Sunday, December 20, 2015

Jesus Christ, the New David, Fulfilling the Promise to Abraham - The Global Kingdom: The Communio

Robert Barron: 23d day of Advent.
The New David
Along with Moses and Abraham, David was the most important figure of the Old Testament. His kingship represented the fulfillment of so many of the expectations of Israel, and his reign became synonymous with peace and empire.

Moreover, David had received an extraordinary promise, which is recorded in the second book of Samuel. Through the prophet Nathan, God informed David that his line would last forever, that a son of his body would rule forever.

During the long years that followed the time of David, Israel remained haunted by this great king and by this even greater promise. Soon after David’s reign, his united empire fell apart, and the kings of both north and south proved to be pretty pathetic characters. Still the people, prompted by their prophets, hoped that the definitive king would emerge from David’s line.

This is precisely the hope articulated by one of the minor prophets, Micah, a seer who lived and wrote in the eighth century BC, some 250 years after David. Channelling the words of the Lord, Micah says, “You Bethlehem-Ephratha, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to ruler in Israel; whose origin is from old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:1).

Why Bethlehem? Because that was the city of Jesse, the city of David. It was, across Israelite history, a tiny place, an insignificant “suburb” of Jerusalem, but it was David’s city, and the promise was that a descendant of David would be the great ruler.

Under David, for a brief and shining moment, Israel was united, but soon after David’s death, the nation fell apart. The dream then was that the new David would bring the tribes back together. 

But then there was an even greater dream. Listen again to Micah: “For now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace.” A united Israel would become a magnet to draw the rest of the world. When the whole world would come under this Davidic king, all would be well.

All of this is meant to signal to us just who this Jesus is and what his mission would be. Watch how, throughout his public life, how he gathers the tribes of Israel, going out to the woman at the well, to the man born blind, to Zacchaeus, and to the Gerasene demoniac. Notice how he engages in open table fellowship. Notice how he heals and forgives. He is not simply being a nice, inclusive fellow; he is doing what the Davidic Messiah was expected to do. He is gathering the nations in the new kingdom of God.

Keep in mind that as David is king of Israel, Jesus Christ is King  of the Global Kiingdom whose extension is without limits, populated as intensely as the stars of the heavens and the sands on the shore[the promise made to Abram]. Christ, the God-man is the revelation and meaning of every man. There is only one anthropology and it is Christological. Therefore, there is no such thing as a natural man, nor a natural order. There is no morality that is merely "natural" as opposed to supernatural. Reality is ultimately Jesus Christ, one Person of two ontologically distinct natures, both dynamized by the one divine Person of the Son of the Father. In Christ, the Subject of all being, created and uncreated, is the divine Person of the Son. Christ is the re-starting of creation. Everything is new. It is divine (uncreated) and human (created). And everything takes its meaning from Him. The entire created physical cosmos is but the extension of his humanity that is His.
   And everything that precedes Christ in time in what we understand to be in a evolutionary way, is fulfilling what Paul wrote in Ephesians 1, 4: 'He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ as his sons, according to the purpose of his will."

