March 1, 2018

March 1

March 1, 2018:  Thursday, 2nd week, Lent

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Psalm 1-inspired
From the Vatican CDF

Placuit Deo:  God revealed himself and made his will known to us:  through Christ we may in the Spirit have access to the Father and share in the divine nature.  Christ is both mediator and the fullness of revelation.  The teaching on salvation must always be deepened.  This letter demonstrates aspects of salvation recent cultural changes can make hard to understand.  Christian faith proclaims Jesus as the only Savior of the human person and all humanity.  Individualism sees a person's fulfillment as depending only on their own strength, and Christ as a model inspiring generous actions, rather than the one who transforms the human condition by reconciling us with the Father and dwelling among us in the Spirit.  An interior vision of salvation doesn't account for the need to heal and renew our relationships with others and creation, making it hard to understand the Incarnation.

The above tendencies resemble the Pelagian and Gnostic heresies.  Neo-Pelagianism holds that individual saves himself.  Neo-Gnosticism holds an interior model of salvation as self-improvement, intellectually rising towards the mysteries of God, liberating the person from the body and the material universe, seen as meaningless and foreign to our identity.


Neo-Pelagian individualism and neo-Gnostic disregard of the body deface the confession of faith in Christ, the one Savior.  How would Christ mediate the Covenant of humanity, if persons were isolated individuals fulfilling themselves by their own efforts?  How could we be saved through Jesus' Incarnation, life, death, and bodily Resurrection, if all that mattered were liberating the inner person from material limits?  But salvation consists in our union with Christ, who brought about a new kind of relationship with the Father and among persons, and has introduced us into these relationships, thanks to the Spirit, so we may unite ourselves to the Father, becoming one body in the “firstborn among many brothers.”

Everyone tries to attain happiness.  We may hope for physical health, economic well-being, inner peace, and peaceful coexistence with others.  Salvation presents itself as dedicated toward a higher good but with the character of endurance and overcoming pain.  With the struggle to attain good comes the fight against evil:  ignorance, error, fragility, weakness, sickness, death.  Christian faith teaches they can be fulfilled only if God draws us toward himself.  Nothing created can totally satisfy us, because God has destined us for communion with him.  If redemption were to measured according to our needs, we'd be suspected of having created a Redeemer in the image of our need.

Evil doesn't originate in a material world we need to be saved from.  The universe is good because God created it, and the evil most damaging to us is what comes from our heart.  By sinning, I abandon the source of love and lose myself in false loves that close me into myself.  This separation from God leads to loss of harmony among persons, and between humanity and the world.  So salvation isn't just about our inner reality but our whole being.  
God kept offering us salvation, establishing his covenant with Noah and Abraham.  Salvation accompanies our journey in history. The Father sent his Son, who proclaimed God's Kingdom and cured diseases.  His healings pointed back to himself, Lord of life and of death.  Salvation begins with welcoming Jesus.  The good news has a name: : Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.  Being a Christian is the result of an encounter with a Person....

The Christian faith illustrates the Son's saving work without separating its healing dimension (redemption from sin) from the elevating one (making us participants in the divine nature).  Descending from divine to human, Jesus is illuminator, revealer, redeemer liberator, divinizer, and justifier; ascending from human to divine, Christ is High Priest, offering the Father perfect worship in our name, sacrificing himself, expiating sins, and interceding on our behalf.  The synergy between divine and human in Jesus' life shows how baseless the individualism is.  The descending perspective shows the primacy of God's gratuitous acts and the necessity for humility to respond to his love and receive his gifts; the ascending perspective recalls that, by means of Jesus' human action, the Father wanted to renew our actions, so, conformed to Christ, we may fulfill the good works God has prepared, that we may live in them.

The salvation Jesus brought isn't merely interior.  The Son was made flesh, to communicate to us the salvific communion with God.  By assuming flesh and being born of a woman, the Son of God was made the son of man and our brother, uniting himself with each of us and establishing a new kind of relationship with his Father, and all humanity; we can be incorporated in this new relationship and participate in the Son's own life.  Assuming flesh didn't limit Christ's saving action but rather allowed him to mediate salvation for all.  
Jesus didn't just show us how to encounter God, by obeying his words and imitating him; he himself became the way.  The path isn't merely an interior journey ; he gave us a new and living way inaugurated through his flesh.  Christ is Savior inasmuch as he assumed our humanity and lived a human life in communion with his Father and others.  Salvation is incorporating ourselves into his life, receiving his Spirit.  He's the origin of all grace, Savior, and Salvation.

We receive the salvation brought by Jesus in the Church, not by our individual efforts alone, as neo-Pelagianism contends.  Salvation is found in the relationships born from Jesus and that form the Church.  Because grace is not a merely interior salvation, as neo-Gnosticism claims, and introduces us into relationships Jesus has lived, the Church is a community in which we touch Jesus' flesh, especially in the poor and suffering.  The salvific mediation of the Church, sacrament of salvation, assures us that salvation isn't an isolated individual's self-realization or an interior fusion with the divine, but rather incorporation into a communion of persons participating in the communion of the Trinity.


