Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Notes Toward a Comprehension of "Secularity"


The Prelate of Opus Dei: Javier Echevarria: Letter, November 28, 1995:

            “Secularity, a Christian truth:

            “My daughters and sons, in Opus Dei, secularity is not a mask. It is something that belongs to the very essence of our way[1] as our Father would say. Our secularity is not simply a juridical form of clothing. [2] It is not some external garb, an outfit adapted to an already existing body, or one of those mass-produced ready-made suits, which people have to adapt their bodies to as best they can. Nor is it a kind of claim to autonomy as regards god, who calls us to total self-giving. Neither does it take as its model the worldliness or the hedonistic ways of certain contemporary cultures.

            “No, my daughters and sons, no. If we were to follow such lifestyles our unity of life would go to pieces. Engrave this well on your hearts, and meditate on it with all the strength of your minds: our secularity is a real and essen6tial characteristic of our spirit, to be practiced fully and entirely. [3] It is a profound truth of our being Christians, a dimension of our existence4 which forms one and the same thing with the divine vocation we have received and with the mission that this vocation confers on us. It is, as Don Alovaro said in the text I have just quoted, ‘the place where the Lord our God puts us, deep within his Heart, so as to do his Work and sanctify this world.”

            “There is not, there cannot be, any sort of opposition or conflict between secularity, interior life and apostolate. This is because, as I have said, they are not things that are independent of one another, but inseparable aspects of a way, our way, which is and must be profoundly one. If anyone failed to grasp this, if at any moment he were to think that contemplative life or apostolic zeal could clash with secularity, or – what amounts to the same thing – that secularity required a a watering down or modification of some ascetical and spiritual demands it would prove that he was confusing secularity with behavior opposed to Christ’s will, and therefore opposed to the dignity, greatness and value to which every person is called. Or it would show that he had not completely understood the intimate union that exists between the human  vocation and the divine one; between temporal existence and the call to union with God in Christ; between  nature and grace.

            Elegit nos in ipso ante mundi constitutionem, ut essemus sancti et  immaculati in conspectu eius in caritate: God

1) Jesus Christ: Prototype of Secularity. “I have come down from heaven not to do My own will but the will of Him Who sent Me” (Jn. 6, 38)

The Text of Constantinople III (680-681):

“And we proclaim equally two natural volitions or wills in him and two natural principles of action which undergo no division, no change, no partition, no confusion, in accordance with the teaching of the holy fathers. And the two natural wills not in opposition, as the impious heretics said, far from it, but his human will following, and not resisting or struggling, rather in fact subject to his divine and all powerful will. For the will of the flesh had to be moved, and yet to be subjected to the divine will, according to the most wise Athanasius. For just as his flesh is said to be and is flesh of the Word of God, so too the natural will of his flesh is said to and does belong to the Word of God, just as he says himself: I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of the Father who sent me, calling his own will that of his flesh, since his flesh too became his own. For in the same way that his all holy and blameless animate flesh was not destroyed in being made divine but remained in its own limit and category, so his human will as well was not destroyed by being made divine, but rather was preserved, according to the theologian Gregory, who says: "For his willing, when he is considered as saviour, is not in opposition to God, being made divine in its entirety"… Therefore, protecting on all sides the "no confusion" and "no division", we announce the whole in these brief words: Believing our lord Jesus Christ, even after his incarnation, to be one of the holy Trinity and our true God, we say that he has two natures [naturas] shining forth in his one subsistence[subsistentia] in which he demonstrated the miracles and the sufferings throughout his entire providential dwelling here, not in appearance but in truth, the difference of the natures being made known in the same one subsistence in that each nature wills and performs the things that are proper to it in a communion with the other; then in accord with this reasoning we hold that two natural wills and principles of action meet in correspondence for the salvation of the human race.

The key to understanding the unity of the divine and human in Christ is to understand that there is one divine Person Who has taken the humanity of the man Jesus of Nazareth epitomized in the human will as His own. It is critical to understand that it is not the will that wills, but the person. That is, the divine Person wills with His own human will. Only this can make sense of Jn. 6, 38: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” The divine “I” does not do His own human will, but that of the Father. The dynamic of self-mastery consists in the Person subduing the human will that has been “made to be sin” (2 Cor. 5, 21). [4] In a word, this is the radical self-gift of the Son as God-man.
            Put more clearly, the relation of the divine and the human in Christ is not a parallelism of two natures bound together by the commonality of a Person as substance in itself. Rather, it is the compenetration of the divine and the human by the fact that the divine Person has taken the human will as His own and He, the divine Person, wills with the human will. The result is the “compenetration” of the two “wills,” the divine and the human because it is one and the same Person doing the willing. Wills do not will; persons will.
            And yet, the human will does not lose its autonomy and freedom, but rather has it radically enhanced by the fact that it is a divine Person living out the Trinitarian relation to the Father, now as man with a human will.

            Benedict says it like this:

“Thus the Logos adopts the being of the man Jesus into his own being and speaks of it in terms of his own I: `For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me’ (Jn. 6, 38). In the Son’s obedience, where both wills become one in a single Yes to the will of the Father, communion takes place between human and divine being. The `wondrous exchange,’ the `alchemy of being,’ is realized here as a liberating and reconciling communication, which becomes a communion between Creator and creature. It is in the pain of this exchange, and only here, that that fundamental change takes place in man, the change which alone can redeem him and transform the conditions of the world. Here community is born, here the Church comes into being. The act whereby we participate in the Son’s obedience, which involves man’s genuine transformation, is also the only really effective contribution toward renewing and transforming society and the world as a whole. Only where this act takes place is there a change for the good – in the direction of the kingdom of God.”[5]


            This is the root and ground of the relation of the divine and the human.

St. Josemaria Escriva: August 7, 19031: “Et si exaltatus fuero a terra, omnia traham ad meipsum” (Jn. 12, 32): “Y el concept preciso: no es en el sentido en que lo dice la Escritura: te lo digo en el sentido de que me pongais en lo alto de todas las actividades humanas; que, en todos los lugares del mundo,haya cristianos, con una dedicacion personally liberrima, que sean otros Cristos.” The point: Christ reigns in all human activities by the conversion of each person – by the gift of self in the exercise of ordinary work – to become “another Christ.”


The Lay Faithful and Their Secular Character

15. The newness of the Christian life is the foundation and title for equality among all the baptized in Christ, for all the members of the People of God: "As members, they share a common dignity from their rebirth in Christ, they have the same filial grace and the same vocation to perfection. They possess in common one salvation, one hope and one undivided charity"(28). Because of the one dignity flowing from Baptism, each member of the lay faithful, together with ordained ministers and men and women religious, shares a responsibility for the Church's mission.

