Saturday, December 24, 2011

Public Debate: Did Christ redeem all mankind?

Recently, I wrapped up a public, formal debate called "Particular Atonement" at the Christian Forums. I post there as "MrPolo." My position is that Christ's sacrifice made ransom for all mankind in their futile bondage to sin (i.e. Unlimited Atonement). In other words, when Scripture says "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16) I understand the "world" and "whoever" to mean all persons in humanity.

The other gentleman in the debate took a "5-point" Calvinist's position, which says God ordains some to heaven and some to hell, and Christ's sacrifice was therefore limited in effect only to those who go to heaven (i.e. Limited or Particular Atonement). In other words, when Scripture says "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16) he understands the "world" and "whoever" to mean only persons God ordains to heaven without regard to any response, merit, or attribute in those persons.

Merry Christmas. :)

Related post: See the papacy debate here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

If your football team loses, it doesn't mean God doesn't love you

Yesterday, the Chicago Bears, for whom I was fully rooting, lost in overtime to the Denver Broncos whose quarterback is outspoken Christian Tim Tebow. The Broncos were down 10-0 late in the fourth quarter. The Bears went into what is known as the "prevent defense" which makes it easier for the other team to advance the ball, but prevents a "big play" because so many of the defenders are deep. Denver took advantage of the Bears unwise strategy and marched right down the field in medium chunks for a touchdown. Still up 10-7, the Bears got the onside kick and started to run the ball to waste the remaining 2 minutes or so. Unfortunately, Bears running back Marion Barber ran the football out of bounds on one of the plays, which stopped the clock. This ended up leaving more time for Denver to come back the other way after the Bears punted. Without Barber's error, Denver would only have had a few seconds. At any rate, Denver got the last-second field goal to tie the game. And in overtime, they took advantage of a Barber fumble on 3rd down, which would have otherwise lead to a Bears field goal attempt to win the game. Instead, Denver kicked the winning field goal.

Dan Bernstein, radio host of 670 the Score here in Chicago and senior columnist, wrote scathingly about this game in his column today. He was not mad about the Bears prevent defense. He was not mad at Marion Barber.

He was mad at God.

The headline? Tim Tebow’s God Is Mean.

Normally, I might find Bernstein's rant against God to be a bit of sarcasm, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, because the outspoken Christian's team won the game thanks to at least a couple favors the Bears gave them rather than earning the advantages themselves. But Bernstein has been hostile against Tebow on his radio show in the past. I have heard him mock Tebow in a caricature of a voice crediting God for his situation.

Bernstein's column yesterday is no different. The tone is condescending, angry, and anti-Christian. It bears the fury of Dracula in the face of a crucifix. His irrational reaction is not just about Tebow. He includes some standard secular criticisms: "We knew the Old Testament god was kind of a jerk – that’s well established" (lowercase "god" appears as original in Bernstein's article).

To a secularist such as Bernstein (who offered all but zero sports analysis in his sports column), it seems that the "goodness" of God is directly measured by "how often I get what I want." The premise of his article is to mock the goodness of God if Bears fans suffer. God is measured by temporal rewards only.

He shows no concept of the eternal promises of Christianity, verses the suffering that even Christians will endure. To educate those who do not understand the "Biblical God" very well, the Catechism responds and anticipates the difficulties of the human condition in the face of any suffering (even if it's being mad over one's football team).
CCC#272 Faith in God the Father Almighty can be put to the test by the experience of evil and suffering. God can sometimes seem to be absent and incapable of stopping evil. But in the most mysterious way God the Father has revealed his almighty power in the voluntary humiliation and Resurrection of his Son, by which he conquered evil. Christ crucified is thus "the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." It is in Christ's Resurrection and exaltation that the Father has shown forth "the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe".
Suffering itself is ordered toward the resurrection. Christ leads the way, accepting suffering in perfect innocence, showing us that if we join him, we will be raised to glory. St. Paul writes: "Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." (Rom. 8:17)

The Christian's view of suffering, or even the afflictions suffered by those in the Old Testament by the permission of the "god" that Bernstein calls a "jerk," is totally alien to the secularist understanding of goodness. After all, if Christ indeed paved the way, and taught us that the way to an eternity of joy is to suffer with Christ, then God isn't a jerk, He's a leader. And He loves you. If a father tells his child the importance of learning math, but the child isn't at a stage yet where he can understand why, the child's perspective doesn't trump the father's.

Whether or not on this side of heaven's gate we come to a full understanding of suffering is not enough to dismiss the example first set by God incarnate. Now, no doubt, many secularists deny that Christ is the God-man. But the fact remains, if Christ is indeed God incarnate, and He implores us to unite to His body to join Him in the heavenly banquet, then the secularist is completely wrong. Only if the man known as Jesus the Christ was the greatest con man in history could rants like Bernstein's be accurate. But unfortunately, he did not have the space, or perhaps not the consideration to articulate to his audience why that might be the case.

So, I can only invite Bernstein and others who believe a "good" God is one who "makes your sports team win," to refrain from shooting poison darts from your tongue, and give matters of the faith a sober analysis. You don't even have to "like" Tebow's open style of evangelism. And I'm sure there are unbelievers who feel they have given the faith due consideration, and yet do not become furious when their football team loses to opponents with Christian players. Approaching any claim with such emotional staccato can hinder an objective analysis. Rather, give pause, do otherwise, and see what the Church has to offer!

See also the March 11, 2011 article Should earthquakes shake faith in God?

Friday, November 18, 2011

The ironic theology of "Barabbas"

Those familiar with Christian history know the name Barabbas. He is the criminal given freedom, instead of Christ, during Christ's trial before Pilate. All four Gospels mention Barabbas (Matthew 27:15-22; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:18-21; and here is John's account as an example:
But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover; will you have me release for you the King of the Jews?" They cried out again, "Not this man, but Barab'bas!" Now Barab'bas was a robber. (John 18:39-40)
Something occurred to me the other day about Barabbas' name. In the passage when Jesus changes Peter's name from Simon to Peter (Matt. 16:16-19), Peter leads by declaring Christ to be the "Son of God." Christ returns the label and calls him "Simon Bar-Jona." The root "Bar" there refers to "son of" so-and-so. Essentially, in response to "you are Son of God," Jesus says back to Peter, "you are son of Jonah." Bar means "son" in Aramaic. Even today, Jewish custom preserves the term in "Bar Mitzvah" which means "son of the commandment."

So quite literally, Barabbas' name means "Son of Abba." And Abba of course means "Father" in Aramaic. Jesus and Paul both used the phrase "Abba, Father" in reference to God the Father. The Dictionary of the Bible says Abba is an "Aramaic emphatic form of 'ab, "father", employed as a vocative."1 Barabbas' name quite literally translates to "son of the father."

On Mark's reference to Barabbas, the Ignatius Study Bible states:
Barabbas: An Aramaic name that literally means "son of the father". Aramaic-speaking Christians surely detected the tragic irony: the guilty Barabbas is released in place of Jesus, the truly innocent Son of the Father.2
There is an aspect of theology that recognizes the devil as an "imitator." For instance, Paul says the devil will perform "pretended signs and wonders" (2 Thes. 2:9). Yet true "signs and wonders" are properly the gift of God (e.g. Ps 135:9; Dan. 4:2; Acts 5:12; Heb. 2:4). St. Leo the Great said the devil is an "unwearied imitator."3

All of this points toward the great irony of Barabbas being freed in place of Christ. The guilty imitation, the false "son of the father" is released. The true Son of the heavenly Father is innocently sent to death. In Barabbas' name, we can see the diabolical delusion at work in those who wrongly choose the false "son of the father" to solve a problem.

