Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pentecost 2007

After the Resurrection, Jesus enjoins the apostles that “repentance and remission , and still do not understand. As proof, they “bof sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Lk. 24, 47). “And I send forth upon you the promise of my Father. But wait here in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk. 24, 49). However, they still being afraid "began to ask him, saying, ‘Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’” (Acts 1, 6).

The Kingdom of God: “A Person”

But what is the kingdom? Benedict, in his new “Jesus of Nazareth” offers the mind of Origin, the Greek Alexandrian Father of the Church: “The basic idea is clear: The ‘Kingdom of God’ is not to be found on any map. It is not a kingdom after the fashion of worldly kingdoms; it is located in man’s inner being. It grows and radiates outward from that inner space.”[1] He later says in that inner space, “kingdom of God means ‘dominion of God,’ and this means that his will is accepted as the true criterion. His will establishes justice, and part of justice is that we give God his just due and, in so doing, discover the criterion for what is justly due among men.”[2] Ultimately, the Kingdom of God becomes present “now” insofar as each of us converts from self to make the gift of self and so become another Christ. As Christ, we have come to do the will of the Father in obedience even to the Cross. The Kingdom, then, is not a theocratic structure but “a person, with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God.”[3] “To pray for the Kingdom of God is to say to Jesus: Let us be yours, Lord! Pervade us, live in us; gather scattered humanity in your body, so that in you everything may be subordinated to God and you can then hand over the universe to the Father, in order that ‘God may be all in all’ (1` Cor. 15, 28).”[4] This does not offend against becoming and being one’s true self, and the secularity of life. Rather, on the contrary, it establishes secularity, since the free act of self gift to Christ in the act of faith is the establishment of the (relative) autonomy (theonomy) of the human person as citizen and the common good. The kingdom is not at the eschatological end, but now, and growing, in so far as each of us is being transformed into Christ by becoming self-gift to God and to others.

The apostles, still afraid, gather about our Lady in the upper room: “And when they had entered the city, they mounted to the upper room where were staying Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alpheus, and Simon the Zealot, and Jude the brother of James. All these with one mind continued steadfastly in prayer with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1, 13-14).


“And when the days of Pentecost were drawing to a close, they wre all together in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a violent wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues as of fire, which settled upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak…”
Peter had been afraid, as we know, from his flight from the Cross, and from the triple questioning of Christ on the shores of Genesareth where he is asked if he loves with the love of God (agape- diligo). He responds: No. I love only with the poor love of a traitor (philo- amo). As we have seen, this is enough for Christ who enjoins him: “Follow me.”

Now, the Holy Spirit has descended on our Lady again, and now on the Apostles (including Mathias). Before the same crowd that he feared just weeks before and fled, and the same Sanhedrin that had crucified Christ, “Peter, standing up with the Eleven, lifted up his voice and spoke out opt them’ Men of Judea and all you who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words… Jesus of Nazareth was a man approved by God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did through him in their midst of you, as you yourselves know… God has raised him up, having loosed the sorrows of hell, because it was not possible that he should be held fast by it… ‘Repent and be baptized every on of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2, 14, 24, 38-39).


Romano Guardini comments: “To hear him speak, one would think it was an entirely different person. Not only has he become enlightened, courageous, but his attitude towards Jesus is now that of one bearing witness to ultimate truth personally experienced and proclaimed with authority. Peter does not speak about Jesus, but from him. Because his relationship to the Lord is different from what it was, he himself is different. The questioning, self surrendering seeker has become the proclaiming believer. How” Not by reflection, or private experience; not because after days of confusion and terror he has himself again under control, but because the Holy Spirit prophesied by Christ has literally received ‘of what is mine’ and declared it ‘to you’ (John 16, 15).”[5]

Jesus Christ

Who is Christ? He is the new Moses as prophet. As Moses was unique among the prophets because he uniquely spoke to God face to face, so also, Jesus is the new Moses in an even more unique way: He is God Himself speaking face to face with the Father. Therefore, Jesus knows God experientially from within because He is God. He speaks face to face with the Father because He and the Father are “One.”[6] They are distinct Persons (“The Father is greater than I” [Jn. 14, 29]), and yet “one” in that both are constitutively self-gift to each other. They are one God because both total self-gift, yet they are irreducibly different Persons.

Hence, there is total “self-confidence” in Jesus Christ that what He says is His very Self. What He says, and Who He is are not different realities. He speaks Himself. He is Word. He is Word of the Father. He cannot say other than what He says, because what He says and Who He is are one and the same thing.