But among the lay faithful this one baptismal dignity takes on a manner of life which sets a person apart, without, however, bringing about a separation from the ministerial priesthood or from men and women religious. The Second Vatican Council has described this manner of life as the "secular character": "The secular character is properly and particularly that of the lay faithful"(29).
To understand properly the lay faithful's position in the Church in a complete, adequate and specific manner it is necesary to come to a deeper theological understanding of their secular character in light of God's plan of salvation and in the context of the mystery of the Church.

Pope Paul VI said the Church "has an authentic secular dimension, inherent to her inner nature and mission, which is deeply rooted in the mystery of the Word Incarnate, and which is realized in different forms through her members"(30).

The Church, in fact, lives in the world, even if she is not of the world (cf. Jn 17:16). She is sent to continue the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, which "by its very nature concerns the salvation of humanity, and also involves the renewal of the whole temporal order"(31).

Certainly all the members of the Church are sharers in this secular dimension but in different ways. In particular the sharing of the lay faithful has its own manner of realization and function, which, according to the Council, is "properly and particularly" theirs. Such a manner is designated with the expression "secular character"(32).

In fact the Council, in describing the lay faithful's situation in the secular world, points to it above all, as the place in which they receive their call from God: "There they are called by God"(33). This "place" is treated and presented in dynamic terms: the lay faithful "live in the world, that is, in every one of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very fabric of their existence is woven"(34). They are persons who live an ordinary life in the world: they study, they work, they form relationships as friends, professionals, members of society, cultures, etc. However, the Council considers their condition not simply an external and environmental framework, but as a reality destined to find in Jesus Christ the fullness of its meaning(35). Indeed it leads to the affirmation that "the Word made flesh willed to share in human fellowship ... He sanctified those human ties, especially family ones, from which social relationships arise, willingly submitting himself to the laws of his country. He chose to lead the life of an ordinary craftsman of his own time and place"(36).

The "world" thus becomes the place and the means for the lay faithful to fulfill their Christian vocation, because the world itself is destined to glorify God the Father in Christ. The Council is able then to indicate the proper and special sense of the divine vocation which is directed to the lay faithful. They are not called to abandon the position that they have in the world. Baptism does not take them from the world at all, as the apostle Paul points out: "So, brethren, in whatever state each was called, there let him remain with God" (1 Cor 7:24). On the contrary, he entrusts a vocation to them that properly concerns their situation in the world. The lay faithful, in fact, "are called by God so that they, led by the spirit of the Gospel, might contribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven, by fulfilling their own particular duties. Thus, especially in this way of life, resplendent in faith, hope and charity they manifest Christ to others"(37).Thus for the lay faithful, to be present and active in the world is not only an anthropological and sociological reality, but in a specific way, a theological and ecclesiological reality as well. In fact, in their situation in the world God manifests his plan and communicates to them their particular vocation of "seeking the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God"(38).

Precisely with this in mind the Synod Fathers said: "The secular character of the lay faithful is not therefore to be defined only in a sociological sense, but most especially in a theological sense. The term secular must be understood in light of the act of God the creator and redeemer, who has handed over the world to women and men, so that they may participate in the work of creation, free creation from the influence of sin and sanctify themselves in marriage or the celibate life, in a family, in a profession and in the various activities of society"(39).

The lay faithful's position in the Church, then, comes to be fundamentally defined by their newness in Christian life and distinguished by their secular character(40).
The images taken from the gospel of salt, light and leaven, although indiscriminately applicable to all Jesus' disciples, are specifically applied to the lay faithful. They are particularly meaningful images because they speak not only of the deep involvement and the full participation of the lay faithful in the affairs of the earth, the world and the human community, but also and above all, they tell of the radical newness and unique character of an involvement and participation which has as its purpose the spreading of the Gospel that brings salvation.

Called to Holiness

16. We come to a full sense of the dignity of the lay faithful if we consider the prime and fundamental vocation that the Father assigns to each of them in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit: the vocation to holiness, that is, the perfection of charity. Holiness is the greatest testimony of the dignity conferred on a disciple of Christ.

The Second Vatican Council has significantly spoken on the universal call to holiness. It is possible to say that this call to holiness is precisely the basic charge entrusted to all the sons and daughters of the Church by a Council which intended to bring a renewal of Christian life based on the gospel(41). This charge is not a simple moral exhortation, but an undeniable requirement arising from the mystery of the Church: she is the choice vine, whose branches live and grow with the same holy and life-giving energies that come from Christ; she is the Mystical Body, whose members share in the same life of holiness of the Head who is Christ; she is the Beloved Spouse of the Lord Jesus, who delivered himself up for her sanctification (cf. Eph 5:25 ff.). The Spirit that sanctified the human nature of Jesus in Mary's virginal womb (cf. Lk 1:35) is the same Spirit that is abiding and working in the Church to communicate to her the holiness of the Son of God made man.

It is ever more urgent that today all Christians take up again the way of gospel renewal, welcoming in a spirit of generosity the invitation expressed by the apostle Peter "to be holy in all conduct" (1 Pt 1:15). The 1985 Extraordinary Synod, twenty years after the Council, opportunely insisted on this urgency: "Since the Church in Christ is a mystery, she ought to be considered the sign and instrument of holiness... Men and women saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult circumstances in the Church's history. Today we have the greatest need of saints whom we must assiduously beg God to raise up"(42).
Everyone in the Church, precisely because they are members, receive and thereby share in the common vocation to holiness. In the fullness of this title and on equal par with all other members of the Church, the lay faithful are called to holiness: "All the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity"(43). "All of Christ's followers are invited and bound to pursue holiness and the perfect fulfillment of their own state of life"(44).

The call to holiness is rooted in Baptism and proposed anew in the other Sacraments, principally in the Eucharist. Since Christians are reclothed in Christ Jesus and refreshed by his Spirit, they are "holy". They therefore have the ability to manifest this holiness and the responsibility to bear witness to it in all that they do. The apostle Paul never tires of admonishing all Christians to live "as is fitting among saints" (Eph 5:3).
Life according to the Spirit, whose fruit is holiness (cf. Rom 6:22;Gal 5:22), stirs up every baptized person and requires each to follow and imitate Jesus Christ, in embracing the Beatitudes, in listening and meditating on the Word of God, in conscious and active participation in the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church, in personal prayer, in family or in community, in the hunger and thirst for justice, in the practice of the commandment of love in all circumstances of life and service to the brethren, especially the least, the poor and the suffering.

The Life of Holiness in the World

17. The vocation of the lay faithful to holiness implies that life according to the Spirit expresses itself in a particular way in their involvement in temporal affairs and in their participation in earthly activities. Once again the apostle admonishes us: "Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col 3:17). Applying the apostle's words to the lay faithful, the Council categorically affirms: "Neither family concerns nor other secular affairs should be excluded from their religious programme of life"(45). Likewise the Synod Fathers have said: "The unity of life of the lay faithful is of the greatest importance: indeed they must be sanctified in everyday professional and social life. Therefore, to respond to their vocation, the lay faithful must see their daily activities as an occasion to join themselves to God, fulfill his will, serve other people and lead them to communion with God in Christ"(46).