This is something that can be applied to daily life. In our choices, do we choose what is good and true? Or do we delude ourselves and choose the false imitation to try justify our decisions? This is the irony of Barabbas!

1McKenzie, John L., S.J. Dictionary of the Bible. Touchstone. Simon & Schuster. New York. 1995. 1.
2Mitch, Curtis (Compiler) and Hahn, Scott (editor), Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament, 2nd Catholic Edition RSV, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2010. 95.
3St. Leo the Great, Sermon 36.2

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

More reason to withhold judgment on Paterno?

New developments in Penn State sex abuse case
To summarize my previous blog post on the Penn State abuse scandal (Joe Paterno: Scapegoat?):

In 2002, Mike McQueary, then graduate assistant at Penn State University was said in a Grand Jury Report to have witnessed Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant coach, raping a 10 year old boy in the campus showers. The report said McQueary first contacted his own father, and then Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno the next day. The following day, a Sunday, Paterno took the matter to the Athletic Director Tim Curley who conducted an investigation with Senior Finance VP Gary Schultz. Paterno has come under tremendous fire from various news media sources and angry combox contributers throughout the internet for not reporting the incident to on-campus police or public authorities based on McQueary's testimony. My general sentiments as of Friday, as seen in the link above, were to give pause and not incriminate Paterno based on a variety of facts, including what information Paterno was basing his decisions at the time.

Now, let's continue our thought exercise prior to formulating opinions, if we should even choose to formulate an opinion on this matter. I still think those who are harshly condemning Paterno as an accomplice to sex abuse cover-up are still making that claim in the absence of incriminating evidence.

Earlier today, an email from McQueary was leaked (which is another story altogether) to the public. The email is dated Nov. 8. In it, McQueary comments on the 2002 shower incident:
I did stop it, not physically ... but made sure it was stopped when I left that locker room ... I did have discussions with police and with the official at the university in charge of police .... no one can imagine my thoughts or wants to be in my shoes for those 30-45 seconds ... trust me.
As has been noted elsewhere in the media, the Grand Jury Report denies that McQueary spoke with on-campus police. It stated:
[T]he graduate assistant was never questioned by University Police and no other entity conducted an investigation until he testified in Grand Jury in December 2010.
Regarding Paterno, consider the following. If McQueary had spoken to on-campus police, and Paterno knew this fact, and yet went to the AD in addition to McQueary's interaction with on-campus police, then it would seem those who have condemned Paterno for keeping this from police officials of any kind have rushed to judgment and owe Paterno an apology.

On the other hand, let's say McQueary's email is inaccurate and the Grand Jury Report is accurate. Assume McQueary did not speak with on-campus police. Then we move onto the next statement in the email. McQueary says he also spoke "with the official at the university in charge of on-campus police." According to the New York Daily News, the on-campus police supervisor was Gary Schultz, the SVP of Finance, who looked into the matter with AD Curley according to the Grand Jury Report. If Paterno was aware that the supervisor of on-campus police was involved in the investigation, then, again, those who criticized Paterno for deliberately not involving any police officials are mistaken and owe Paterno an apology because the supervisor of on-campus police was already involved.

On first hearing about the email, I thought that skeptics might quickly say it was just Paterno or his supporters coercing McQueary to drum up evidence after the fact. However, McQueary's email is dated November 8, two days before Paterno was fired by Penn State. In the email, McQueary also states he was told by "officials to not say anything." It is unclear if that is a reference to officials at Penn State or otherwise. If this email is authentic, is it more of an indicator that Paterno was used as a scapegoat?

Meanwhile, Sandusky has claimed innocence in a television interview. And his lawyer spoke confidently that the identified victim in the 2002 case has denied being abused by Sandusky.

The matter of justice

Remember, in the last post, I cited the Catechism and the essential meaning of justice:
Justice - The cardinal moral virtue which consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and to neighbor. (CCC glossary)
I think this principle should be the driving force of a good Catholic, or anyone who seeks to formulate just opinions when they speak of others, or even interact with loved ones, friends, and acquaintances. I saw a decent article over the weekend from November 11 that I think leant itself well to that principle.

Christine M. Flowers, an attorney, wrote the article Back off from Joe Paterno: It's too soon, and unfair, to rush to trash his legacy. She makes it clear that she would be ready to recognize that if it was found out that Paterno was negligent of permitting child abuse to occur, that "God would probably mete out a stiffer sentence than the good people of the Keystone State" on him. However, she does not believe there is enough evidence at this time to incriminate Paterno.

As evidence of Paterno's character, she cited a 2007 incident.
Back in 2007, a member of the Nittany Lions squad was charged with raping a Penn State coed. Austin Scott was ultimately acquitted, and, of course, nothing happened to the woman who accused him. Scott, on the other hand, was kicked off the football team by Paterno. That's because the coach has a very strict sense of what is moral and ethical, which gives us some idea about whether he would have knowingly ignored evidence of sexual molestation.
Now a person's behavior at one time does not automatically reveal what his behavior was at another time. Yet I think Flowers' point stands here. There is reason to give pause. Combox comments from when this story first broke like "[Paterno] has shown to be a failure morally and only did the legally correct thing to protect HIMSELF!!!!" seem unwarranted based on the evidence publicly known. Is it not proper to give neighbors their "due"?

EDIT 11/17/11: Attorney Anthony Collelouri on November 8 also brought up the fact that Schultz was the on-campus police supervisor, and presented a legal and ethical defense of Paterno.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Joe Paterno: Scapegoat?

This blog post is regarding the Penn State sexual abuse scandal involving perpetrator Jerry Sandusky, but more specifically, the rhythmic, tribal outcry condemning the school's famous head football coach, Joe Paterno. For instance, writers Bennett L. Gershman and Joel Cohen appearing at the Huffington Post wrote earlier this evening:
"Joe Paterno...knew about Jerry Sandusky, allegedly a sexual predator who horribly raped young boys in the football locker room and shower, but did nothing." (Emphasis mine)
One need only read the comboxes beneath related web stories for more extreme rhetoric and bombast condemning Coach Paterno.

Now, in order for the reader to grasp what I'm going to say here, I have to ask that you try to suspend from your mind the information that is available today regarding the Penn State sex abuse scandal. It is all to easy for 20/20 hindsight to take over and condemn a man based on evidence that surfaced after the criticized action in question. Try to transplant yourself into the past as the details unfolded in reality. Consider possible scenarios consistent with what is known. Take this thought exercise with me.

The key document in all this is a 23-page Grand Jury Report (released November 5, 2011) on Jerry Sandusky's crimes. Despite the media frenzy that has called for Paterno's head and questioned his moral integrity, Paterno is mentioned in the Report just a few times. And not all of these are in relation to what detail of abuse, and how credible it was at the time, then-28-year-old graduate assistant Mike McQueary relayed to Paterno. As the Wall Street Journal noted earlier today: "It isn't clear from conflicting reports whether that graduate assistant told Mr. Paterno the ugly details of the sexual assault that is described in the grand jury report."

