Saturday, June 13, 2009

Benedict XVI on Corpus Christi - 2009

A) The outstanding thought for this Corpus Christi is Benedict’s quote from Leo the Great: “Become what you receive”[1] In a word, become the Eucharist (“Divenire Eucaristia!”).

What does this mean? The Blood of Christ is the sensible sign of His very Self. As in the first reading of today’s liturgy, the Covenant between God and the Jews via Moses is sealed with an external object: the blood of bulls and goats. The Covenant between God and us via the new Moses, Jesus Christ, is not an object, but His own Blood, the supreme Subject of His very Self. He is Priest-Mediator (as God-man) between Himself and the Father. This is a totally new meaning of anthropology. It escapes the epistemology of concepts and its correlative take on Being as “Substance” and presents the meaning of the man, Jesus of Nazareth, as “the Christ” - total self-gift to the Father. The meaning of man is then taken to mean that which is formulated in Gaudium et Spes #24: “man, the only earthly being God has willed for itself, finds himself by the sincere gift of himself.” This is the Christological anthropology that is a “resonating existential” (a progressive relation), as it were.

Benedict XVI suggested that according to the Qumram scrolls: “Jesus celebrated the Passover without a lamb and without a temple; yet, not without a lamb and not without a temple. He himself was the awaited Lamb, the true Lamb, just as John the Baptist had foretold at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1: 29).

“And he himself was the true Temple, the living Temple where God dwells and where we can encounter God and worship him. His Blood, the love of the One who is both Son of God and true man, one of us, is the Blood that can save. His love, that love in which he gave himself freely for us, is what saves us. ……”[2]

B) What is this suggesting? That we need to be strengthened to fight to the death in order to become “another Christ” in the world. St. Josemaria Escriva asserted in a meditation on another Corpus Christ that it was precisely in view of the struggle that we are in now – in this persecution of the Church (which is not so evident to the many, but nevertheless most real). He suggested that it would be hard to find a similar period anywhere in history in which the attack is so pernicious, powerful, relentless and universal. The Church is now being persecuted across whole continents in the Far East, in Africa, in the Middle East, in a large part of Europe and in certain countries in the American continent.

Consider the most recent attack on the Church in this country: the extension of the statute of limitation to sue dioceses for any alleged sexual abuse (by persons who have already died, etc.). And this only against the Catholic Church.

Consider the California Court of Appeals upholding the following: In 2006, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution condemning Catholic moral teaching on homosexuality as hateful, insulting, callous, defamatory, insensitive, ignorant, and absolutely unacceptable. The resolution went so far as to urge the Archbishop and Catholic Charities to defy the teaching of the Church. When the resolution was challenged in federal court as an unconstitutional attack on religion, the judge held that the Catholic Church had committed a “provocation” by publicly opposing homosexual adoptions, and therefore had invited an official condemnation, which was a “responsible” reaction to the “terrible” things the Church says. This decision was appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The “Resolution:”

As of June 4, 2009, by a 3-0 vote, the Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the resolution “urging Cardinal William Levada, in his capacity as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, to withdraw his discriminatory and defamatory directive that Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco stop placing children in need of adoption with homosexual households.” The Court of Appeals determined that the city did not intend to condemn Catholicism, but rather acted out a secular motive of protecting persons from discrimination.

“Become Eucharist”

The great task is to be and to remain in the middle of the secular society exercising the positive dynamic of being “another Christ.” This is no time to go to the hills, to live a merely surface Christianity of empty prayer and liturgy, and to fear giving testimony to the truth of Jesus Christ, the Absolute and only Way to the Father and eternal Salvation. This daring must take place at the center of secular society with high professional competence. That is the reason why Corpus Christ was instituted as a feast of public veneration: a) to counter man’s forgetfulness; 2) to elicit thankfulness; 3) to overcome the pathology of a segregated individualism heightened by the new technology that really divides instead of uniting.

Daring to Give Testimony to the Truth: Archbishop Tim Dolan (New York) on “Faith:”

After the death of Cardinal Joseph Ritter in June, 1967, one of the auxiliary bishops of St. Louis, George J. Gottwald 50 years a priest and 25 a bishop “was thrust into leadership.”

“One of his many crises was the seminary. One-fourth of the priest faculty left the priesthood, the student body was decimated by departures, and the theology being taught was anything but of the Church. The priests who remained on the faculty announced they wanted to join an ecumenical theologate, since, according to their interpretation of the council, it was useless to teach Catholic theology – since it probably no longer existed.

“They demanded the presence of the apostolic administrator at what was really a ‘campus demonstration’ in the early spring of 1968, there to present him with their list of demands, in front of the obligatory TV cameras.

“Into this lion’s den walked Bishop George Gottwald, shy, nervous, wishing he was still an unknown pastor in the Ozark hills of southern Missouri. The leader of the faculty and students informed the bishop that Kenrick Seminary might as well close, since the whole enterprise of priestly formation and Catholic theology was up for grabs. The bishop offered the comment that, even with the legitimate questioning and probing of the council, there were still clear, consistent truths that had to be taught any future priest.

“’Hah!’ snickered the faculty spokesman. ‘I dare you to tell me what we can possibly teach our students now that has not changed, that will not change, that can be stated with any amount of conviction at all! I dare you to tell me!’

“The bishop’s mouth went dry, he recalls, as all eyes were on him, as the microphones clicked on and cameras whirled for a sound bite, as they waited for him to take the dare! And what did he answer?

“’I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day he arose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen’…

“This, my friends, was a man of faith: in the midst of doubt, ridicule, snickering, and confusion, he dared to state that there are certain truths that can always be counted upon because they come from God and not from us!" ( Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan "Priests for the Third Millennium," Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division [2000] 17-18).

[1] Sermo 12, De Passone 3, 7, PL 54.

[2] Basilica of St John Lateran, Holy Thursday, April 5, 2007.

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