In the recent book “Jesus of Nazareth,” Benedict says: “Jesus’ teaching is not the product of human learning, of whatever kind. It originated from immediate contact with the Father, from ‘face-to-face’ dialogue – from the vision of the one who rests close to the Father’s heart. It is the Son’s word. Without this inner grounding, his teaching would be pure presumption. That is just what the learned men of Jesus’ time judged it to be, and they did so precisely because they could not accept its inner grounding, seeing and knowing face-to-face.”[7]

Previously as Joseph Ratzinger, the Pope said: “For what faith really states is precisely that with Jesus it is not possible to distinguish office and person; with him, this differentiation simply becomes inapplicable. The person is the office, the office is the person. The two are no longer divisible. Here there is no private area reserved for an ‘I’ which remains in the background behind the deeds and actions and thus at some time or other can be ‘off duty;’ here there is no ‘I’ separate from the work; the ‘I’ is the work and the work ‘is the ‘I.’
“Jesus did not leave behind him (again as the faith expressed I the Creed understood it) a body of teaching that could be separated from his ‘I,’ as one can collect and evaluate the ideas of great thinkers without going into the personalities of the thinkers themselves. The Creed offers no teachings of Jesus; evidently no one even conceived the – to us – obvious idea of attempting anything like this, because the operative understanding pointed in a completely different direction. Similarly, as faith understood the position, Jesus did not perform a work that could be distinguished from his ‘I’ and depicted separately. On the contrary, to understand him as the Christ means to be convinced that he has put himself into his word. Here there is no ‘I’ (as there is with all of us) which utters words; he has identified himself so closely with his word that ‘I” and word are indistinguishable: he is word. In the same way, to faith, his work is nothing else than the unreserved way in which he merges himself into this very work; he performs himself and gives himself; his work is the giving of himself.”

In passing, this is the reason for the name “Jesus Christ.” There is no “neutral” humanity of Jesus that is “in” the divinity or parallel to the divinity of who He is. The complete and total humanity of Christ is the humanity of the divine Person Himself. The humanity doesn’t function. The divine Person functions with the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth. All actions are the actions of a Person. That Person is a divine Person. The actions are totally human, but the humanity doesn’t perform the actions. The divine Person does. Therefore, whatever Christ does humanly is the action of a divine Person. His free human will totally coincides with the divine will because both wills are wills of the same Person. They are really ontologically distinct wills (otherwise He would not have been truly man as testified to by the Council of Ephesus, and Mary would not have been the mother). But the two wills are personally one.

Hence, Jesus is Christ, “a unity which conceals the experience of the identity of existence and mission. In this sense one can certainly speak of a ‘functional Christology:’ the whole being of Jesus is a function of the ‘for us,’ but the function too is – for this very reason – all being.”[9] Ratzinger concludes: “The person of Jesus is his teaching, and his teaching is he himself. Christian faith, that is, faith in Jesus as the Christ, is therefore truly ‘personal faith.’ What this means can really be understood only from this angle. Such faith is not the acceptance of a system but the acceptance of this person who is his word; of the word as person and of the person as word.”[10]

Peter: “From” Christ, Not “About” Christ…

So also, as Guardini says, Peter is not talking about Christ, but speaking from Christ. The humanity of Peter has been dynamized by the infusion of the Holy Spirit that is forming Christ in him. He speaks from the experience of being another Christ. What Peter is doing now on Pentecost is what we are empowered to do by the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Orders. Peter speaks with this authority that comes from the Spirit who is the personification of this self-giftedness of Person to Person of Father and Son. The Holy Spirit is the Person-Gift of both Father and Son, and thus the one who forms Christ in us. John Paul II said: “It can be said that in the Holy Spirit the intimate life of the Triune God becomes totally gift, an exchange of mutual love between the divine Persons, and that through the Holy Spirit. God exists in the mode of gift. It is the Holy Spirit who is the personal expression of this self-giving, of this being-love. He is Person-Love. He is Person-Gift. Here we have an inexhaustible deepening of the concept of person in God, which only divine Revelation makes known to us.”[11]

On the occasion of Pentecost, St. Josemaria Escriva wrote:

“Come, Oh Holy Spirit! Enlighten my understanding so as to know your commands: strengthen my heart against the attacks of the enemy: inflame my will…

I have heard your voice, and I don’t want to harden myself and resist, saying: “Later…, Tomorrow. Nunc coepi! Now I begin! Since perhaps tomorrow may not come for me.

Oh, Spirit of Truth and of Wisdom, Spirit of understanding and counsel, Spirit of joy and peace!: I want what you want, I want it because you want it, I want it as you want it, I want it when you want it…”


“Now they who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2, 41). And after the healing of the paralytic at the Temple gate, they are taken to the Sanhedrin, the same one crucifying Christ, where Peter says: “Be it known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God has raised from the dead, even in this name does he stand here before you, sound. This is ‘The stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the corner stone. Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4, 10-11).

The Sanhedrin, summoning them, “charged them not to speak or to teach at all in the name of Jesus.

“But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, decide for yourselves. For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.’ But they, after threatening them, let them go, not finding any way of punishing them, because of the people; for all were glorifying what had come to pass”
(Acts 4, 18 -21).

And today?

[1] Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict XVI, “Jesus of Nazareth,” Doubleday (2007) 50.
[2] Ibid 146.
[3] John Paul II, “Mission of the Redeemer,” #18.
[4] Joseph Ratzinger… op. cit 147.
[5] R. Guardini, “The Lord,” Regnery (199
[6] Jn. 10, 30.
[7] Joseph Ratzinger… op. cit. 7.
[8] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity” Ignatius (1990) 149-150
[9] Ibid 150.
[10] Ibid 151.
[11] John Paul II, “Dominum et Vivificantem” #10.
[12] Handwritten note from April, 1934

1 comment:

Chesty Puller said...

Good post!