Here is the key excerpt from the Grand Jury Report that references Paterno's involvement.
[The document describes in horrific detail what McQueary reported about a pedophile rape in a school shower.] [McQueary] telephoned Paterno and went to Paterno's home, where he reported what he had seen. (page 7)
At this point, the document does not tell us if the description reported at that time matched the disturbing details that preceded in the Report. The subsequent text suggests otherwise:
Joseph V. Paterno testified to receiving the graduate assistant's report at his home on a Saturday morning. Paterno testified that the graduate assistant was very upset. Paterno called Tim Curley ("Curley"), Penn State Athletic Director and Paterno's immediate superior, to his home the very next day, a Sunday, and reported to him that the graduate assistant had seen Jerry Sandusky in the Lasch Building showers fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy.
Paterno is not mentioned again until later. Here are a few more details from the Report.
  • According to Curley, that McQueary described the shower incident as Sandusky and the youth "horsing around." Curley elsewhere denied that McQueary reported "'sexual conduct' 'of any kind'" having taken place. (page 8)
  • The school president Graham Spanier reportedly said that he learned Sandusky and the boy "were horsing around in the shower." He denied that he was told that the incident was "sexual in nature." (page 10)
  • Another member of the school, Gary Schultz, Senior Vice President for Finance and Business, became involved with Curley's investigation. According to Schultz's testimony, "he and Curley 'had no indication that a crime had occurred.'" Schultz also suggested that he understood the incident to have been Sandusky and the youth "wrestling." (page 9)
  • The Report later identifies the school's obligation by law to have reported suspected child abuse. It also states: "The Grand Jury finds that Tim Curley made a materially false statement under oath in an official proceeding on January 12, 2011.." and "[T]he Grand jury finds that Gary Schultz made a materially false statement under oath in an official proceeding on January 12, 2011..." (page 12)
Now, consider the following. It remains unclear what were the nature of details McQueary told Paterno. Paterno, on a Sunday, brought McQueary's report to the attention of his own superior, Curley. Curley then conducted an investigation with Schultz. Their testimony was determined by the Grand Jury to contain falsehoods.

Before we condemn Coach Paterno then, are there not a number of questions that are relevant? First, is what cause did Paterno have to assume the subsequent investigation conducted by Curley and Schultz would be incompetent or dishonest? I've yet to see anyone in the media ask that question, much less provide an answer.

Second, Curley, Schultz, and Spanier all told the Grand Jury that they did not determine any sexual conduct to have taken place in the showers that night. So if they were willing to tell that to a Grand Jury, then might they have told Coach Paterno the same thing back in 2002? And if so, what cause had Paterno to assume they had colluded to protect Sandusky? After all, if one reads the Report, Paterno's involvement was limited. Primarily, he was the one who brought the incident to the attention of university officials.

Third, even according to the Grand Jury Report, it seems McQueary used varying language as to what he saw in the showers. On pages 6-7, the Report indicates without qualification that McQueary witnessed Sandusky raping a boy. But on page 7, the Report reads "he had witnessed what he believed to be Sandusky [raping] a boy..." Between these variations and talk of "wrestling" or "horsing around" that was espoused by the other university officials, is it possible that Paterno did not feel McQueary truly saw sexual misconduct?

Remember, suspend your 20/20 hindsight for a moment and consider such details contained in the report.

Now, if one wants to say Paterno "could have done more," one merely agrees with what Paterno said recently in light of the revelation of Sandusky's apparent guilt. "With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more," Paterno said. And who wouldn't say that in light of what is known now.

So can one say Paterno should have ignored the conclusions of his superiors and brought this to the police anyway? Let's say the answer to that is yes, he should have done "more." Paterno was fired by the University on Wednesday. Paterno did not witness the crime. McQueary, the actual witness, neither took the matter beyond school officials even after they did not report Sandusky to the police themselves. Yet McQueary, as of the time of this post, retains his job and will be an assistant coach on Saturday! Curley, who spearheaded the investigation and is under investigation for perjury, is only on "administrative leave"!

So is it not a fair question: Is Joe Paterno a scapegoat? Did Penn State University use the firing of Paterno, the most famous individual in this saga, as a "big statement" to "show" that they were really taking this seriously?

And is all the rhetoric and bombast for Paterno's head the product of some other form of hatred? Is he too iconic of the old school university seen by many as a culture of exclusivist bigotry? Is there a sentiment against the sport of football altogether?

Rather can we not agree that it is possible to decry sex abuse and yet not pass excessive judgment on a man who did move the investigation forward?

And what credibility have people like The Nation magazine's sports writer Dave Zirin who recently wrote of Penn State: "[F]ootball is so valuable that children can become collateral damage"; yet on another day write an anti-Christian article on Tim Tebow that called him "anti-abortion"! And consider the opening quote from the two writers who claimed Paterno "did nothing." These are the kinds of sentiments that indicate there are other motives to criticize Paterno than that he is actually a villain.

If Paterno was the negligent, immoral villain the way many have described him, I don't think it can be said because of what is publicly known thus far. Whatever we say about Paterno, I think the Catechism's definition of "Justice" is appropriate: "Justice - The cardinal moral virtue which consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and to neighbor."

One thing is for sure, Joe Paterno's students will ever love him for all that he did for them. (Watch a group of students supporting Paterno outside his home earlier tonight.)

EDIT 11/11/11 (8:00 a.m.): Since last evening, McQueary will now not be coaching on the field on Saturday––however, not because he is being punished, but because he is being preserved from "multiple threats." According to Penn State officials: "Due to multiple threats made against Assistant Coach Mike McQueary, the University has decided it would be in the best interest of all for Assistant Coach McQueary not to be in attendance at Saturday's Nebraska game."

EDIT 11/11/11 (1:23 p.m.): It was also reported that a lawyer representing the victims in this case has expressed disapproval on behalf of his clients that Paterno was fired. He is quoted:
"The board of trustees got it wrong. They should have consulted the victims before making a decision on Mr. Paterno...They should have considered these victims watch TV and are aware of the students' reaction and may not want to be associated with the downfall of Mr. Paterno. The school instead elected to do what it felt was in its own best interest at the time. Isn’t that what put the school in this position in the first place?"
If that is the case, one would think even the victims, at this point, do not believe Paterno's actions warranted his dismissal.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Book Review: Sin: A History

Sin: A History (2009) by Dr. Gary A. Anderson is an excellent treatment on the historical imagery characterizing the idea of sin. I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

Anderson takes us through the idea of sin throughout the Judeo-Christian tradition. Going all the way back to the first temple period of the Old Testament, sin was predominantly viewed as a weight or a burden to be borne. Another figure is the idea of a blemish or stain that requires cleaning. But the predominant figure beginning in the second temple period through the Christian era is the figure of debt.

The book is fraught with Biblical references demonstrating the idea of sin as a debt. The heart of the book reviews many of the ancient ideas of debt, slavery, land ownership, etc. that figure into the Jewish idea of due payment for debt. One need only review the several blog entries I have made on typology to know that I appreciate Anderson's treatment of Old Testament figures of debt and repayment as prefigurements of Christ's satisfaction for the debt of mankind's sin. These figures are really the heart of the book, which ends with a study of Christ's atonement.

Anderson not only draws largely from Scripture, but he also draws from ancient rabbinic or Jewish commentaries on the Biblical texts themselves. He is able to derive a number of insights from the Biblical texts by understanding the Jewish context in which they are understood. For instance, by studying the rabbinic interpretation of Psalm 32:1-2, we learn that in Jewish thought, sins and merits were not seen as a hard and fast legal accounting system. Rather, the love and mercy of God is revealed when he removes sins from the scales in order to tilt it in favor of Israel's merits (p. 107),

The third section of the book deals with "balancing debt with virtues." Anderson is alert to cries of "salvation by works" that are often made by those since the Protestant "Reformation" who deny man's capacity to merit. His defense of man's merit is solid and brings the reader's attention to the generosity of God. For instance, he cites Proverbs 19:17 Anyone who gives alms to the poor is lending to the Lord, the story of King Nebuchadnezzar who is exhorted to give alms to atone for his sins, or even the story of Jesus and the rich man who is told to store up "treasure in heaven" by giving alms. Though he does not do so with great length, Anderson does touch on the key to understanding man's merit as God's gifts returned. He uses the classic analogy of the penniless child (p. 160). The parent gives the child a gift of money. The child in turn buys a present for the parent. The present is essentially the parent's gift returned, yet the child is able to participate in the order of love by parting with something received. The parent is, of course, moved by this act even though it was the parent's gift returned. So too is it with merit (e.g. CCC#2008). Those interested in Catholic apologetics will appreciate the Biblical and traditional strength of such discourses in this book. As such I was also impressed that the book won the 2010 Christianity Today Book Award in the Biblical Studies category.

