21).  This intent of breathing the Breath of God has to have consequence on earth in a new agenda.  This is the gospel lived out.  This woman in her simplicity points to a foundation for this hope. 

Stay

will worship the Father in Spirit and truth- Jesus is contrasting her presumption that the new faith would have to be anchored by a singular geographical location.  For Jesus to say this had foundation from prior scripture.  “From the rising of the sun to its setting, my name is great among the nations;Incense offerings are made to my name everywhere, and a pure offering; For my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 1:11). How is this supposed to work if God’s people are bound to only offer sacrifice in the temple?  In the rabbinical narratives between the Old and New Testament they wrote with the Messiah to come the sacrifice to remain would be of bread for thanksgiving; it was called todah in Hebrew,  translated eucharistia in Greek in a translation of the Old Testament and is Eucharist in English. 

the Father seeks such people to worship him- Those people are sensitized to the joint mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The spirit spoken of is a reminder of the Holy Spirit being the Breath behind all spiritual wind which reveals the son for which there is no discrimination. 

God is Spirit-  Exactly articulated later with these words in the Nicene Creed of 325 “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life who proceeds from the Father and the Son and with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified.    

those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth – For those who know the call after conversion to be true worshippers they are introduced into partaking of this divine nature, sensitized to true worship and will worship the Father in Christ. The rituals that are absent the spirit only point to a greater reality but are not in themselves that greater reality.  But Christ is and he is to be experienced in matter and faith. 

I who speak to you am he  This is the dividing line.  She can go backward from Jesus but not in ignorance.  Or she could go forward and continue to be changed in perceptions and lifestyle with a full conversion.  She has been proposed to and not imposed upon. So we can be in the moments of turning around and giving our own testimony to the world about this mysterious Other.   

Go

“Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?”— Good evangelism sometimes is knowing the right answer to the right question.  She had her answer: Jesus is Savior and she needed saving.  Each day one chooses to walk in friendship with Jesus is an opportunity to be whole.  Not all dynamics of conversion are meant to be figured out.  But if we open our eyes Jesus will meet us in the common wells of our lives. The subsequent transformation compels us to a proclamation of the comprehensible and the mysteries in Christ.   

The Lord’s missionary mandate is ultimately grounded in the eternal love of the Most Holy Trinity: “The Church on earth is by her nature missionary since, according to the plan of the Father, she has as her origin the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit.” The ultimate purpose of mission is none other than to make men share in the communion between the Father and the Son in their Spirit of love (Catechism of the Catholic Church para. 850).