The vocation to holiness must be recognized and lived by the lay faithful, first of all as an undeniable and demanding obligation and as a shining example of the infinite love of the Father that has regenerated them in his own life of holiness. Such a vocation, then, ought to be called an essential and inseparable element of the new life of Baptism, and therefore an element which determines their dignity. At the same time the vocation to holiness is intimately connected to mission and to the responsibility entrusted to the lay faithful in the Church and in the world. In fact, that same holiness which is derived simply from their participation in the Church's holiness, represents their first and fundamental contribution to the building of the Church herself, who is the "Communion of Saints". The eyes of faith behold a wonderful scene: that of a countless number of lay people, both women and men, busy at work in their daily life and activity, oftentimes far from view and quite unacclaimed by the world, unknown to the world's great personages but nonetheless looked upon in love by the Father, untiring labourers who work in the Lord's vineyard. Confident and steadfast through the power of God's grace, these are the humble yet great builders of the Kingdom of God in history.
Holiness, then, must be called a fundamental presupposition and an irreplaceable condition for everyone in fulfilling the mission of salvation within the Church. The Church's holiness is the hidden source and the infallible measure of the works of the apostolate and of the missionary effort. Only in the measure that the Church, Christ's Spouse, is loved by him and she, in turn, loves him, does she become a mother fruitful in the Spirit.

Again we take up the image from the gospel: the fruitfulness and the growth of the branches depends on their remaining united to the vine. "As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing" (Jn 15:4-5).

It is appropriate to recall here the solemn proclamation of beatification and canonization of lay men and women which took place during the month of the Synod. The entire People of God, and the lay faithful in particular, can find at this moment new models of holiness and new witnesses of heroic virtue lived in the ordinary everyday circumstances of human existence. The Synod Fathers have said: "Particular Churches especially should be attentive to recognizing among their members the younger men and women of those Churches who have given witness to holiness in such conditions (everyday secular conditions and the conjugal state) and who can be an example for others, so that, if the case calls for it, they (the Churches) might propose them to be beatified and canonized"(47).

At the end of these reflections intended to define the lay faithful's position in the Church, the celebrated admonition of Saint Leo the Great comes to mind: "Acknowledge, O Christian, your dignity!"(48). Saint Maximus, Bishop of Turin, in addressing those who had received the holy anointing of Baptism, repeats the same sentiments: "Ponder the honor that has made you sharers in this mystery!"(49). All the baptized are invited to hear once again the words of Saint Augustine: "Let us rejoice and give thanks: we have not only become Christians, but Christ himself... Stand in awe and rejoice: We have become Christ"(50).

The dignity as a Christian, the source of equality for all members of the Church, guarantees and fosters the spirit of communion and fellowship, and, at the same time, becomes the hidden dynamic force in the lay faithful's apostolate and mission. It is a dignity, however, which brings demands, the dignity of labourers called by the Lord to work in his vineyard: "Upon all the lay faithful, then, rests the exalted duty of working to assure that each day the divine plan of salvation is further extended to every person, of every era, in every part of the earth"(51).

Given at Rome, in St. Peter's, on 30 December, the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in the year 1988, the eleventh of my Pontificate.
 Ioannes Paulus PP. II

Laborem exercens

To His Venerable Brothers
in the Episcopate
to the Priests to the Religious Families
to the sons and daughters of the Church
and to all Men and Women of good will
on Human Work
on the ninetieth anniversary of Rerum Novarum (Sept. 14, 1981)

5. Work in the Objective Sense: Technology

This universality and, at the same time, this multiplicity of the process of "subduing the earth" throw light upon human work, because man's dominion over the earth is achieved in and by means of work. There thus emerges the meaning of work in an objective sense, which finds expression in the various epochs of culture and civilization. Man dominates the earth by the very fact of domesticating animals, rearing them and obtaining from them the food and clothing he needs, and by the fact of being able to extract various natural resources from the earth and the seas. But man "subdues the earth" much more when he begins to cultivate it and then to transform its products, adapting them to his own use. Thus agriculture constitutes through human work a primary field of economic activity and an indispensable factor of production. Industry in its turn will always consist in linking the earth's riches-whether nature's living resources, or the products of agriculture, or the mineral or chemical resources-with man's work, whether physical or intellectual. This is also in a sense true in the sphere of what are called service industries, and also in the sphere of research, pure or applied.
In industry and agriculture man's work has today in many cases ceased to be mainly manual, for the toil of human hands and muscles is aided by more and more highly perfected machinery. Not only in industry but also in agriculture we are witnessing the transformations made possible by the gradual development of science and technology. Historically speaking, this, taken as a whole, has caused great changes in civilization, from the beginning of the "industrial era" to the successive phases of development through new technologies, such as the electronics and the microprocessor technology in recent years.

While it may seem that in the industrial process it is the machine that "works" and man merely supervises it, making it function and keeping it going in various ways, it is also true that for this very reason industrial development provides grounds for reproposing in new ways the question of human work. Both the original industrialization that gave rise to what is called the worker question and the subsequent industrial and post-industrial changes show in an eloquent manner that, even in the age of ever more mechanized "work", the proper subject of work continues to be man.
The development of industry and of the various sectors connected with it, even the most modern electronics technology, especially in the fields of miniaturization, communications and telecommunications and so forth, shows how vast is the role of technology, that ally of work that human thought has produced, in the interaction between the subject and object of work (in the widest sense of the word). Understood in this case not as a capacity or aptitude for work, but rather as a whole set of instruments which man uses in his work, technology is undoubtedly man's ally. It facilitates his work, perfects, accelerates and augments it. It leads to an increase in the quantity of things produced by work, and in many cases improves their quality. However, it is also a fact that, in some instances, technology can cease to be man's ally and become almost his enemy, as when the mechanization of work "supplants" him, taking away all personal satisfaction and the incentive to creativity and responsibility, when it deprives many workers of their previous employment, or when, through exalting the machine, it reduces man to the status of its slave.

If the biblical words "subdue the earth" addressed to man from the very beginning are understood in the context of the whole modern age, industrial and post-industrial, then they undoubtedly include also a relationship with technology, with the world of machinery which is the fruit of the work of the human intellect and a historical confirmation of man's dominion over nature.

The recent stage of human history, especially that of certain societies, brings a correct affirmation of technology as a basic coefficient of economic progress; but, at the same time, this affirmation has been accompanied by and continues to be accompanied by the raising of essential questions concerning human work in relationship to its subject, which is man. These questions are particularly charged with content and tension of an ethical and an ethical and social character. They therefore constitute a continual challenge for institutions of many kinds, for States and governments, for systems and international organizations; they also constitute a challenge for the Church.