Some readers may find the book a little challenging to follow due to the immensity of references and word study. Anderson, who is professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible in the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, also delves frequently into word origins, etymology, and parallel word usages in antiquity. Some of these sections may require the reader's careful attention as he intersperses words he has previously defined into subsequent sentences. I would not classify the book as "light" reading, although readers far more adept than I no doubt will have no stumbles. Readers who enjoy deep treatment of language will certainly appreciate Anderson's thoroughness.

I learned of this book while listening to archived audio of the Kresta in the Afternoon radio show. The episode, which was from December 22, 2010, was a replay of a February 3 interview with Dr. Anderson. The interview was rated as the #26 best of the year by the show's staff, which is not bad considering what I would guess are the 100+ interviews Al Kresta does every year. As a frequent listener of the show, I personally would have rated the interview much higher. The MP3 archive of the interview with Dr. Anderson can be heard here.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Is the Eucharist only a symbol of Christ's body?

In Biblical typology, the authors of the New Testament often relate things of the NT in light of the Old Testament. This is called typology. You see Paul speak of this in Romans 5 when he identifies Jesus as the superior antitype of Adam. You see the Pauline tradition in Hebrews (ch 8) speak of this when he compares the sacrifices of the OT to the corresponding superior sacrifice of Christ. You also see Jesus speak of this earlier in the John 6 discourse when he spoke of the bread, the manna, that fell from heaven. One consistent characteristic in the order of typology is that the New Testament antitypes are superior to their Old Testament types. Jesus is superior to Adam. Christ's sacrifice is superior to the OT sacrifices. And the Bread of Life in the NT is superior to the manna that fell from heaven.

Catholics believe the Bread of Life, of which Christ spoke in John 6, is the Eucharist, the true body and blood of Christ in sacrament (cf. CCC#1374). Some faith traditions believe that the Eucharist is symbolic-only.1 They believe the bread is ordinary bread, and participating in the Eucharist is a memorial in the sense of "calling to memory" Christ's sacrifice (not in the sense of the re-presentation of the event according to the Jewish understanding of anamnesis2).

Now, if we apply a "symbolic-only" understanding to John 6, we cause a fatal problem in the order of Biblical typology. The NT Bread suddenly becomes inferior to the OT manna. After all, the OT manna was 1) of supernatural origin and 2) of benefit for physical life. When we insist the Bread in John 6 is symbolic-only, we make it inferior to the OT manna because we say its origin is less-than-supernatural, while denying that it is of benefit for eternal life.

It is Christ himself who made the typological comparison between the Bread of Life and the OT manna in John 6:49-51. And therefore, the symbol-only interpretation must be rejected, among other reasons, on the grounds that it violates the superior nature of NT antitypes over their OT types.

1For example, the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000 endorsed the following: "The Lord's Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming." In Catholic theology, the Eucharist does have symbolic attributes, but not only symbolic. For examples see Council of Trent 13.3; Pope Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei, et al.

2See for example, Rabbi Dr. Stuart Dauermann's explanation of the Jewish idea of anamnesis in the article Seeds, Weeds, and Walking the High Wire: The Role of the Remnant - Embodying Israel’s Destiny. He writes in one example: "The holy past is no mere collection of data to be recalled, but a continuing reality to be honored or desecrated."

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Christ, the bridegroom (why a priest must be male)

In an era where there remains confusion or ignorance on why the Catholic Church only ordains men to the office of the priesthood, I thought it helpful to delve a little into a dimension of the theology of why this must be so.

In Church theology:
[T]he bishop or the priest, in the exercise of his ministry, does not act in his own name, "in persona propria:" he represents Christ, who acts through him: "the priest truly acts in the place of Christ", as Saint Cyprian already wrote in the third century.[15] It is this ability to represent Christ that Saint Paul considered as characteristic of his apostolic function (cf. 2 Cor 5:20; Gal 4:14). The supreme expression of this representation is found in the altogether special form it assumes in the celebration of the Eucharist, which is the source and centre of the Church's unity, the sacrificial meal in which the People of God are associated in the sacrifice of Christ: the priest...then acts..."in persona Christi,"[16] taking the role of Christ, to the point of being his very image, when he pronounces the words of consecration.[17] (Inter Insigniores, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 5b, 1976)
I'd like to further examine the notion that Christ acts through the priest supremely through the celebration of the Eucharist. Without getting into a long apologetic, Catholic theology teaches that the Eucharist is the sacrifice of Christ that transpired on Calvary, extended through time.

CCC#1367 The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: "The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different."
One can find many apologetic treatments on why the Church teaches this is so. A couple Scriptural examples include Christ at the Last Supper holding up the bread and saying "This is my body which is given for you" (Lk. 22:19). In the verse, the Greek verb "is" in both instances is in the present tense. The sacrifice of Calvary was thus already extended through time at the Last Supper. Many translations, such as the literal King James, have the words: "lamb slain before the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). This also speaks to the timelessness of the sacrifice of Christ the Lamb (cf. John 1:29). Other examples include the discourse of John 6, in which Jesus repeats phrases like: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh" (John 6:51). Paul echoes the same sentiment when he writes: "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?" (1 Cor. 10:16); and immediately after describing the Last Supper: "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. ... For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself" (1 Cor. 11:27,29). Catholics also call the blessing the "consecration," echoing Christ's Last Supper words when he held up the bread, spoke the words, and told the Apostles to "do this" in his memory.

Going forward with the theology that the Eucharist is truly the single sacrifice of Calvary offered in "an unbloody manner" (cf. CCC#1367), it is vital to understand the teaching of a male-only priesthood with the idea that Christ's sacrifice was a "nuptial" event. Christ's wedding was on the Cross. He was the bridegroom wedded to the Church, his bride.

Even from the most ancient days, God's covenant with his people has been revealed with nuptial imagery. For example, God in reconciling the Israelites' loyalty to the false god Ba'al describes His union with the people of God in nuptial terms:
And there I will give her her vineyards, and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. "And in that day, says the LORD, you will call me, 'My husband,' and no longer will you call me, 'My Ba'al.' For I will remove the names of the Ba'als from her mouth, and they shall be mentioned by name no more. And I will make for you a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the LORD. (Hosea 2:15-20)
It is no accident that God intermingles his betrothal to Israel as making a "covenant" with them. God makes a "covenant" with Abraham, promising him many descendants (Gen. 17:6-9). This covenant is completed when Abraham demonstrates his faith in God by preparing to sacrifice his son at God's prompt (Gen 22:16-17). Abraham is allowed to sacrifice a "ram" instead (v. 13).

As the late, great Bishop Fulton Sheen said:
Throughout the Old Testament, the union of God and Israel is described as Nuptials. God is pictured as the Husband; Israel as the Bride; and their union is consummated in sacrifice. (Bishop Fulton Sheen, Three to Get Married, chapter 11)
The event of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son is a strong foreshadowing of God sending His Son as a sacrifice, with the blood of "a new covenant" (e.g. Lk. 22:20). Reading texts like Hosea in light of covenant and sacrifice, we can begin to see how Christ's sacrifice on the Cross was a nuptial event.