   Consider Newman on the seeds of truth having been scattered from the beginning of creation and within history, and so developing in time to maturity and emergence:“Now, the phenomenon, admitted on all hands, is this:—that great portion of what is generally received as Christian truth, is in its rudiments or in its separate parts to be found in heathen philosophies and religions. For instance, the doctrine of a Trinity is found both in the East and in the West; so is the ceremony of washing; so is the rite of sacrifice. The doctrine of the Divine Word is Platonic; the doctrine of the Incarnation is Indian; of a divine kingdom is Judaic; of Angels and demons is Magian; the connexion of sin with the body is Gnostic; celibacy is known to Bonze and Talapoin; a sacerdotal order is Egyptian; the idea of a new birth is Chinese and Eleusinian; belief in sacramental virtue is Pythagorean; and honours to the dead are a polytheism. Such is the general nature of the fact before us; Mr. Milman argues from it,—"These things are in heathenism, therefore they are not Christian:" we, on the contrary, prefer to say, "these things are in Christianity, therefore they are not heathen." That is, we prefer to say, and we think that Scripture bears us out in saying, that from the beginning the Moral Governor of the world has scattered the seeds of truth far and wide over its extent; that these have variously taken root, and grown up as in the wilderness, wild plants indeed but living; and hence that, as the inferior animals have tokens of an immaterial principle in them, yet have not [intellective: mine] souls, so the philosophies and religions of men have their life in certain true ideas, though they are not directly divine. What man is amid the brute creation, such is the Church among the schools of the world; and as Adam gave names to the animals about him, so has the Church from the first looked round upon the earth, noting and visiting the doctrines she found there. She began in Chaldea, and then sojourned among the Canaanites, and went down into Egypt, and thence passed into Arabia, till she rested in her own land. Next she encountered the merchants of Tyre, and the wisdom of the East country, and the luxury of Sheba. Then she was carried away to Babylon, and wandered to the schools of Greece [where she engendered Greek metaphysical thought from her revelation of creation: mine]. And wherever she went, in trouble or in triumph, still she was a living spirit, the mind and voice of the Most High; "sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions;" claiming to herself what they said rightly, correcting their errors, supplying their defects, completing their beginnings, expanding their surmises, and thus gradually by means of them enlarging the range and refining the sense of her own teaching. So far then from her creed being of doubtful credit because it resembles foreign theologies, we even hold that one special way in which Providence has imparted divine knowledge to us has been by enabling her to draw and collect it together out of the world, and, in this sense, as in others, to suck the milk of the Gentiles and to suck the breast of kings.
“How far in fact this process has gone, is a question of history; and we believe it has before now been grossly exaggerated and misrepresented by those who, like Mr. Milman, have thought that its existence told against {233} Catholic doctrine; but so little antecedent difficulty have we in the matter, that we could readily grant, unless it were a question of fact not of theory, that Balaam was an Eastern sage, or a Sibyl was inspired, or Solomon learnt of the sons of Mahol, or Moses was a scholar of the Egyptian hierophants. We are not distressed to be told that the doctrine of the angelic host came from Babylon, while we know that they did sing at the Nativity; nor that the vision of a Mediator is in Philo, if in very deed He died for us on Calvary. Nor are we afraid to allow, that, even after His coming, the Church has been a treasure-house, giving forth things old and new, casting the gold of fresh tributaries into her refiner's fire, or stamping upon her own, as time required it, a deeper impress of her Master's image.
“The distinction between these two theories is broad and obvious. The advocates of the one imply that Revelation was a single, entire, solitary act, or nearly so, introducing a certain message; whereas we, who maintain the other, consider that Divine teaching has been in fact, what the analogy of nature would lead us to expect, "at sundry times and in divers manners," various, complex, progressive, and supplemental of itself. We consider the Christian doctrine, when analyzed, to appear, like the human frame, "fearfully and wonderfully made;" but they think it someone tenet or certain principles given out at one time in their fullness, without gradual enlargement before Christ's coming or elucidation afterwards. They cast off all that they also find in Pharisee or heathen; we conceive that the Church, like Aaron's rod, devours the serpents of the magicians. They are ever hunting for a fabulous primitive simplicity; we repose in Catholic fullness. They seek what never has been found; we accept and use {234} what even they acknowledge to be a substance. They are driven to maintain, on their part, that the Church's doctrine was never pure; we say that it never can be corrupt. We consider that a divine promise keeps the Church Catholic from doctrinal corruption; but on what promise, or on what encouragement, they are seeking for their visionary purity does not appear.”[1]

All of this is the Kingdom of God. That means that the Kingdom of God is a Person, with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth" (Redemptoris Missio, #18). The Kingdom of God is not a political reality like a Christendom, but a Person. It is only by each becoming Christ by the sincere gift of self in the act of a living faith in ordinary secular life does the Kingdom become an intramundane reality. "If I cast out demons with the finger of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you" (Lk. 11, 20). This gives us a new eschatology where the Kingdom is not to come as Christ only at the end of time, the present being a "vale of tears." He, (the eschaton), is now in the present moment the source of joy insofar as each is in the process going out of self to become another Christ.

The Church is not the Kingdom. It is as the sacrament of the Kingdom. Therefore, we preach the Kingdom (Person of Christ). We build the Church as the sacrament ("God gathered together as one all those who in faith look upon Jesus as the author of salvation and the source of unity and peace, and established them as the Church that for each and all it may be the visible sacrament of this saving unity (LG#9 ) that brings Him forth in time.

