April 7, 2017

April 7

April 7, 2017:  Friday, 5th week, Lent

  • 'Prize' pin:  The Lord is with me, like a mighty champion (1st reading)
  • 'Heart' pin:  Lord, you probe mind and heart (1st reading)
  • 'Musical note' tie pin:  "Sing to the Lord" who's rescued the poor (1st reading)
  • 'Phone' tie bar:  "I called on the Lord, and he heard me" (psalm)
  • 'Rock' tie pin:  Lord, my Rock (psalm); Jews started to stone Jesus (gospel)
  • 'Shield' tie pin:  God, my shield (psalm)
  • '?' tie pin:  Jesus' questions to the Jews (gospel)
  • "I ♥ my dad" tie:  Jesus' relationship with the Father (gospel)
  • Purple shirt:  Lenten season
Pope Francis
Thursday homily:  The 1st reading tells of God's covenant with Abraham; in the Gospel, Jesus and the Pharisees refer to “Father” Abraham, who trusted and obeyed when called to go to a new land he'd receive as an inheritance.  Abraham believed when told he'd have a child though he was 100 and his wife was sterile.  What a dreamer!  But he wasn't crazy; he had hope.  When put to the test and asked to sacrifice his son, he obeyed.  Our father Abraham kept going forward.
The psalm invites us to call God's wonders to mind.  For us, Abraham's descendants, it’s like thinking of our father who has passed away remembering the good things about him.  The Covenant consisted of Abraham's obedience and God’s promise to make him father of nations and descendants numerous as the stars.  We're among those stars.
Between Abraham and us, there's another story, of the Father and Jesus; it's why Jesus told the Pharisees that Abraham hoped to see “my day,” saw it, and was glad.  The Church invites us to pause and look to our roots, our father, who made us a people.  I'm not alone; I'm a people.  The Church is a people, dreamed of by God, a people with father on earth who obeyed and a Brother who gave his life for us, to make us a people.  So we can look on the Father, Jesus, and Abraham, and give thanks.
Make today a day of memory.  In the story of God and Jesus is the little story of each of us.  Sit down and reflect on your story:  blessings, troubles, graces, sins, everything.  See there God's faithfulness:  to the Covenant, to his promise to Abraham, to the salvation he promised.  If we do, in the midst of all of the perhaps ugly things, we'll discover the beauty of God's love and mercy, and of hope, and we'll be full of joy.
God's Righteousness Manifested:  The Fifth Centenary of the Protestant Reformation,
Papal Preacher Fr. Cantalamessa's 5th Lenten sermon
The origins of the Protestant Reformation.  The Holy Spirit, who leads us into the truth about Christ and his paschal mystery, also enlightens us on how we obtain the salvation Christ accomplished for us; i.e. the Spirit enlightens us on justification by faith.  I believe that trying to shed light on that discussion is the most useful way to make the Fifth Centenary of the Protestant Reformation an occasion of grace and reconciliation.  We must start from Rom 3:21-28, on which the discussion is centered.  How could such a comforting and clear message split the Church?  Many still consider that doctrine the dividing line between Catholicism and Protestantism.

We need to go back to Martin Luther’s famous “tower experience.”  Luther was in torment because all his religious and penitential observances didn't make him feel accepted by and at peace with God.  Then he recalled “The just shall live by faith”; it was liberating.  Near death, he wrote, “When I discovered this, I felt reborn, and it seemed the doors of paradise opened for me.”  The issue of indulgences made him decide to nail his 95 theses to the Wittenburg door and set off a religious chain reaction.  The thesis of justification by faith not by works was an illumination from above, an experience, not the result of a polemic with the Church.  What was so revolutionary about it?  Centuries before, Augustine explained "God's righteousness" the same way:  “God's righteousness is the righteousness by which, through his grace, we become justified, the way God's salvation is the salvation by which God saves us.”