6. Work in the Subjective Sense: Man as the Subject of Work
In order to continue our analysis of work, an analysis linked with the word of the Bible telling man that he is to subdue the earth, we must concentrate our attention on work in the subjective sense, much more than we did on the objective significance, barely touching upon the vast range of problems known intimately and in detail to scholars in various fields and also, according to their specializations, to those who work. If the words of the Book of Genesis to which we refer in this analysis of ours speak of work in the objective sense in an indirect way, they also speak only indirectly of the subject of work; but what they say is very eloquent and is full of great significance.

Man has to subdue the earth and dominate it, because as the "image of God" he is a person, that is to say, a subjective being capable of acting in a planned and rational way, capable of deciding about himself, and with a tendency to self-realization. As a person, man is therefore the subject ot work. As a person he works, he performs various actions belonging to the work process; independently of their objective content, these actions must all serve to realize his humanity, to fulfil the calling to be a person that is his by reason of his very humanity. The principal truths concerning this theme were recently recalled by the Second Vatican Council in the Constitution Gaudium et Spes, especially in Chapter One, which is devoted to man's calling.

And so this "dominion" spoken of in the biblical text being meditated upon here refers not only to the objective dimension of work but at the same time introduces us to an understanding of its subjective dimension. Understood as a process whereby man and the human race subdue the earth, work corresponds to this basic biblical concept only when throughout the process man manifests himself and confirms himself as the one who "dominates". This dominion, in a certain sense, refers to the subjective dimension even more than to the objective one: this dimension conditions the very ethical nature of work. In fact there is no doubt that human work has an ethical value of its own, which clearly and directly remain linked to the fact that the one who carries it out is a person, a conscious and free subject, that is to say a subject that decides about himself.

This truth, which in a sense constitutes the fundamental and perennial heart of Christian teaching on human work, has had and continues to have primary significance for the formulation of the important social problems characterizing whole ages.

The ancient world introduced its own typical differentiation of people into dasses according to the type of work done. Work which demanded from the worker the exercise of physical strength, the work of muscles and hands, was considered unworthy of free men, and was therefore given to slaves. By broadening certain aspects that already belonged to the Old Testament, Christianity brought about a fundamental change of ideas in this field, taking the whole content of the Gospel message as its point of departure, especially the fact that the one who, while being God, became like us in all things11 devoted most of the years of his life on earth to manual work at the carpenter's bench. This circumstance constitutes in itself the most eloquent "Gospel of work", showing that the basis for determining the value of human work is not primarily the kind of work being done but the fact that the one who is doing it is a person. The sources of the dignity of work are to be sought primarily in the subjective dimension, not in the objective one.

Such a concept practically does away with the very basis of the ancient differentiation of people into classes according to the kind of work done. This does not mean that, from the objective point of view, human work cannot and must not be rated and qualified in any way. It only means that the primary basis of tbe value of work is man himself, who is its subject. This leads immediately to a very important conclusion of an ethical nature: however true it may be that man is destined for work and called to it, in the first place work is "for man" and not man "for work". Through this conclusion one rightly comes to recognize the pre-eminence of the subjective meaning of work over the objective one. Given this way of understanding things, and presupposing that different sorts of work that people do can have greater or lesser objective value, let us try nevertheless to show that each sort is judged above all by the measure of the dignity of the subject of work, that is to say the person, the individual who carries it out. On the other hand: independently of the work that every man does, and presupposing that this work constitutes a purpose-at times a very demanding one-of his activity, this purpose does not possess a definitive meaning in itself. In fact, in the final analysis it is always man who is the purpose of the work, whatever work it is that is done by man-even if the common scale of values rates it as the merest "service", as the most monotonous even the most alienating work.

The Freedom of Autonomy that is Secularity is the Act of Self-Determination:
Priestly Soul/Lay Mentality

K. Wojtyla: Freedom of Autonomy: “Man, the only earthly being God has willed for itself, finds self by the sincere gift of self” (GS #24)

Meaning of Self-Determination (Phenomenological Description): “When I say that the will is the power of self-determination, I do not have in mind the will all alone, in some sort of methodical isolation intended to disclose the will’s own dynamism. Rather, I necessarily have in mind here the whole person. Self-determination takes place through acts of will, through this central power of the human soul. And yet self-determination is not identical with these acts in any of their forms, since it is a property of the person as such[6] . Self-determination – or, in other words, freedom – is not limited to the accidental dimension, but belongs to the substantial dimension of the person: it is the person’s freedom, and not just the will’s freedom, although it is undeniably the person’s freedom through the will.”[7]

            Importantly, Wojtyla explains the mechanics of this anthropology that is the key to the sanctification of the self in the act of work, the priestly soul as priest of one’s own existence, and they key to becoming “another Christ.” He writes: “Self-determination reveals that what takes place in an act of will is not just an active directing of the subject toward a value. Something more takes place as well: when I am directed by an act of will toward a particular value, I myself not only determine this directing, but through it I simultaneously determine myself as well. The concept of self-determination involves more than just the concept of efficacy: I am not only the efficient cause of my acts, but through them I am also in some sense the ‘creator of myself.’ Action accompanies becoming, moreover, action is organically linked to becoming. Self-determination, therefore, and not just the efficacy of the personal self, explains the reality of moral values:  it explains the reality that by my actions I become ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ and that then I am also ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as a human being[8]… Self-determination in some sense points to self-possession and self-governance as the structure proper to a person. If I determine myself, I must possess myself and govern myself. These realities mutually explain one another because they also mutually imply one another. Each of them reveals the unique composition that is proper to a human being as a person. (The Thomistic adage also emphasizes that we are dealing here with a person: persona est sui iuris et alteri incommunicabilis.) This is not a metaphysical composition of body and soul (the composition of prime matter and substantial form) proper to the human being as a being, but a more ‘phenomenological’ composition. In phenomenological experience, I appear as someone who possesses myself and who is simultaneously possessed by myself. I also appear as someone who governs myself and who is simultaneously governed by myself. Both the one and the other are revealed by self-determination; they are implied by self-determination and also enrich its content. Through self-possession and self-governance, the personal structure of self-determination comes to light in its whole proper fullness.

            “In determining myself – and this takes place thorough an act of will – I become aware and also testify to others that I possess myself and govern myself. In this way, my acts give me a unique insight into myself as a person. By virtue of self-determination, I experience in the relatively most immediate way that I am a person. Of course, the path from this experience to an understanding that would qualify as a complete theory of the person must lead through metaphysical analysis. Still, experience is the indispensable beginning of this path and the lived experience of self-determination seems to be the nucleus of this beginning.”[9]

This notion of self-determination gives an account of the sacrosanct identity of the human person, because it is only by self-determination that there can be self-gift. And self-gift is the only reasonable account of Person in the Trinity, the whole of Christology,[10] the anthropology articulated in Gaudium et Spes #24 and its consequences for the universal call to sanctity through ordinary work, human sexuality, the social doctrine of the Church as “finding self” (principle of subsidiarity) “by gift of self” (principle of solidarity). Self-determination/self-gift is the anthropological explanation of Christian faith[11] and the conjugal act in view of the relation between Christ and the Church (Eph. 5, 25)

Gaudium et spes #36:

   "Now many of our contemporaries seem to fear that a closer bond between human activity and religion will work against the independence of men, of societies, or of the sciences.

