Tag Archives: 1 Corinthians

September 15. ‘Jesus beyond Dogma’, XIII: A structural change in the foundations of the world

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Jesus brought a structural change into the foundations of the world, and he called it the Kingdom. A very grand statement for one who ended up isolated and abandoned, nailed to a cross – with “My God, why have you deserted me?” on his lips.

After three days a most unexpected and unheard of event happened. God raised him up. He came to his disciples, not as one back from biological death, but as one who, though obviously Jesus, showed himself fully transfigured, in whom all the possibilities for the human and the divine were now fully realised. Not the revitalisation of a corpse but a radical transformation of the earthly reality of Jesus, this is what we mean by Resurrection.

Jesus is revealed in a life no longer under threat. The Resurrection is the realisation of his message of total freedom. It is direct evidence of what the Kingdom is meant to be: “Death is swallowed up… Death, where is your sting now?” If Jesus is not risen: “your believing is useless… we are the most unfortunate of people”. But a door has been opened for us into an absolute future, hope is real: God really does have the power to achieve in us what was always promised [this is what Hope means]. Faith cannot be sustained without this, for this is the only foundation of Christian faith.

Historians cannot help much at this level. The Resurrection is not an ordinary historical fact [though it is an historical fact]; since it is a fact available only to faith. No one saw the Resurrection actually happen. What we have are appearances and an empty tomb. On the basis of all these, the disciples came to the conclusion: “The Lord is risen and has appeared to Simon“. If we are to do what Peter recommended: “Have your answer ready for people who ask the reason for your hope“, we should have a brief look at what is involved.

The Gospel does not present the empty tomb as evidence of the Resurrection. Instead of giving rise to faith it caused fear and fright. Mary Magdalene saw it as evidence of theft. For the apostles it was simply rumour. By itself the empty tomb is an ambiguous sign, capable of various interpretations, only one of which might have been Resurrection. It is only with the apparitions that the ambiguity is resolved, and the empty tomb can now become a sign of the Resurrection of Jesus. As such, the empty tomb makes people think, it is no more than an invitation to faith, it is not yet faith, and something more is required.

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He is risen!

The “something more” is provided by an angel: “Jesus of Nazareth is risen, he is not here. See, here is the place where they laid him…” The sepulchre is empty, not because someone has stolen the body, but because he is Risen. This interpretation by the women is held to be a revelation from God. It is expressed in the language of the day as being a message from an angel [God].

What finally got rid of the ambiguity once and for all was the fact that the disciples saw Jesus, spoke with him; they spent time with him and he ate with them. The oldest Resurrection formulation, Chapter 15 of First Corinthians and Acts 2-5., with marked absence of pathos, suggest that these accounts are more than subjective visions, products of the faith of the community, but real and trans-subjective, a witness to something imposed from without and not conjured up from within.

How many apparitions were there? 1Corinthians 15.5. contains 5 apparitions. Mark.16.1. has none, but says that Jesus will be seen in Galilee. Matthew.28.16. refers to one. Luke.24.13. refers to two. John relates three, and all of them happen in Jerusalem! There are two tendencies evident: Mark and Matthew are interested in Galilee; Luke and John concentrate on Jerusalem, emphasising the bodily reality of Jesus and the identity between the Risen Christ and Jesus of Nazareth.

Exegesis tends to show the appearances in Galilee as being historically certain. The appearances in Jerusalem are the same as those in Galilee but transferred for theological reasons to Jerusalem, for in Scripture Jerusalem possesses a unique place in salvation history: “Salvation comes from Sion [Jerusalem]“. Jesus’ death, Easter and Pentecost occurred there.

Details of the appearances: they are described as a real experience of the Jesus they knew. He eats, walks and talks with them, allows himself to be touched. It is so normal that he is confused with a gardener or a stranger on the shore. Alongside this there are strange phenomena too: He appears and disappears; he goes through walls, the bruised and battered state of Friday has gone.