Consider the nuptial imagery in Christ's life leading up to his sacrifice.

He performs his first public miracle at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11). Notice the inclusion of "wine" in the episode. In addition to holding up wine at the Last Supper and equating it with his blood, wine is a consistent theme in nuptial episodes in Scripture. The Song of Songs, a tale about a bride-to-be longing for her bridegroom, is fraught with references to wine or vineyards (e.g. Sg. 1:2,6,14; 2:13,15; 4:10; 5:1; 6:11; 7:2,8-9,12; 8:2,11,12). Remember the Hosea passage we referenced earlier when God promises a "vineyard" to his betrothed Israel. From such passages, we can view and understand the Eucharist in a new light, and how the people of God are wedded, so to speak, to Christ through the sacrifice.

Christ's Parable of the Ten Virgins describes the Church seeking to enter the kingdom as the bride uniting with the bridegroom: "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom" (Mat. 25:1). Christ even compared himself to a "bridegroom" when speaking to John the Baptist's disciples (Mat. 9:14-15).

John makes reference to rejoicing "at the bridegroom's voice" (John 3:29) which is a strong echo of the excited bride-to-be: "The voice of my beloved!" again from the nuptial Song of Songs (2:8).

Shortly before Christ is crucified, nuptial imagery lines the Biblical text. In Song of Songs, the bride marvels at the fragrant "anointing oils" (Sg. 1:3) of the bridegroom, and the fragrance of his "cheeks" and lips compared to "myrrh" (Sg. 5:13). It was customary in Jewish antiquity for both nuptial parties to be heavily perfumed:
Garments were perfumed to such an extent that an old marriage song (Ps. xlv. 9 [A. V. 8]) could say of the royal bridegroom, "All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia." Beds were perfumed with "myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon" (Prov. vii. 17). The bride in Cant. iii. 6 was perfumed with all sorts of incense; and noble guests were honored by being sprinkled with perfume or incense (Luke vii. 46; comp. Lane, "Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians," iii. 8). It was customary among noble Jews to pass incense ("mugmar") around on a brazier after meals (comp. Ber. vi. 6). (Jewish Encyclopedia entry on Incense)
Myrrh of course is one of the fragrant gifts brought by the wise men to the newborn Jesus (e.g.Mat. 2:11). The bride-to-be in Song of Songs is adorned with the perfume "nard" (1:12), which is the same perfume with which Mary of Bethany anointed Christ's feet (Mk. 14:3; John 12:3) shortly before his Passion.

Even closer to the final Crucifixion, Christ is stripped of his garments (e.g. Mat. 27:31-35), which of course is an action the marital couple does prior to consummation.

Finally, Christ is preparing to breath his last breath on the Cross, and what does he say but: "It is finished," (John 19:30) which can also be translated "It is consummated." The full verse reads: "When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, 'It is finished'; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." The beverage was vinegar or sour "wine" (e.g. ESV, NASB, NJB), the beverage of a wedding ceremony. The marriage of the bridegroom with his bride the Church was consummated.

That understanding does not replace other interpretations of "it is finished," but rather works in concert with them to showcase the richness and depth of holy Scripture. For instance, Dr. Scott Hahn's treatment The Hunt for the Fourth Cup shows how "it is finished" also refers to the completion of the Passover sacrifice meal begun in the upper room.

And so we come full-circle. The priest, when confecting the Eucharist, which is the same sacrifice of Calvary, is the instrument of Christ himself who performs the sacrifice.

When we grasp this reality, we can better understand why in order for the sacrament to be an effective "sign," the priest must be male. Christ's very incarnation as a man accomplishes the masculine function of the bridegroom. It would be an ontological impossibility for this to be performed by a bride. It is Christ who "gives" to the bride on the Cross, begetting spiritual life. A good study of Scripture recognizes the theophanies in life and how they reflect unseen realities. In the role of a man as the giver during intercourse, we can understand how it is an outward sign of Christ the bridegroom who is the "giver" of himself at his nuptial event on the Cross. The outward masculinity points to the ontological reality of a man giving himself mystically for his bride.

Christ, when healing the paralytic lowered through the ceiling (e.g. Mark 2:1-12) relates the outward sign with the inward reality. The crowd doubts that Jesus forgave the man's sins when he said, "Yours sins are forgiven." To show the crowd that the man was truly spiritually "healed" he commanded the man to rise and walk. When the man stood, he showed outwardly the healing that had occurred inwardly.

The sacraments instituted by Christ utilize outward instruments that show us what occurs inwardly. For example, Baptism requires water (cf. Acts 8:36). Water is used to wash. As Peter teaches us, this water is not just for removing dirt, but for clearing the conscience by removing the stains of sin (1 Pet. 3:20-21). The outward sign effects the inward reality.

And so we see how the outward sign of a man brings about the inward reality of the true bridegroom, consummated to his bride on the Cross.1 It would be ontologically impossible for a woman to sacramentally and truly act in persona Christi, the bridegroom.

Here is more from Inter Insigniores:
The Christian priesthood is therefore of a sacramental nature: the priest is a sign, the supernatural effectiveness of which comes from the ordination received, but a sign that must be perceptible[18] and which the faithful must be able to recognize with ease. The whole sacramental economy is in fact based upon natural signs, on symbols imprinted upon the human psychology: "Sacramental signs", says Saint Thomas, "represent what they signify by natural resemblance".[19] The same natural resemblance is required for persons as for things: when Christ's role in the Eucharist is to be expressed sacramentally, there would not be this "natural resemblance" which must exist between Christ and his minister if the role of Christ were not taken by a man: in such a case it would be difficult to see in the minister the image of Christ. For Christ himself was and remains a man. (Inter Insigniores, 5c)
This, of course, makes a woman no less human or competent than a man just because she cannot by her nature act in the person of the bridegroom. By the same token, a man is not inferior or less-than-human because he by his very nature cannot gestate human life within himself and give birth. "Male and female He created them," (Gen. 5:2) Scripture says. Paul does not tell us that differences in spiritual gifts are a matter of inequality but rather complementarity within the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27-30). Women and men participate in the "royal priesthood" (e.g. CCC#1268) of Christ, just as men participate as members of the "bride" the Church. Yet these are not sacramental realities as are the priest or the Eucharist which demand the natural outward sign. When we offer sacrifices in our lives, we do not truly and sacramentally make present the one sacrifice of Calvary in the way the Eucharist does.

Inter Insigniores expounds further:
Christ is the Bridegroom; the Church is his bride, whom he loves because he has gained her by his blood and made her glorious, holy and without blemish, and henceforth he is inseparable from her. This nuptial theme which is developed from the Letters of Saint Paul onwards (cf. 2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:22- 23) to the writings of Saint John (cf. especially Jn 3:29; Rev 19:7,9), is present also in the Synoptic Gospels: the Bridegroom's friends must not fast as long as he is with them (cf. Mk 2:19); the Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who gave a feast for his son's wedding (cf. Mt 22:1-14). It is through this Scriptural language, all interwoven with symbols, and which expresses and affects man and woman in their profound identity, that there is revealed to us the mystery of God and Christ, a mystery which of itself is unfathomable.