    "If by the autonomy of earthly affairs we mean that created things and societies themselves enjoy their own laws and values which must be gradually deciphered, put to use, and regulated by men, then it is entirely right to demand that autonomy. Such is not merely required by modern man, but harmonizes also with the will of the Creator. For by the very circumstance of their having been created, all things are endowed with their own stability, truth, goodness, proper laws and order. Man must respect these as he isolates them by the appropriate methods of the individual sciences or arts. Therefore if methodical investigation within every branch of learning is carried out in a genuinely scientific manner and in accord with moral norms, it never truly conflicts with faith, for earthly matters and the concerns of faith derive from the same God. (6) Indeed whoever labors to penetrate the secrets of reality with a humble and steady mind, even though he is unaware of the fact, is nevertheless being led by the hand of God, who holds all things in existence, and gives them their identity. Consequently, we cannot but deplore certain habits of mind, which are sometimes found too among Christians, which do not sufficiently attend to the rightful independence of science and which, from the arguments and controversies they spark, lead many minds to conclude that faith and science are mutually opposed.(7)

"But if the expression, the independence of temporal affairs, is taken to mean that created things do not depend on God, and that man can use them without any reference to their Creator, anyone who acknowledges God will see how false such a meaning is. For without the Creator the creature would disappear. For their part, however, all believers of whatever religion always hear His revealing voice in the discourse of creatures. When God is forgotten, however, the creature itself grows unintelligible."

[1] From our Father, Letter, 25 January 1961, 37.
[2]From our Father, Letter, 19 March 1954, 22.
[3] Ibid.
[4] “Made to be sin” is to enter into the loneliness of sin as the rejection of the Triune God, and therefore of the others. This is Benedict’s interpretation of Jesus death cry, `My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ (Mark 15, 34) which is the first and only time that Jesus refers to the Father as “El” and not as “Abba.” Benedict says: “In this last prayer of Jesus , as in the scene on the Mount of Olives, what appears as the innermost heart of his passion is not any physical pain but radical loneliness, complete abandonment;” “Introduction to Christianity,” op. cit 227.
[5] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 92-93.
[6] He explains that St. Thomas cannot have this discussion since he is working with another objectified anthropology of substance. It was not a lack in Thomas. It simply was not the historical moment for the entry into the experience and consciousness of subjectivity as ontological reality. However, that moment is fully upon us, and it is just now that is being understood metaphysically as real ontological self. See Benedict XVI’s Address on the ultimate realism of the Word of God as the “I” of Christ: October 6, 2008.
[7] Karol Wojtyla, “The Personal Structure of Self-Determination,” Person and Community Lang (1993) 190-191.
[8] By the way, this is extraordinary. The Enlightenment as well Neoscholasticism never developed the epistemology of experience of self as ontological reality and consciousness of the good concomitant to it. This is the answer to the Enlightenment conundrum: how can “ought” be derived from “is?” It is done by the experience of the self as gift with the peace and joy that accrues to it.

[9] Ibid. 192-193.
[10] See Benedict’s development of Christology in “Introduction to Christianity” op. cit 141-251.
[11] Christian faith in the conciliar decree “Dei Verbum” clarifies the Person of Christ to be Revelation and faith to be the transformation of self into Christ and Christ into self as with the Virgin. If the believer does not become “another Christ,” there is no Revelation: “Where there is no one to perceive ‘revelation ,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it;” J. Ratzinger “Milestones….” Ignatius (1997) 108.

Monday, February 18, 2013

B XVI’s Account of The Temptations of Christ (in “Jesus of Nazareth” 1, pp. 28-45)

Matthew and Luke recount three temptations of Jesus that reflect the inner struggle over his own particular mission and, at the same time, address the question as to what truly matters in human life. At the heart of all temptations, as we see here, is the act of pushing God aside because we perceive him as secondary, if not actually superfluous and annoying, in comparison with all the apparently far more urgent matters that fill our lives. Constructing a world by our own lights, without reference to God, building on our own foundation; refusing to acknowledge the reality of anything beyond the political and material, while setting God aside as an illusion— that is the temptation that threatens us in many varied forms.
Moral posturing is part and parcel of temptation. It does not invite us directly to do evil—no, that would be far too blatant. It pretends to show us a better way, where we finally abandon our illusions and throw ourselves into the work of actually making the world a better place.[1] It claims, moreover, to speak for true realism: What's real is what is right, there in front of us—power and bread. By comparison, the things of God fade into unreality, into a secondary world that no one really needs.

God is the issue: Is he real, reality itself, or isn't he? Is he good, or do we have to invent the good ourselves? The God question is the fundamental question, and it sets us down right at the crossroads of human existence. What must the Savior of the world do or not do? That is the question the tempta­tions of Jesus are about. The three temptations are identical in Matthew and Luke, but the sequence is different. We will follow Matthew's sequence, because his arrangement reflects the logic that intensifies from temptation to temptation.

Jesus "fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry" (Mt 4:2). In Jesus' day the number forty was already filled with rich symbolism for Israel. First of all, it recalls Israel's forty years' wandering in the desert, a period in which the people were both tempted and enjoyed a special closeness to God. The forty days and nights also remind us of the forty days that Moses spent on Mount Sinai before he was privileged to receive the word of God, the sacred tablets of the Covenant. They may also serve as a reminder of the rab­binic tale of how Abraham spent forty days and forty nights on the way to Mount Horeb, where he was to sacrifice his son, how during that time he neither ate nor drank anything and nourished himself on the vision and words of the angel who accompanied him.
The Fathers of the Church, stretching number symbol­ism in an admittedly slightly playful way, regarded forty as a cosmic number, as the numerical sign for this world. The four "corners" encompass the whole world, and ten is the number of the commandments. The number of the cosmos multiplied by the number of the commandments becomes a symbolic statement about the history of this world as a whole. It is as if Jesus were reliving Israel's Exodus, and then reliving the chaotic meanderings of history in general; the forty days of fasting embrace the drama of history, which Jesus takes into himself and bears all the way through to the end.