Eventually it was asked: Is the Jesus of glory the same person as Jesus of Nazareth? Assertions are made: Christ is totally transfigured, he is not a spirit, nor an angel. The one who died and was buried is the one who is risen. This is why there is preoccupation with, as well as emphasis on the wounds, and the fact that he ate and drank with them.

This helps clarify things a little: The Resurrection is not a theological treatise put together by an enthusiastic follower. Faith in the Resurrection is the direct consequence of the impact on the apostles of the apparitions of Jesus Risen. Without this they could never even dream of preaching a crucified Lord, itself an abomination to a faithful Jew, without this event there could be no church, no worship in the name of Jesus.

What is being asserted through faith like this is not just that Jesus is risen, but that this says something about the possibility of the total realisation of the whole of creation. This is a scandal to many. The early church proclaimed the significance of the Resurrection for us as hope of a future life; what is now for Christ will be the now for us. The Resurrection makes it possible to read reality very differently: the past, present and future take on a new significance.

Christ told the apostles that they would all lose faith in him. Now all this is changed: they return toaustin faith in him, this time no longer as the Nationalist liberator, but as the “Son of Man”. They believed that the Resurrection began the end times. The language is deliberately Apocalyptic. The end will be the Resurrection of the rest of the human race. The very same Spirit by which Jesus was resurrected is now given to everyone.

AMcC

 

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25 March:The Annunciation.

We are told (Luke 1.29) that, at the Annunciation, Mary ‘was troubled at his (the angel’s) saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be.’ The troubles did not end there, as Simeon foretold: (Luke 2:35) ‘And thy own soul a sword shall pierce.’

I would like to take a sideways look at this story with a passage from Father Andrew SDC, writing to a woman recently bereaved in World War II.

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable,’ (1 Corinthians 15:19) because, indeed, as S. Paul knew so well from his own experiences, our Christian hope brings us all sorts of pains which we only have because of it; I mean the pain that comes from the failure to live up to it, and the pain of sacrifices made because of it, and also as it deepens and enriches our relationships and makes our friendships much more deep and sacred, so our partings are made more poignant as each beloved one is taken from us. But it is not in this life only that we have hope in Christ, and so we can smile through our tears and be sure that our dear ones are with Christ, and nearer to him are not farther from us.

Life and Letters of Fr Andrew, p 162.

How much pain Mary took on trust when she agreed to the angel’s request!

 

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Wednesday 8 March, Ex Corde Lecture: Saint John in Bonaventure’s thought.

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Ex Corde Lectures

Johannine Dimensions of ‘The Word of the Cross’ in Bonaventure’s Thought.

Wednesday 8 March, 7.00 p.m. to 9.30 p.m.

at the Franciscan International Study Centre, Giles Lane, Canterbury,      CT2 7NA.

 

The famous passage from 1 Corinthians 1:18 – ‘For the Word of the Cross is to those who are perishing, foolishness but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’ – speaks eloquently of the salvific nature of Christ’s death in the thought of Saint Paul. The same is true for the great Franciscan mystic, Saint Bonaventure, who links that action of the second Person of the Trinity to the personalised experience of Francis’s stigmata and a perception of a Cross that ‘illuminates’ and is the source and summit of Christian contemplation. In this Ex Corde lecture, Father Tom Herbst OFM will relate Bonaventure’s treatment of the Pauline theme of the ‘Word of the Cross’ to his exegesis of the Gospel of John.

 

Father Thomas J. Herbst received a BA in History at the University of California at Santa Barbara, an M.Div. from the Franciscan School of Theology?Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He obtained a D. Phil. in Theology from the University of Oxford in 2001.

All are welcome. An opportunity to ask questions will follow the lecture. We ask for a small donation to cover costs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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11 February: Our Lady of Lourdes

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‘And now these three remain: faith, hope and love…’ 1 Corinthians. 13:13

St. Paul pointed out the three enduring virtues in Christian life.  Mary is full of these virtues.

Mary is a model of faith.  When the angel appeared and gave her the news of God’s plan for her, she accepted without knowing what would happen in the future.