“We don't attain faith from virtue but virtue from faith” (Gregory the Great).  “What I can't obtain on my own, I confidently appropriate from the Lord's pierced side because he is full of mercy....  And what about my righteousness?  Lord, I'll remember only your righteousness.  In fact it's also mine because you became God’s justification for me” (Bernard).  Commenting on “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life,” Thomas Aquinas writes that the “letter” also includes the gospel's moral precepts, so “even the letter of the gospel would kill if the healing grace of faith were not added to it.”  Trent reaffirmed the primacy of faith and grace, while maintaining the necessity of works and observance of the laws in the context of the process of salvation, according to “faith working through love.”  This explains how the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation reached the 1999 joint declaration on justification by grace through faith.
The Protestant Reformation arose not because of Church teaching but because Church praxis didn't reflect it. Church life, catechesis, and popular preaching seemed to affirm that works, human effort, was what really mattered, and “good works” were not understood as those of Mt 25 but rather pilgrimages, novenas, donations, and indulgences.  Practical requirements of the faith, behavior, was considered more important than the decision to become a believer.   The moral sense came before the christological or faith sense; duty came before the gift of faith, purification before illumination and union.  People essentially said the opposite of Gregory's “We don't attain faith from virtue but virtue from faith.”
Justification by faith after Luther.  After Luther, Calvin, and Zwigli, the doctrine of the free gift of justification by faith resulted, for those who lived by it, in an improvement in the quality of Christian life, thanks to the circulation of God's word in the vernacular, inspired hymns and songs, and written aids accessible to people by the newly invented printing press.  The thesis of justification by faith alone divided Catholicism and Protestantism; the opposition broadened to become between Christianity and Judaism too, with Catholics representing, according to some, the continuation of Jewish legalism, and Protestants the Christian innovation.
Anti-Catholic polemic and anti-Jewish polemic arose.  According to it, Christianity was formed in opposition to Judaism, not derived from it.  Starting with Baur, the theory of two souls in early Christianity increasingly gained ground:  Petrine Christianity, as expressed in the so-called proto-catholicism and Pauline Christianity that finds more complete expression in Protestantism.  This distanced Christianity further from Judaism.  People explained Christian mysteries (including the title 'Lord') from contact with Hellenism.  The criterion for authenticity of a saying or fact from the gospel was how different it was from what characterized the Jewish world.  But the 1970s saw a reversal, involving the “3rd quest for the historical Jesus.” (after the ones of the 1800s and 1900s).  The perspective recognizes that Christianity was formed from Judaism.  The criterion used to assess the authenticity of a saying of or fact about Jesus is its compatibility with the Judaism of his time.
This approach recovers the continuity of revelation, situating Jesus in the line of biblical prophets and respecting the richness and variety of the Judaism of Jesus’ time, but it went too far, so the gain became a loss.  To some, Jesus dissolved into the Jewish world completely, reduced to a Hebrew prophets, an “itinerant charismatic.”  Continuity with Judaism was recovered at the cost of the New Testament's newness, though the quest did produce great studies (e.g. Dunn's).  American Rabbi Jacob Neusner shed light on the misleading character of this approach and helped advance dialogue between Judaism and Christianity:  Jesus can't be considered a Jew like other Jews, since he put himself above Moses and proclaimed that he's “Lord of the Sabbath.”  The "3rd quest" is especially inadequate regarding St. Paul, claiming that the religion of works, against which Paul rails, doesn't really exist.  Judaism is based on God's initiative and love; observance of his laws is the consequence, not cause, of a relationship with God.  The law helps people stay in the covenant, not enter it; the center of Judaism is hesed.  Paul indicts all humanity In the preceding part of his letter, the apostle formulates a indictment as universal as humanity itself.  How can anyone think a remedy is only for a limited group?  (continued tomorrow)
  • Jer 20:10-13  Many whisper:  “Let's denounce him!  Perhaps he'll be trapped and we can take vengeance.”  But the Lord is with me; they'll be put to shame.  Lord, I've entrusted my cause to you; let me witness your vengeance.  You've rescued the poor!

  • Ps 18:2-7  "In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice."  I love you, Lord, my rock, my deliverer; I'm safe from my enemies.
  • Jn 10:31-42  The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus for blasphemy:  “You, a man, are making yourself God.”  Jesus:  “Can you say the one the Father has sent blasphemes by saying, ‘I'm the Son of God’?  If I perform his works, at least believe the works, so you may realize the Father is in me and I'm in the Father.”  He went back to the place where John first baptized; many there began to believe in him.
    • Creighton:  Today’s readings show a dark side of gossip.  "I hear the whisperings of many:... 'Let us denounce him!'"  But Jeremiah expresses faith in the Lord who will rescue the poor.  I've been driven to despair by others' whisperings.  I too need to put my faith in the Lord to keep me strong.  Today’s psalm reminds me to pray.  We all want to be heard; how wonderful to know the Lord is always ready to hear us....
      John Baptist de la Salle/ Leger
    • One Bread, One Body:  "Who do you say I am?"  Jesus claims he is God.  He refers to himself as "I AM," God's name as revealed to Moses.  When the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of making Himself God, Jesus had the perfect opportunity to clarify who he was.  His life was in danger, but he still reinforced his claim to be God, by virtue of his works, his faith, his obedience, and by having been sent by the Father.  He claimed to be God's Son, and so his equal, and he backed up that claim by doing what only God could do, then he underscored his claim by laying down his life instead of renouncing that he was God.  Who do we say he is?
    • DailyScripture.net:  "I am the Son of God":  The Law of Moses said blasphemy was a capital crime; the religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus because he claimed to be the Son of God and so God's equal.   Jesus argued that his works demonstrated he came from God, defended his right to call himself God from Psalm 8, and claimed the Father consecrated and sent him for a special mission.  Jesus shows us the path of truth and holiness and anoints us with his power to walk it.  Lord, write your word on my heart, and grant that I may be a doer of your word.

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