That is why we can never ignore the fact that Christ is a man. And therefore, unless one is to disregard the importance of this symbolism for the economy of Revelation, it must be admitted that, in actions which demand the character of ordination and in which Christ himself, the author of the Covenant, the Bridegroom and Head of the Church, is represented, exercising his ministry of salvation which is in the highest degree the case of the Eucharist—his role (this is the original sense of the word "persona") must be taken by a man. This does not stem from any personal superiority of the latter in the order of values, but only from a difference of fact on the level of functions and service. (Inter Insigniores, 5e-f)
If one meditates on the divine mystery of Christ as the bridegroom, it is easier to understand why Christ freely chose only men to serve in the office of Apostle. The same can be said of the Apostles who subsequently only appointed men to ministerial offices.

The one sacrifice of Christ on Calvary is the same sacrifice as that offered in the Eucharist during the Divine Liturgy. In that sacrifice, Christ is the bridegroom, consummating his marriage to his bride, the Church. This marriage is a new covenant. The priest acts in persona Christi when confecting the Eucharist. Since a sacrament demands the natural sign to truly bring about the reality at hand, any priest participating in the one priesthood of Christ must be a man.

Additional works of interest:
Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II
Some Scriptural Arguments For The All-Male Priesthood by David P. Lang, Catholic Culture

1I would be remiss if I did not also point out that Christ as bridegroom is not the only reason why the priesthood can only be fulfilled by a man. Scripture, for instance, also teaches of the headship of a man befitting the role of a pastor and shepherd. The sacrificial Lamb foreshadowing Christ in the Old Testament had to be a male, (cf. Ex. 12:5). Etc... This article is intended to examine the richness of the nuptial nature of Christ and his sacrifice.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Government "Health Care" vs. the Catholic Church

President John Garvey of the Catholic University of America pointed out in a September 30 op-ed appearing in the Washington Post:
In a section of the Affordable Care Act that didn’t get much public attention during the debates last year, Congress asked HHS to prescribe a list of “preventive services for women” that health-care plans across the country would have to provide to subscribers at no additional cost.
These so-called "preventive services" include various forms of birth control, including post-contraception methods that induce abortion. The Affordable Health Care Act requires all health-care plans to offer: "All Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods." Helen Alvaré, Gerard V. Bradley and O. Carter Snead, writing for the Witherspoon Institute, detail a number of FDA-approved methods of contraception, such as the "morning-after pill," that can induce abortion. Such methods of birth control are abominable in the eyes of faithful Catholics and the government's mandate seeks to coerce those Catholics into abetting the action.

In another section of the plan, there is an exemption for "religious employers," permitting them to refuse to offer services contrary to the tenets of its faith. The problem is, the exemption is very narrow and would not include a vast number of Catholic institutions. To qualify for the exemption, an institution not only has to be non-profit, but must have "the inculcation of religious values as its purpose," and must employ and primarily serve "persons who share its religious tenets."

As Garvey noted of the language:
That is too narrow to include Catholic universities, which observe norms of academic freedom and teach chemical thermodynamics, aerospace engineering, musical theater, Mandarin Chinese and the Victorian novel along with theology. It’s too narrow to include St. Ann’s Infant & Maternity Home in Hyattsville, which provides care to abused and neglected children and to pregnant adolescents who need help. Nor does it encompass the Jeanne Jugan Residence for the elderly, which is across the street from our campus and run by Little Sisters of the Poor.
Perhaps the narrowness of these qualifications are why the AHCA refers to the exemption of "certain religious employers" some six times.

Western culture's norm to prevent the birth of children goes not only against the perpetuation of one's family, but the traditional and even Biblical idea of children as a blessing.
Lo, sons are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them! (Psalm 127:3-5a)
Faithful Catholic institutions do not want to be forced into contributing to the sterilization of mankind and considers doing so a grave sin. Unfortunately because of the way of the State, a great number of Catholic institutions are in for a potential battle in the coming months and years.

"Preventive Health Care" a misnomer?
Assuming that methods of contraception legitimately prevented various diseases and contributed to "health care," it is still not acceptable to coerce Church institutions into committing what they believe are grave sins. After all, it is a belief of Christians to "not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28) We should always care for the physical body, but not at the expense of the spiritual body.

Still, it is an assumption on the part of the State and many westerners that artificial forms of birth control are actually functional "preventive" methods of avoiding sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

A March 2011 article published in Infectious Diseases reveals unpleasant data in light of the government's recent mandate for health care plans to provide all FDA-approved forms of birth control.
Researchers at the University of Nottingham studied pediatric health data from local English authorities to measure the effectiveness of government-sponsored initiatives offering teenagers free emergency birth control (EBC) at pharmacies. ... Overall, they found that areas with a pharmacy that offered free EBC saw an average 5% increase in STIs among children younger than 18 years. In children younger than 16 years, the STI rate increased by 12%. STI rates for teens and older women increased consistently during the study period, but the teenage STI rates increased faster as EBC programs were introduced.
How can this be? An analogy may help. Suppose we do a study of those who wear football helmets and padding versus those who don't. Who sustains more injuries on a regular basis? Those who regularly wear football equipment or the average Joe who does not. Of course the answer would be that football players sustain injuries more on a regular basis than the person who doesn't. Why? Because the guy with the padding is of course more likely to engage in the dangerous activity of football! If we just asked, "who gets hurt more, a person wearing padding or a person who doesn't," the answer in a vacuum would be the person without padding. But the question doesn't take into account the difference in behavior between the two groups.

The same is the case with contraception. Those who contracept are more likely to engage in behavior that will result in STIs. Back in 2009, Edward Green, director of AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, defended Pope Benedict XVI, who at the time was critical of condom-distribution in Africa as a viable solution to curb AIDS. Green stated:
There is a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the U.S.-funded ‘Demographic Health Surveys,’ between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates. This may be due in part to a phenomenon known as risk compensation, meaning that when one uses a risk-reduction ‘technology’ such as condoms, one often loses the benefit (reduction in risk) by ‘compensating’ or taking greater chances than one would take without the risk-reduction technology.
Defenders of free condom distribution point to other studies that do not show an increase in sexual behavior when condom access is available.

Either way, the State has taken a position that supports what are effectively sanctions against Catholic institutions. And I reiterate, even if condom-distribution were effective, it remains a sin whether it achieves its purpose or not, and it remains less-effective than Church-supported abstinence. And this is not even to mention the psychological trauma experienced by abortive mothers, whose voices were not heeded in a 2008 AMA study that attempted to prove that killing an infant in the womb does not cause psychological harm to the mother.

See also the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops statement decrying the harm advanced by the offensive mandate in the Affordable Health Care Act. And see the recent article 18 Catholic colleges appeal parts of federal health care law mandate.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Parable of the Two Sons

The Parable of the Two Sons

28"What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, `Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' 29And he answered, `I will not'; but afterward he repented and went. 30And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, `I go, sir,' but did not go. 31Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. 32For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him. (Matthew 21: 28-32)
When I've thought of this parable in the past, I used to wonder why Jesus is critical of the chief priests and Pharisees to whom the parable was stated. After all, they give the right answer. The first son indeed was the one who did his father's will. With his lips he may have denied the master, but what counted was what he actually did. The second son was the adverse––his lips indicated obedience to the master, yet his actions did not.

Although the chief priests give the correct answer, Jesus still condemns them as lesser than "tax collectors and harlots." What made the tax collectors and harlots different than the chief priests was their reaction to the teaching of John the Baptist. Although they were sinners they paid heed and became followers of the "way of righteousness." The chief priest did not do this.
On this passage, the Navarre Bible Commentary states:
The scribes and Pharisees would not believe [John the Baptist], yet they boasted of their faithfulness to God's teaching. They were like the son who says "I will go" and then does not go.1
With their lips the chief priests and Pharisees speak of righteousness, but in their actions they remain obstinate and refuse to follow.