She is a model of hope.  Mary knew that Jesus came down from heaven.  When he died on the Cross she stayed beside him and hoped until the end.  Even after His death, she continued to hope in God’s promises, which were fulfilled when he rose again.

Mary is the model of charity.  It was at the foot of the Cross that Jesus instructed John, his beloved disciple, to take care of his mother Mary as his own mother.  Mary followed him and the other apostles to live their common life: sharing things, praying, fasting, praising God.  So, she is found with them at Pentecost.  She did not give up her vocation after Jesus went back to heaven.  She went on loving as a mother.

As Mary is full of these three enduring Christian values, so she is a model for all Christians.

Mary full of grace, pray for us.

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November 28: Jacopone da Todi 2. Attending to Faces in a Dark Mirror

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When we aim to understand ourselves in a deeper way, and spend time focussing inwards, the dark impressions which we recover at first are not reassuring. We may experience our soul’s troubled waters as a shadowy pool. What light we find there feels moody, insubstantial and even riddled with foreboding.

When St. Paul said ‘we see as through a glass darkly’, (1 Corinthians 13:12) it was surely the kind of seeing we attempt to enjoy as the character and creative traits of others. But at first we are not skilled in reading these correctly. We meet the mistrust and suspicion of others, or display to them more of our own suspicion than we would have wished them to notice. Jacopone tackles this clash well.

“Draw yourself up to your full stature

And thunder me a sermon for the mote in my eye.

You scorn me, oblivious of the beam in your own.

Tend your own wounds, so wide and deep they cannot heal.

 

“Students of Scripture, you want to preach,

And point out the darkness in my life, ignoring yours;

You make a show of your exterior, and have little love

For anyone who would search your heart instead.”

We sometimes wonder, when we lock horns, who will back down first? But as Christians we each have reserves of humility in our shady, glassy inner pool. We have to trust these and plunge into them as we would plunge into God, for the sake of a genuine friendship.

 

Chris D.

October 2016.

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27 October: Lest ye be judged III

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‘Eleven, twelve, eighteen, fourteen, TWENTY!’ The 4 year old boy was climbing the railway steps in front of me, his little sister in tow. Did mother correct him? Did she try to count with him, to be sure he got it right? Did she tell a white lie and suggest his counting was accurate? No, and none of the above. What she did was add an emphatic ‘Hurray’ at the top. (Counting to twenty seemed as important as getting the counting process right.)

Will that little boy be able to count accurately within a few months? Of course he will. His mother’s encouragement of all the bits of counting he was getting right (the numbers were just in the wrong order) is one to bear in mind.

Just by giving us a new day in the morning our Creator offers us encouragement. He gives us a lifetime to get things wrong, or partly right, and to hone all those skills of Faith, Hope and Love that will lead us up to the gates of Heaven.

And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.

1 Corinthians 13:13

 

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8 October: Our Inward Mirror or Conscience.

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By calling this blog a Mirror we set out to be reflective.

Recently Sister Johanna wrote to the editor offering some reflections on conscience, that human attribute by which we can perceive, if through a glass darkly, the soiled image and likeness of God in our hearts (1 Corinthians, 13:14).

Allow her wisdom, distilled from Aquinas, John Paul II and Benedict XV, to percolate through your brain and heart. I’m sure you’ll agree that I was right to accept her offer.

WT.

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9 May Monday: Make his paths straight

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Sometimes the Bible seems to contradict itself. For example we read that God wants sacrifice, or else that he insists that he does not. Well, I rather enjoy one minor contradiction, setting:

‘Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways plain’ (Isaiah 40:3) against: ‘I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, from whence help shall come to me.  My help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.’ (Psalm 120:1-2)

Where would the world be without mountains? I don’t want them all bulldozed, though I am glad of the tunnels, cuttings, banks, bridges and viaducts that make a highway or a railway through them: a colossal feat of human ingenuity and hard work to conceive, construct and maintain them. But lest we get above ourselves by taking too much pride in our works, or give in to the self-improvement temptation and set about to construct a self-designed ‘real me’, let us look to the mountain top.