"If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread" (Mt 4:3)—so the first temptation goes. "If you are the Son of God"—we will hear these words again in the mouths of the mocking bystanders at: the foot of the Cross—"If you are the Son of God, come down from the Cross" (Mt 27:40). The Book of Wisdom already foresaw this situation: "If the righteous man is God's son, he will help him" (Wis 2:18). Mockery and temptation blend into each other here: Christ is being challenged to establish his credibility by offering evidence for his claims. This demand for proof is a constantly recurring theme in the story of Jesus' life again and again he is reproached for having failed to prove himself sufficiently, for having hitherto failed to work that great miracle that will remove all ambiguity and every contradiction, so as to make it indisputably clear for everyone who and what he is or is not.
And we make this same demand of God and Christ and his Church throughout the whole of history. "If you exist, God," we say, "then you'll just have to show yourself. You'll have to part the clouds that conceal you and give us the clar­ity that we deserve. If you, Christ, are really the Son of God, and not just another one of the enlightened individuals who keep appearing in the course of history, then you'll just have to prove it more clearly than you are doing now. And if the Church is really supposed to be yours, you'll have to make that much more obvious than it is at present."

We will return to this point in connection with the sec­ond temptation, where it is in fact the central issue. The proof of divinity that the tempter proposes at the first temptation consists in changing the stones of the desert into bread. At first it is a question of Jesus' own hunger, which is how Luke sees it: "Command this stone to become bread" (Lk 4:3). Matthew, however, understands the temptation in broader terms, as it would later confront Jesus even during his earthly life and then throughout all of history.
Is there anything more tragic, is there anything more opposed to belief in the existence of a good God and a Redeemer of mankind, than world hunger? Shouldn't it be the first test of the Redeemer, before the world's gaze and on the world's behalf, to give it bread and to end all hunger? During their wandering through the desert, God fed the people of Israel with bread from heaven, with manna. This seemed to offer a privileged glimpse into how things would look when the Messiah came: Did not, and does not, the Redeemer of the world have to prove his credentials by feed­ing everyone? Isn't the problem of feeding the world—and, more generally, are not social problems—the primary, true yardstick by which redemption has to be measured? Does someone who tails to measure up to this standard have any right to be called a redeemer? Marxism—quite understand­ably—made this very point the core of its promise of salva­tion: It would see to it that no one went hungry anymore and that the "desert would become bread."

"If you are the Son of God"—what a challenge!
And should we not say the same thing to the Church1? If you claim to be the Church of God, then start by making sure the world has bread—the rest, comes later. It is hard to answer this chal­lenge, precisely because the cry of the hungry penetrates so deeply into the ears and into the soul—as well it should. Jesus' answer cannot be understood in light of the temptation story alone. The bread motif pervades the entire Gospel and has to be looked at in its full breadth.
There are two other great narratives concerning bread in Jesus' life. The first is the multiplication of loaves for the thou­sands who followed the Lord when he withdrew to a lonely place. Why does Christ now do the very thing he had rejected as a temptation before? The crowds had left everything in order to come hear God's word. They are people who have opened their heart to God and to one another; they are there­fore ready to receive the bread with the proper disposition. This miracle of the loaves has three aspects, then. It is pre­ceded by the search for God, for his word, for the teaching that sets the whole of life on the right path. Furthermore, God is asked to supply the bread. Finally, readiness to share with one another is an essential element of the miracle. Lis­tening to God becomes living with God, and leads from faith to love, to the discovery of the other. Jesus is not indifferent toward men's hunger, their bodily needs, but he places these things in the proper context and the proper order.
This second narrative concerning bread thus points ahead to, and prepares for, the third: the Last Supper, which becomes the Eucharist of the Church and Jesus' perpetual miracle of bread. Jesus himself has become the grain of wheat that died and brought forth much fruit (cf. Jn 12:24).
He himself has become bread for us, and this multiplication of the loaves endures to the end of time, without ever being depleted. This gives us the background we need if we are to understand what Jesus means when he cites the Old Testa­ment in order to repel the tempter: "Man does not live by bread alone, but ... by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord" (Deut 8:3). The German Jesuit Alfred Delp, who was executed by the Nazis, once wrote: "Bread is important, freedom is more important, but most important of all is unbroken fidelity and faithful adoration."

When this ordering of goods is no longer respected, but turned on its head, the result is not justice or concern for human suffering. The result is rather ruin and destruction even of material goods themselves. When God is regarded as a secondary matter that can be set aside temporarily or per­manently on account of more important things, it is precisely these supposedly more important things that come to noth­ing. It is not just the negative outcome of the Marxist exper­iment that proves this.

The aid offered by the West to developing countries has been purely technically and materially based, and not only has left God out of the picture, but has driven men away from God. And this aid, proudly claiming to "know better," is itself what first turned the "third world" into what we mean today by that term. It has thrust aside indigenous religious, ethical, and social structures and filled the resulting vacuum with its technocratic mind-set. The idea was that we could turn stones into bread; instead, our "aid" has only given stones in place of bread. The issue is the primacy of God. The issue is acknowledging that he is a reality, that he is the reality without which nothing else can be good. History can­not be detached from God and then run smoothly on purely material lines. If man's heart is not good, then nothing else can turn out good, either. And the goodness of the human heart can ultimately come only from the One who is good­ness, who is the Good itself.

Of course, one can still ask why God did not make a world in which his presence is more evident—why Christ did not leave the world with another sign of his presence so radi­ant that no one could resist it. This is the mystery of God and man, which we find so inscrutable. We live in this world, where God is not so manifest as tangible things are, but can be sought and found only when the heart sets out on the "exodus" from "Egypt." It is in this world that we are obliged to resist the delusions of false philosophies and to recognize that we do not live by bread alone, but first and foremost by obedience to God's word. Only when this obedience is put into practice does the attitude develop that is also capable of providing bread for all.

Let us move on to Jesus' second temptation; of the three it is in many ways the most difficult to understand in terms of the lessons it holds for us. This second temptation has to be interpreted as a sort of vision, which once again represents something real, something that poses a particular threat to the man Jesus and his mission. The first point is the striking fact that the devil cites Holy Scripture in order to lure Jesus into his trap. He quotes Psalm 91:11f., which speaks of the protection God grants to the man who believes: "For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” These words acquire a special significance by virtue of the fact that they are spoken in the holy city and in the holy place. Indeed, the psalm cited here is connected with the Temple; to pray it is to hope for protection in the Temple, since God's dwelling place necessarily means a special place of divine protection. Where should the man who believes in God feel safer than in the sacred precincts of the Temple? (Further details are given in Gnilka, Matthausevangelium, I, p. 88.) The devil proves to be a Bible expert who can quote the Psalm exactly. The whole conversation of the second temptation takes the form of a dispute between two Bible scholars. Remarking on this passage, Joachim Gnilka says that the devil presents him­self here as a theologian. The Russian writer Vladimir Soloviev took up this motif in his short story "The Antichrist." The Antichrist receives an honorary doctorate in theology from the University of Tubingen and is a great Scripture scholar. Soloviev's portrayal of the Antichrist forcefully expresses his skepticism regarding a certain type of scholarly exegesis cur­rent at the time. This is not a rejection of scholarly biblical interpretation as such, but an eminently salutary and neces­sary warning against its possible aberrations. The fact is that scriptural exegesis can become a tool of the Antichrist. Soloviev is not the first person to tell us that; it is the deeper point of the temptation story itself. The alleged findings of scholarly exegesis have been used to put together the most dreadful books that destroy the figure of Jesus and dismantle the faith. The common practice today is to measure the Bible against the so-called modern worldview, whose fundamental dogma is that God cannot act in history—that everything to do with. God is to be relegated to the domain of subjectivity.