Verse 45 goes on to say: "When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them."

You see how in the chart, it's the last column that ultimately counts in Jesus' parable.

I submit that the parable ties in to James chapter 2:

19You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe -- and shudder. 20Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? 22You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, 23and the scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness"; and he was called the friend of God. 24You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:19-24)
James points out that the demons can recognize the glory of God. Yet, this kind of "belief" is no belief at all without what he calls "works." These "works," James says, are with faith like a body and spirit (v. 26) which when separated are "dead." To him, faith-works is thus a singular concept, just as a "body and spirit" make up a single person. It is this single concept that James says "justifies" a person.

Getting back to Matthew's Gospel, we see the same thing in the parable, especially when we understand Matthew's teaching on God's will. At the end of the parable, Jesus' question is simply to ask which son "did the will of his father?" This is a salvific idea in Matthew's Gospel which parallels James' later epistle:
"Not every one who says to me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)
You see in the above verse the same paraphrase as in the parable of the two sons: "he who does the will of my Father." True salvific faith is indivisibly entwined with "doing the will of the Father." Matthew 7:21 is an extension of the Parable of the Two Sons: one cannot merely take for granted that one has "faith" and therefore not worry about whether he has "works."

Thus, when Jesus criticized the chief priests, he was pointing out how they were less than tax collectors and harlots who actually did the will of the Father by following John the Baptist's lead in the "way of righteousness." The tax collectors and harlots could not have merely said, "We believe your message, John" unless they changed, followed, and acted on that message. They represented the first son who had not previously acknowledged the father's will, but turned from their way. The second son remained smug in his confession and did not follow through. And so the chief priests and Pharisees remained outside the will of the Father as did the second son.

1Navarre Bible Commentary: Matthew. Scepter Publishers, New York. 2005. p. 142-143.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Why did blood & water flow from Christ's side?

John 19:34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.
Like much of Scripture, the above Johannine verse is fraught with various levels of meaning. Why did blood and water flow from Christ's side? Below are a few meanings as derived from the Church's historical interpretations of the text.

To fulfill prophecyJohn offers an explanation in the immediate context of the verse. In verse 37, he writes: "And again another scripture says, 'They shall look on him whom they have pierced.'" This is a quotation from Zechariah 12:10, a lengthy verse which reads:
And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born. (Zechariah 12:10)
John is thus identifying Jesus as the prophesied one. He fits the characteristics of the Zechariah verse: He was pierced, He was from the lineage of David, and He was a firstborn, only child. Zechariah even went on a few verses later, describing the day that this man was pierced as the day
there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanliness." (Zech. 13:1)
John's description of the blood and water pouring out Christ's side remind us of the cleansing fountain that would be opened when the victim was pierced.

By identifying Christ as the anticipated Savior, John includes in his otherwise tragic account the good news that life in the form of freedom from sin had come.

To highlight his death/suffering
There is a literal, physical dimension to the idea of blood and water flowing from a dead man's side. Studious theologians and medical professionals alike have offered varying opinions. The Navarre Bible Commentary suggests the mixture of water with the blood could indicate "an accumulation of liquid in the lungs due to Jesus' intense sufferings."1 Understanding this can have tremendous theological depth. It also identifies Christ as the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. And it can help us cope with suffering if, even without full understanding, we see our leader and divine Savior innocently accept tremendous suffering.

Many physicians such as those at the Mayo Clinic posit that the water was the fluid located in the pericardial sac surrounding the heart:
Clearly, the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted and supports the traditional view that the spear, thrust between his right ribs, probably perforated not only the right lung but also the pericardium and heart and thereby ensured his death. (On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ by William D. Edwards, MD, et al)
A diagram of the pericardial wall, sac, and heart, shows a possible point of penetration into the heart that would result in an outpouring of blood and pericardial fluid that John described as water.

If the spear pierced through the outer pericardium wall and into the heart, then the watery fluid and blood could have poured out through the wound. It emphasizes the reality of Christ's death and His very humanity. The idea of the Resurrection was very important to the early Christian community. Paul specifically wrote: "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins." (1 Corinthians 15:17) Christ truly died and therefore those who saw Him walking about after that saw the Resurrected Christ.

John earlier quoted Jesus eluding to the very idea of the piercing of his heart with an outpouring of water: "He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, 'Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'" (John 7:38) John also sees in this outpouring prophecy a foreshadowing of the outpouring of the Spirit: "Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive." (7:39) And again in his epistle, he says that the blood and water give the same witness as the Spirit: "There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree." (1 John 5:8)

To signify the waters of Baptism
On John 19:34, St. Thomas Aquinas writes:
Another reason why this happened was to show that by the passion of Christ we acquire a complete cleansing from our sins and stains. We are cleansed from our sins by his blood, which is the price of our redemption: "You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things, such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot" (1 Pet 1:18). And we are cleansed from our stains by the water, which is the bath of our rebirth: "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses" (Ez 36:25); "On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness" (Zech 13:1). And so it is these two things which are especially associated with two sacraments: water with the sacrament of baptism, and blood with the Eucharist. (St. Thomas Aquinas, commenting on John 19)
You see how St. Thomas understands both blood and water as agents of cleanliness. Though he does not mention it in the immediate paragraph above, the idea of blood as a means of cleansing is very Biblical and very Johannine. For instance, John, who also wrote Revelation says: "[T]hey have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Revelation 7:14) and John again: "[T]he blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)

And of course, water reminds us of cleansing more obviously: "Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet." (John 13:5)

St. Thomas, writing in the 13th century, follows other Early Church Fathers on the baptismal (and Eucharistic) character of John 19:34. For example:
A suggestive word was made use of by the evangelist, in not saying pierced, or wounded His side, or anything else, but opened; that thereby, in a sense, the gate of life might be thrown open, from whence have flowed forth the sacraments of the Church, without which there is no entrance to the life which is the true life. That blood was shed for the remission of sins; that water it is that makes up the health-giving cup, and supplies at once the laver of baptism and water for drinking.2 (St. Augustine, Tractates on John 120.2, ca. 406 A.D.)

For there came forth water and blood. Not without a purpose, or by chance, did those founts come forth, but because by means of these two together the Church consists. And the initiated know it, being by water indeed regenerate, and nourished by the Blood and the Flesh. Hence the Mysteries take their beginning; that when you approach to that awful cup, you may so approach, as drinking from the very side. (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 85 on the Gospel of John, ca. 395 A.D.)
These understandings all reflect the confluence of revelation on the flow of water from Christ's side. Going back to the Zechariah prophecy, we are told of the fountain that would wash away sins. St. John Chrysostom speaks of the cleansing of sins as a regeneration. In concert with this understanding of the early Church, the theology of the Apostle Paul identifies regeneration with baptism:
Titus 3:5-6 he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.
The Greek term there translated as regeneration by the RSV-CE is paliggenesiav. Strong's Concordance defines this as a new birth, regeneration, or renewal. In Paul's understanding, a person is "born again" at baptism, for he says:
Romans 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
If we read Romans 6:4 and Titus 3:5-6 in light of our study of John 19:34, we see many parallels. Paul speaks of this washing "poured out" through Christ just as was the blood and water from the Cross. He also refers to our union with Christ's death at baptism. And we have studied how the outpouring of water from the Cross is signal of Christ's death. Thus, to receive the life-giving waters of baptism is to receive from Christ.