The individualistic and merely interior visions of salvation contradict the sacramental economy through which God wants to save us.  Participation in the relationships begun by Jesus occurs in the Church through the sacraments; this reveals the inconsistency of claims to salvation through human effort alone.  Baptism marks us as Christ's and the Church's and transforms our relationships with God, humanity, and creation.  Purified from sin, we're called to conform to Christ.  With grace from the sacraments, we grow and are renewed.  When we sin, we can be re-introduced into the relationships begun by Christ in the Penance and again walk as he did.  We look with hope toward the Last Judgment, in which we'll be judged on our love, especially for the weakest.


G
nosticism views creation negatively, as limiting our freedom, so it understands salvation as freedom from the body and our concrete relationships.  But true salvation includes sanctification of the body.  God shaped the human body, inscribed in it a language inviting us to recognize his gifts and live in communion with others.  The Savior re-established and renewed this by his Incarnation and paschal mystery and communicated it in the sacraments, so Christians may live faithful to his flesh and to the relationships he gave us.  This calls for the care of all suffering humanity through the works of mercy.

Knowledge of the fullness of life propels us to announce the joy and light of the Gospel.  We must dialogue with other believers, confident God will lead them toward salvation in Christ.  The Church invokes the definitive coming of the Savior; our salvation will be complete only when we participate fully in the risen Jesus' glory.  Founded in faith, sustained by hope, working in charity, and certain our citizenship is in heaven, we await a Savior who will change our body to conform with his....

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    Fruit-bearing tree (animate)
  • Jer 17:5-10  The one who trusts in people, whose heart turns from God, is like a barren bush.  The one who trusts in the Lord is like a tree beside the waters, bearing fruit despite heat or drought.  God alone tests hearts and rewards everyone according to their deeds.
  • Ps 1:1-4, 6  "Blessed are they who hope in the Lord," those who delight in and meditate on God's law; they're like trees yielding fruit.  But the wicked are like chaff...
    • Lk 16:19-31  Poor Lazarus lay at a rich man's door.  Both died; angels carried Lazarus to Abraham, but the rich man was tormented.  Rich man / Abraham:  "Take pity; send Lazarus!" / "There's a chasm between us." / "Then send him to my father's house to spare my brothers." / "Let them heed Moses and the prophets." / "But they'd change if one came from the dead." / "Not if they don't heed the law and prophets."


    Fr. Jim Clarke videos

    Reflect
    • Creighton:  As someone with plenty, I have a duty to share it.  Lent is a time to take stock through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving and give more fully of myself.  If the rich man hadn't been focused on himself, he may have noticed Lazarus and his needs.  How shall I respond to the needs of my community?  Who or what has been my 'Lazarus'?  How have I responded?  How can I better notice and tend to 'Lazarus'?
    • One Bread, One Body:  "Digging the grand canyon":  Though the rich man knew Lazarus by name, the dogs paid more attention to Lazarus than he did.  Our hearts can be so hard that we think only of our own needs.  Is there anyone we only pay heed to when they can help us?  The chasm separating Dives from Lazarus in Jesus' parable did not just appear in the afterlife (Lk 16:26); Dives dug that abyss each day that he disregarded his fellow human beings during his lifetime. Though Lazarus lay at Dives' door, it was as though he was on the other side of the Grand Canyon. "If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts" (see Heb 3:7-8, 15).
    • Passionist:  Even if someone rose from the dead to warn them, the rich man's brothers wouldn't repent.  Closed-hearted people can't be persuaded to change.  May we open our hearts and refresh them by showing compassion to those in need.
    • DailyScripture.net:  "Lazarus was carried to Abraham's bosom": Whoever relies on God won't be disappointed; God will be their consolation and source of hope and joy.  Today's parable paints contrasts between riches and poverty, heaven and hell, compassion and indifference, inclusion and exclusion.  The dogs who licked the sores of Lazarus probably also stole his bread.  Dogs symbolized contempt.  The rich man treated Lazarus with contempt and indifference, then found his fortunes reversed.  Those who grasp what they have lose it, while those who share it receive more than they give.  'Lazarus' ('God is my help') didn't lose hope in God; he looked to heavenly treasure.  The rich man didn't see beyond his material wealth to others' needs or God; he spent everything on himself and in the end became a beggar....

    Dress legend
    • 'Tree' pin:  Those who turn from the Lord are like barren bushes; those who trust the Lord are like trees... (1st reading, psalm)
    • 'Fruit' pin:  ...that bear fruit (1st reading, psalm)
    • 'Sun' pin:  ...and don't fear the heat (1st reading)
    • 'Heart' pin:  Cursed those whose heart turns from the Lord; God tests the heart (1st reading)
    • 'Eyeball' tie pin:  The Lord watches the just (psalm); rich man eyed Abraham and Lazarus from far off (gospel)
    • 'Money bag' tie pin:  Rich man... (gospel)
    • 'Silverware' tie bar:  ...who dined sumptuously (gospel)
    • 'Dogs' tie:  Dogs licked Lazarus's sores (gospel)
    • 'Angel' pin:  When Lazarus died, angels carried him to Abraham's bosom (gospel)
    • 'Hand' tie pin:  "Send Lazarus to dip his finger in water..." (gospel)
    • 'Car with mouth and tongue' pin:  "...and cool my tongue..." (gospel); the wicked are like chaff the wind 'drives' away (psalm)
    • 'Fire' pin"  "...for I'm suffering torment in these flames" (gospel)
    • Purple in shirt and suspenders:  Rich man's garb (gospel), Lenten season