And so the Bible no longer speaks of God, the living God; no, now we alone speak and decide what God can do and what we will and should do. And the Antichrist, with an air of scholarly excellence, tells us that any exegesis that reads the Bible from the perspective of faith in the living God, in order to listen to what God has to say, is fundamentalism; he wants to convince us that only his kind of exegesis, the supposedly purely scientific kind, in which God says nothing and has nothing to say, is able to keep abreast of the times.

The theological debate between Jesus and the devil is a dispute over the correct interpretation of Scripture, and it is relevant to every period of history. The hermeneutical ques­tion lying at the basis of proper scriptural exegesis is this: What picture of God are we working with? The dispute about interpretation is ultimately a dispute about who God is. Yet in practice, the struggle over the image of God, which underlies the debate about valid biblical interpretation, is decided by the picture we form of Christ: Is he, who remained without worldly power, really the Son of the living God?

The structural question concerning the remarkable scrip­tural discussion between Christ and the tempter thus leads directly to the question about its content. What is this dis­pute about? The issue at stake in this second temptation has been summed up under the motif of "bread and circuses." The idea is that after bread has been provided, a spectacle has to be offered, too. Since mere bodily satisfaction is obviously not enough for man, so this interpretation goes, those who refuse to let God have anything to do with the world and with man are forced to provide the tit illation of exciting stimuli, the thrill of which replaces religious awe and drives it away. But that cannot he the point of this passage, since the temp­tation apparently does not presuppose any spectators.

The point at issue is revealed in Jesus' answer, which is also taken from Deuteronomy: "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test" (Deut 6:16). This passage from Deuteronomy alludes to the story of how Israel almost perished of thirst in the desert. Israel rebels against Moses, and in so doing rebels against God. God has to prove that he is God. The Bible describes this rebellion against God as follows: "They put the Lord to the proof by saying, 'Is the Lord among us or not?’" (Ex 17:7). The issue, then, is the one we have already encoun­tered: God has to submit to experiment. He is "tested," just as products are tested. He must submit to the conditions that we say are necessary if we are to reach certainty. If he doesn't grant us now the protection he promises in Psalm 91, then he is simply not God. He will have shown his own word, and himself too, to be false.

We are dealing here with the vast question as to how we can and cannot know God, how we are related to God and how we can lose him. The arrogance that would make God an object and impose our laboratory conditions upon him is incapable of finding him. For it already implies that we deny God as God by placing ourselves above him, by discarding the whole dimension of love, of interior listening; by no longer acknowledging as real anything but what we can experimen­tally test and grasp. To think like that is to make oneself God. And to do that is to abase not only God, but the world and oneself, too.

From this scene on the pinnacle of the Temple, though, we can look out and see the Cross. Christ did not cast himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple. He did not leap into the abyss. He did not tempt God. But he did descend into the abyss of death, into the night of abandonment, and into the desolation of the defenseless. He ventured this leap as an act of God's love for men. And so he knew that, ultimately, when he leaped he could only fall into the kindly hands of the Father. This brings to light the real meaning of Psalm 91, which has to do with the right to the ultimate and unlimited trust of which the Psalm speaks: If you follow the will of God, you know that in spite of all the terrible things that happen to you, you will never lose a final refuge. You know that the foundation of the world is love, so that even when no human being can or will help you, you may go on, trusting in the One who loves you. Yet this trust, which we cultivate on the authority of Scripture and at the invitation of the risen Lord, is something quite different from the reckless defiance of God that would make God our servant.

We come now to the third and last temptation, which is the climax of the whole story. The devil takes the Lord in a vision onto a high mountain. He shows him all the kingdoms of the earth and their splendor and offers him kingship over the world. Isn't that precisely the mission of the Messiah? Isn't he supposed to be the king of the world who unifies the whole earth in one great kingdom of peace and well-being? We saw that the temptation to turn stones into bread has two remarkable counterparts later on in Jesus' story: the multipli­cation of the loaves and the Last Supper. The same thing is true here.
The risen Lord gathers his followers "on the mountain" (cf. Mt 28:16). And on this mountain he does indeed say “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Mt 28:18). Two details here are new and different. The Lord has power in heaven and on earth. And only someone who has this fullness of authority has the real, saving power. With­out heaven, earthly power is always ambiguous and fragile. Only when power submits to the measure and the judgment of heaven—of God, in other words—can it become power for good. And only when power stands under God's blessing can it be trusted.

This is where the second element comes in: Jesus has this power in virtue of his Resurrection. This means that it pre­supposes the Cross, his death. It presupposes that other mountain—Golgotha, where he hangs on the Cross and dies, mocked by men and forsaken by his disciples. The Kingdom of Christ is different from the kingdoms of the earth and their splendor, which Satan parades before him. This splen­dor, as the Greek word doxa indicates, is an illusory appearance that disintegrates. This is not the sort of splendor that belongs to the Kingdom of Christ. His Kingdom grows through the humility of the proclamation in those who agree to become his disciples, who are baptized in the name of the triune God, and who keep his commandments (cf. Mt 28:19f.).

But let us return to the third temptation. Its true content becomes apparent when we realize that throughout history it is constantly taking on new forms. The Christian empire attempted at an early stage to use the faith in order to cement political unity. The Kingdom of Christ was now expected to take the form of a political kingdom and its splendor. The powerlessness of faith, the earthly powerlessness of Jesus Christ, was to be given the helping hand of political and military might. This temptation to use power to secure the faith has arisen again and again in varied forms throughout the centuries, and again and again faith has risked being suf­focated in the embrace of power. The struggle for the free­dom of the Church, the struggle to avoid identifying Jesus' Kingdom with any political structure, is one that has to be fought century after century. For the fusion of faith and political power always comes at a price: faith becomes the servant of power and must bend to its criteria.
The alternative that is at stake here appears in a dramatic form in the narrative of the Lord's Passion. At the culmina­tion of Jesus' trial, Pilate presents the people with a choice between Jesus and Barabbas. One of the two will be released. But who was Barabbas? It is usually the words of John's Gospel that come to mind here: "Barabbas was a robber" (Jn 18:40). But the Greek word for "robber" had acquired a specific meaning in the political situation that obtained at the time in Palestine. It had become a synonym for "resistance fighter." Barabbas had taken part in an uprising (cf. Mk 15:7), and fur­thermore—in that context—had been accused of murder (cf. Lk 23:19, 25). When Matthew remarks that Barabbas was "a notorious prisoner" (Mt 27:16), this is evidence that he was one of the prominent resistance fighters, in fact probably the actual leader of that particular uprising.