To signify the Eucharist
You see St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, and St. John Chysostom all reference the blood as a reference to the Eucharist. The most obvious tie-in to this comes from the Gospel accounts. For instance:
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:27-28)

And he said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many." (Mark 14:24)

And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood." (Luke 22:20)
Paul likewise recognizes the blood of Christ as that which is in the Eucharistic cup:
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16)
And incidentally, when a priest prepares the wine during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, he pours water into the cup as well reflecting the same mixture flowing from Christ's side! (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, #142)

To signify the birth of the ChurchThe idea that life and salvation poured out from Christ's side in the form of blood and water also communicates the birth of Christ's Church. This truth can be seen when we focus on the location of the outpouring––Christ's side.

In the Old Testament, life was often derived from the "side" of a type of Christ. For instance:
So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. (Genesis 2:21-22)
Paul teaches us explicitly that Adam is a type of Christ. (cf. Rom. 5:14) So you see the significance of the "sleeping man" (also an ancient figure of someone deceased, e.g. Matt. 27:52) whose side was opened, and how life came from it. From Adam's side came Eve. And from Christ's side came life for all the Church.

Another example is Noah's Ark.
Genesis 6:16 Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and set the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks.
The ark itself was a "vessel of salvation" from the flood. All the creatures and Noah's family entered and exited by this portal in the ark's "side." When we view the ark as a type of Christ, we can even more clearly see how the Church is availed of the true "vessel of salvation" by participating in Christ's side––which again is the blood and water representing the Eucharist and the Baptism.

The Apostle Peter explicitly ties the episode of Noah's ark to baptism:
1 Peter 3:20-21 God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
St. Thomas Aquinas identifies these same figures in Scripture. We see his identification of the Church in John 19:34 if we expand his earlier quote:
That blood was shed for the remission of sins; that water it is that makes up the health-giving cup, and supplies at once the laver of baptism and water for drinking. This was announced beforehand, when Noah was commanded to make a door in the side of the ark, Genesis 6:16 whereby the animals might enter which were not destined to perish in the flood, and by which the Church was prefigured. Because of this, the first woman was formed from the side of the man when asleep, Genesis 2:22 and was called Life, and the mother of all living. Genesis 3:20 Truly it pointed to a great good, prior to the great evil of the transgression (in the guise of one thus lying asleep). This second Adam bowed His head and fell asleep on the cross, that a spouse might be formed for Him from that which flowed from the sleeper's side.
And so we see that in death there is birth. Through John's mention of the "blood and water" we are able to understand so much of what was foretold, and how we, too, participate in Christ's death so that we might be "cleansed from sin."

1The Navarre Bible: St. John, Four Courts Press, Dublin; Scepter Publishers, New York, 2005, p. 190.
2The "laver of baptism" is more accurately a "bath" which is one of the "sacraments" Augustine describes here. A very literal translation of the Latin in the last sentence is: "He tempers (duly mingles) the cup with the saving water; this affords both a bath, and a drink."

Friday, August 26, 2011

The 2011 moral cases of Illinois & Indiana

In June, the state of Illinois officially legalized same-sex "civil unions." As a result, adoption and foster care agencies like Catholic Charities were told by the state they would lose all state funding unless they provided services such as adoption or foster care to same-sex couples.

The idea of a same-sex "civil union" is offensive to the moral beliefs of the Catholic Church. This is probably a far more complex issue into which the average person has ever delved. The Catholic Church considers the sexual faculties as a divinely given gift properly ordered in the context of a heterosexual marriage, with openness to procreation. Procreation itself is considered a divine privilege here on earth, a participation in God's "creative" capabilities. As Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand so adeptly said: "the spouses are collaborating with their Creator, in order to bring a new life into existence. This is a privilege not even granted to the angels; the importance and beauty of which needed to be recognized." And it is a rejection of the "complementarity" (CCC#2357) of the man and woman God created. Use of the gift beyond these privileges is seen as an affront to Him who bestowed the gift.

One could write books on the subject, but suffice it to say, the Church has earnest reasons for not facilitating the advancement of "same-sex couples." It may also be worth noting that Catholic Charities of Illinois provides a multitude of other services besides adoption, such as school counseling, private family and marriage counseling, physician referral services, crisis pregnancy care, long term care ombudsman services, and more.

Prior to 2011, Catholic Charities had been allowed to refer unmarried or gay couples to other agencies. And in the face of the new legislation, lawyers for Catholic Charities insisted they would maintain that action:
Pointing to a clause in the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act that [Catholic Charities] believe protects religious institutions that don't recognize civil unions, the agencies said they would refer those couples elsewhere and only license married couples and single parents living alone. (Chicago Tribune)
Long story short, Judge John Schmidt recently supported the state of Illinois' threat of deprivation of tax dollars to Catholic Charities on the grounds that "No citizen has a recognized legal right to a contract with the government." Schmidt did not address the issue of religious freedom. And the state maintained its refusal to honor the Church's offer to refer homosexual couples to other agencies.

So, in the face of the state's ultimatum, and considering itself without the funds needed to continue that ministry, Catholic Charities was in the position to either leave the business of adoption and foster care, or violate its own moral beliefs. They chose the former, and some 2,000 children in foster care are now the objects of shuffling.
Speaking of contracts, the state of Indiana has had its own moral issue this summer––abortion. Governor Mitch Daniels signed into law a bill (H.B. 1210) that states:
An agency of the state may not: (1) enter into a contract with; or (2) make a grant to; any entity that performs abortions or maintains or operates a facility where abortions are performed that involves the expenditure of state funds or federal funds administered by the state.
The entity most outraged by this is Planned Parenthood, which aborted some 5,580 babies last year in the state of Indiana. Defenders of PP say that they do not use Medicaid dollars to fund abortions. But according to the State of Indiana's Department of Health audit, PP's
financial statements provide no record that PPIN [Planned Parenthood of Indiana] makes any effort either to segregate Medicaid reimbursements from other unrestricted revenue sources or to allocate the costs of its various lines of business, whether abortion, family planning, cancer screenings, or other services. ... Medicaid, as a revenue line, is shown with other unrestricted sources of income ... This indicates that, while PPIN may not receive Medicaid reimbursements related directly to abortions (as federal and state laws generally prohibit), the Medicaid reimbursements it does receive for other services are pooled or commingled with other monies it receives and thus help pay for total operational costs.
In the middle of this whole issue, the Obama Administration has threatened to withdraw federal funding from the State of Indiana entirely unless it repeals the recent law. According to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services:
Federal law prohibits federal Medicaid dollars from being spent on abortion services. Medicaid does not allow states to stop beneficiaries from getting care they need — like cancer screenings and preventive care.
But if the State of Indiana's Department of Health audit is correct, Planned Parenthood has ultimately been using federal dollars to fund abortions.

The matter remains in the courts at this time.

In both the Illinois and Indiana cases, we see two moral issues on which the Church has been vocal: Same-Sex Couples and Abortion. In each case, there is a governmental party siding against the Church's view: The State of Illinois vs. Catholic Charities and The U.S. Government vs. the State of Indiana who seeks to remove federal dollars from entities that do abortions.

The other parallel seen here is the matter of contracts. In Illinois, the judge ruled that no one has the right to a contract. Had this principle been enforced in Indiana, Planned Parenthood may have found itself at a loss to remain in the abortion business just as Catholic Charities in Illinois considered itself forced to leave the adoption and foster care business.

The troubling thing about both of these stories is how there is a governmental party coercing another institution into committing an act that institution considers immoral. One need only read international news to learn that the government of China has forced women to have abortions in the name of their "one-child policy" begun in 1979. Unto today, Chinese officials are known to utilize violent measures against those who violate the one-child rule. I don't think it's a slippery slope to suggest that "immoral" mandates such as taxpayer funded abortions is a step down a scary road.