DSC_0309 (373x640)Unlike Moses, we do not need to go up there to see God. And even when we have our moments, like the Apostles with Jesus on the mountain of Transfiguration (Matthew 17), the daily round soon awaits us.

Those special moments are gifts, most of them not obviously religious in nature. Time spent with a loved one, a walk by the sea or in the hills; even the journey home from work: that acquaintance who greeted us, a smile and good news on their lips? Did you hear the thrush? Or notice the rainbow? As Paul tells us, there are diversities of gifts, including that of discernment! (1Corinthians 12).

Let us be thankful for the gifts we have received, and let us look up and pray, every day, for discernment.

MMB.

Buttermere Chapel, English Lake District. Rain outside.

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April 7: Station IV – The Stranger Takes Over.

Was it not necessary…? [25-27]

The stranger now ‘takes over’. His listening has played an important part in ‘opening them up’, and making it clear just how badly shaken they are, especially in ‘their faith’, their confidence and trust in God and in Jesus as the Promised One, the Messiah. It is now time to call them back to the truth, and to the hope, that they had believed in when Jesus was with them, but which they clearly had never understood or accepted. But notice he does not tell them who he is—how could they have made sense of that? What he does is what he must have done many times before, while he was with them. Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in the scriptures, showing how it was necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory.

They must have had strange and wonderful feelings of having heard all this before. It was all coming back to them, and it was almost too much to take in. As they realised afterwards: Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us? He is revealing himself to them ‘through the Word’, even though their eyes are still ‘held’ and they do not recognise him. And an even more important point to make, perhaps, is that he is not revealing himself so much as re-awakening the faith they had previously had in him, and bringing them to see in a totally new way—God’s way—the true meaning of what has happened.

What is this like for us today?

Where might we have experienced something like this? Or where might we expect to experience it?

An experience of hearing/seeing in a completely new way something that we thought we could never understand or accept.

If, like these two disciples, we have tried to be honest about how we feel and what we struggle to accept in the Gospel message [or in the Church’s teaching/practice], how do we hear the stranger/ Jesus when he questions/challenges us: Was it not necessary…?

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Rood, Our Lady and English Martyrs, Cambridge.

  • Are we also ‘slow to believe’?
  • How do we hear him telling us that ‘the Way of the Cross’ is necessary—not just for him, but for anyone who accepts to follow him?
  • St Paul [1 Cor 1:18ff] spells out what it means to follow Jesus on the way of the cross: ‘The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’. Do we accept that? How do we understand it?
  • We want to respond, but we need to hear how we are being called, and how we are to act—following the Way of the Cross, seeking always to choose/decide and act according to what God values: ‘what is foolish in the world…what is weak…low and despised…’ [1 Cor 1:27ff].
  • And here we can surely hear the clear call of the Gospel as Pope Francis is proclaiming it: The Church of the poor, for the poor…

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February 19th: Love is …

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The first letter to the Corinthians provides a favourite reading used in many wedding liturgies. It’s easy to take St. Paul’s writing as a beautiful definition of love, because, as the Apostle so clearly articulates, “Love is patient and kind.” And, clearly the attributes of love codified by Paul, if understood and applied in a relationship between a man and a woman, will serve as the foundation for a loving marriage.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church expands on the definition of Love (CCC 733), defining love as not just a what, but a what coupled with a whom, when it says, “’God is Love’ and his love is his first gift, containing all others.”

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It is undeniable that marriage was created as an act of love by God; for as we are told in Genesis, God knew it was not good for man to be alone so he created woman of him, and for him. But in addition to instituting marriage as His act of love for His beloved human creatures, holy matrimony might also be viewed as a venue for us to learn and practice loving just as God loves.

The goal of the married couple should be to love each other as God loves us. Love for our spouse, as St. John proclaims (1 John 4:17-18) allows us to show that love is perfected in us, giving us confidence gaining eternal life with God – who is love.

In this sense, marriage is the dress rehearsal for heaven!

DW.

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