In other words, Barabbas was a messianic figure. The choice of Jesus versus Barabbas is not accidental; two messiah figures, two forms of messianic belief stand in opposition. This becomes even clearer when we consider that the name Bar-Abbas means "son of the father." This is a typically mes­sianic appellation, the cultic name of a prominent leader of the messianic movement. The last great Jewish messianic war was fought in the year 132 by Bar-Kokhba, "son of the star." The form of the name is the same, and it stands for the same intention.
Origen, a Father of the Church, provides us with another interesting detail. Up until the third century, many manu­scripts of the Gospels referred to the man in question here as "Jesus Barabbas"—"Jesus son of the father." Barabbas figures here as a sort of alter ego of Jesus, who makes the same claim but understands it m a completely different way. So the choice is between a Messiah who leads an armed struggle, promises freedom and a kingdom of ones own, and this mysterious Jesus who proclaims that losing oneself is the way to life. Is it any wonder that the crowds prefer Barabbas? (For a fuller discussion of this point, see Vittorio Messori's important book Pati sotto Ponzio Pilato? [Turin, 1992], pp. 52—62.)

If we had to choose today, would Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Mary, the Son of the Father, have a chance? Do we really know Jesus at all? Do we understand him? Do we not perhaps have to make an effort, today as always, to get to know him all over again? The tempter is not so crude as to suggest to us directly that we should worship the devil. He merely suggests that we opt for the reasonable decision, that we choose to give priority to a planned and thoroughly organized world, where God may have his place as a private concern but must not interfere in our essential purposes. Soloviev attributes to the Antichrist a book entitled The Open Way to World Peace and Welfare. This book becomes something of a new Bible, whose real message is the worship of well-being and rational planning.
Jesus' third temptation proves, then, to be the fundamental one, because it concerns the question as to what sort of action is expected of a Savior of the world. It pervades the entire life of Jesus. It manifests itself openly again at a decisive turning point along his path. Peter, speaking in the name of the disci­ples, has confessed that Jesus is the Messiah-Christ, the Son of the Living God. In doing so, he has expressed in words the faith that builds up the Church and inaugurates the new com­munity of faith based on Christ. At this crucial moment, where distinctive and decisive knowledge of Jesus separates his fol­lowers from public opinion and begins to constitute them as his new family, the tempter appears—threatening to turn everything into its opposite. The Lord immediately declares that the concept of the Messiah has to be understood in terms of the entirety of the message of the Prophets—it means not worldly power, but the Cross, and the radically different com­munity that comes into being through the Cross.
But that is not what Peter has understood: "Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, 'God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you'" (Mt 16:22). Only when we read these words against the backdrop of the temptation scene— as its recurrence at the decisive moment—do we understand Jesus' unbelievably harsh answer: "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men" (Mt 16:23).
But don't we all repeatedly tell Jesus that his message leads to conflict with the prevailing opinions, so that there is always a looming threat of failure, suffering, and persecution? The Christian empire or the secular power of the papacy [blogger: Christendom] is no longer a temptation today, but the interpretation of Chris-tianity as a recipe for progress and the proclamation of uni­versal prosperity as the real goal of all religions, including Christianity—this is the modern form of the same tempta­tion. It appears in the guise of a question: "What did Jesus bring, then, if he didn't usher in a better world? How can that not be the content of messianic hope?"
In the Old Testament, two strands of that hope are still intertwined without distinction. The first one is the expecta­tion of a worldly paradise in which the wolf lies down with the lamb (cf. Is n:6), the peoples of the world make their way to Mount Zion, and the prophecy "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks" comes true (Is 2:4; Mic 4:1—3). Alongside this expectation, however, is the prospect of the suffering servant of God, of a Messiah who brings salvation through contempt and suffer­ing. Throughout his public ministry, and again in his dis­courses after Easter, Jesus had to show his disciples that Moses and the Prophets were speaking of him, the seemingly pow­erless one, who suffered, was crucified, and rose again. He had to show that in this way, and no other, the promises were fulfilled. "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!" (Lk 24:25). That is what the Lord said to the disciples on the road to Emmaus and he has to say the same to us repeatedly throughout the centuries, because we too are constantly presuming that in order to make good on his claim to be a Messiah, he ought to have ushered in the golden age.
Jesus, however, repeats to us what he said in reply to Satan, what he said to Peter, and what he explained further to the disciples of Emmaus: No kingdom of this world is the Kingdom of God, the total condition of mankind's salvation. Earthly kingdoms remain earthly human kingdoms, and any­one who claims to be able to establish the perfect world is the willing dupe of Satan and plays the world right into his hands.

Now, it is true that this leads to the great question that will be with us throughout this entire book: What, did Jesus actually bring, if not world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world? What has he brought?

The answer is very simple: God. He has brought God. He has brought the God who formerly unveiled his counte­nance gradually, first to Abraham, then to Moses and the Prophets, and then in the Wisdom Literature—the God who revealed his face only in Israel, even though he was also hon­ored among the pagans in various shadowy guises. It is this God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the true God, whom he has brought to the nations of the earth.
He has brought God, and now we know his face, now we can call upon him. Now we know the path that, we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope, and love. It is only because of our hardness of heart that we think this is too little. Yes indeed, God's power works quietly in this world, but it is the true and lasting power. Again and again, God's cause seems to be in its death throes. Yet over and over again it proves to be the thing that truly endures and saves. The earthly kingdoms that Satan was able to put before the Lord at that time have all passed away. Their glory, their doxa, has proven to be a mere semblance. But the glory of Christ, the humble, self-sacrificing glory of his love, has not passed away, nor will it ever do so.
Jesus has emerged victorious from his battle with Satan. To the tempters lying divinization of power and prosperity, to his lying promise of a future that offers all things to all men through power and through wealth—he responds with the fact that God is God, that God is man's true Good. To the invitation to worship power, the Lord answers with a pas­sage from Deuteronomy, the same book that the devil him­self had cited: "You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve" (Mt 4:10; cf. Deut 6:13). The funda­mental commandment of Israel is also the fundamental com­mandment for Christians: God alone is to be worshiped. When we come to consider the Sermon on the Mount, we will see that precisely this unconditional Yes to the first tablet of the Ten Commandments also includes the Yes to the second tablet—reverence for man, love of neighbor. Matthew, like Mark, concludes the narrative of the temptations with the statement that "angels came and ministered to him" (Mt 4:11; Mk 1:13). Psalm 91:11 now comes to fulfillment: The angels serve him, he has proven himself to be the Son, and heaven therefore stands open above him, the new Jacob, the Patriarch of a universalized Israel (cf. Jn 1:51; Gen 28:12).

[1] Benedict asks frequently in his writings: What did Jesus Christ come to bring us?
Progress, a better world…? No. He came to bring us God.