Pope Francis

The Kingdom of God, and the Church are not only in the center but in the periphery as the people of God. Consider what Pope Francis says in Evangelii Gaudium #32-33 making reference to John Paul II's call for help in exercising the papacy

"Pope John Paul II asked for help in finding 'a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation.'[35] We have made little progress in this regard. The papacy and the central structures of the universal Church also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion. The Second Vatican Council stated that, like the ancient patriarchal Churches, episcopal conferences are in a position 'to contribute in many and fruitful ways to the concrete realization of the collegial spirit'.[36] Yet this desire has not been fully realized, since a juridical status of episcopal conferences which would see them as subjects of specific attributions, including genuine doctrinal authority, has not yet been sufficiently elaborated.[37] Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach.

"33. Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: 'We have always done it this way.' I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities. A proposal of goals without an adequate communal search for the means of achieving them will inevitably prove illusory. I encourage everyone to apply the guidelines found in this document generously and courageously, without inhibitions or fear. The important thing is to not walk alone, but to rely on each other as brothers and sisters, and especially under the leadership of the bishops, in a wise and realistic pastoral discernment."

This is an enormously important statement. And this is what Francis is talking about in so far as not seeking for clerical says of power, but to seek new ways, sow new seeds that will yield their fruit in time.

   Now, the light of this, consider that Francis is moving the Church from a Roman centralism to a communio that is her proper physiognomy, under the authority of the pope. In spite of the impression that we all live with, the Church is not a monarchy although it has been styled on that (perhaps unconsciously). Nor is the Church a democracy. The Church is the image of the Trinitarian God, Who is One, yet each Person is God. We live and move within that Mystery.

[1] John Henry Newman, “Essays Critical and Historical,” XI: Milman’s View of Christianity (1871), vol. 2, 232-233.

Ratzinger on the Church as Communio:

It can certainly be said that, at the time of the extraordinary Synod of 1985, which was to attempt an evaluation of the 20 years following the Council, there appeared a new effort to sum up conciliar ecclesiology in a basic concept: the ecclesiology of communio. I received this new focus of ecclesiology with joy and did my best to prepare it. Even so, it should be recognized first of all that the word communio does not have a central position in the Council. But if it is properly understood it can serve as a synthesis for the essential elements of conciliar ecclesiology. All of the essential elements of the Christian concept of communio are combined in the famous text of I Jn 1, 3, which can be taken as the criterion for the correct Christian understanding of communion: "That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you also may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete". Here the starting point of communio is brought to the fore: the encounter with the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who comes to men and women through the Church's proclamation. So there arises communion among human beings, which in turn is based on communio with the Triune God. We have access to communion with God through the realization of the communion of God with man which is Christ in person; the encounter with Christ creates communion with him and thus with the Father in the Holy Spirit; and from this point unites human beings with one another. The purpose of all this is full joy: the Church carries an eschatological dynamic within her. In the words "full joy", we can glimpse a reference to the farewell discourse of Jesus, to the Easter mystery and to the return of the Lord in his Easter appearances, which prepare for his full return in the new world: "You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy . . . I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice . . . ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (Jn 16; 20; 22; 24). If the last sentence is compared with Lk 11,13 — the invitation to prayer in Luke — it clearly appears that "joy" and "Holy Spirit" are one and the same, and that the word "joy" in I Jn 1, 3, conceals the Holy Spirit who is not expressly mentioned here. The word communio therefore, based on the biblical context has a theological, Christological, salvation historical and ecclesiological character. It therefore has within it the sacramental dimension which in Paul appears explicitly: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one Bread, we who are many are one body . . . " (I Cor 10, 16 f.). The ecclesiology of communion is a profoundly Eucharistic ecclesiology. It is thus very close to the Eucharistic ecclesiology, which Orthodox theologians have developed convincingly in our century. Ecclesiology becomes more concrete and at the same time remains totally spiritual, transcendent and eschatological. In the Eucharist Christ, present in the bread and wine and giving himself ever anew, builds the Church as his body and through his risen body unites us to the Triune God and to one another. The Eucharist is celebrated in different places, and yet at the same time it is universal, because there is only one Christ and only one body of Christ. The Eucharist includes the priestly service of the repraesentatio Christi and thus the network of service, the synthesis of unity and multiplicity, which is already expressed in the word communio. Thus it can be said without a doubt that the concept incorporates an ecclesiological synthesis, which unites the discourse on the Church with the discourse on God and with life from God and with God, a synthesis that takes up all the essential intentions of the Second Vatican Council's ecclesiology and connects them in the right way.
For these reasons I was grateful and pleased when the Synod of 1985 made the concept of communion once again the focus of reflection. However, the years that followed show that no word is safe from misunderstandings, not even the best and most profound.


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