Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Jesus of Nazareth, Part Two, Chapter Two

The second chapter is more complicated than the first, but basically there are three points:

1) The Temple disappeared because it's purpose in salvation history was accomplished: Christ the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

2) The Jews will be with us until the time appointed by God.

3) Any talk of the end of the world is properly focused on Christ. Christian vigilance and fidelity to Christ under trial is the main concern here: the urgency of following Him in this life. This is the theme of the Holy Father's encyclical on hope Spe Salvi--that heaven is a Person, and is personal; insofar as we are with Christ we are in heaven, and insofar as we are not with Christ we are lost and indeed doomed to confusion and auto-destruction: Hell, here and hereafter.

The End of the Temple: Christ

"[T]he early Church's conviction [was] that long before its outward destruction, the era of the Temple in salvation history had come to an end--as Jesus had declared with his references to the 'deserted house' and the new Temple...Saint Paul taught that the belief that all sacrifices are fulfilled in the Cross of Jesus Christ, that in him the underlying intention of all sacrifices is accomplished, namely expiation, that Jesus in this way has taken the place of the Temple, that he himself is the new Temple..." p. 38 In Romans 3:23-25 he says "'Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith...'"

The word expiation comes from the Greek hilasterion with the Hebrew equivalent kapporet "designating the covering of the Ark of the Covenant. This is the place over which YHWH appears in a cloud, the place of the mysterious presence of God. This holy place is sprinkled with the blood of the bull killed as a sin-offering on the Day of Atonement--the Yom ha-Kippurim (cf. Lev 16), 'whose life is offered up to God in place of the life forfeited by sinful men'...The thinking here is that the blood of the victim, into which all human sins are absorbed, actually touches the Divinity and is thereby cleansed--and in the process, human beings, represented by the blood, are also purified through this contact with God: an astonishing idea both in its grandeur and its incompleteness, an idea that could not remain the last word in the history of religions or the last word in the faith of Israel." p.39

"When Paul applies the word hilasterion to Jesus, designating him as the seal of the Ark of the Covenant and thus as the locus of the presence of the living God, the entire Old Testament theology of worship (and with it all the theologies of worship in the history of religions) is 'preserved and surpassed' [aufgehoben] and raised to a completely new level. Jesus himself is the presence of the living God. God and man, God and the world, touch one another in him. The meaning of the ritual of the Day of Atonement is accomplished in him. In his self-offering on the Cross, Jesus, as it were, brings all the sin of the world deep within the love of God and wipes it away. Accepting the Cross, entering into fellowship with Christ, means entering the realm of transformation and expiation...The risen Lord is the new Temple, the real meeting place between God and man..." p.39

The End of the World:Christ

"...First, we must of course note the element that is genuinely new: the coming Son of Man, of whom Daniel had spoken (7:13-14), without being able to give him personal features, is now identical with the Son of Man addressing the disciples. The old apocalyptic text is given a personalist dimension: at its heart we now find the person of Jesus himself, who combines into one the lived present into the mysterious future. The real 'event' is the person in whom, despite the passage of time, the present truly remains. In this person the future is already here. When all is said and done, the future will not place us in any other situation than the one to which our encounter with Jesus has already brought us..." p.50

"This personalistic focus, this transformation of the apocalyptic visions--which still corresponds to the inner meaning of the Old Testament images--is the original element in Jesus' teaching about the end of the world: this is what it is all about." p.51

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Distinguishing Tendency and Act at the UN

Holy See Statement on "Sexual Orientation"

"Human Sexuality ... Is Not an 'Identity'"

GENEVA, MARCH 24, 2011 ( Here is the address Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, permanent representative of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, delivered Tuesday at the 16th Session of the Human Rights Council on "sexual orientation."

* * *

Mr. President,
The Holy See takes this opportunity to affirm the inherent dignity and worth of all human beings, and to condemn all violence that is targeted against people because of their sexual feelings and thoughts, or sexual behaviors.

We would also like to make several observations about the debates regarding "sexual orientation."

First, there has been some unnecessary confusion about the meaning of the term "sexual orientation," as found in resolutions and other texts adopted within the UN human rights system. The confusion is unnecessary because, in international law, a term must be interpreted in accordance with its ordinary meaning, unless the document has given it a different meaning.[1] The ordinary meaning of "sexual orientation" refers to feelings and thoughts, not to behavior.[2]

Second, for the purposes of human rights law, there is a critical difference between feelings and thoughts, on the one hand, and behavior, on the other. A state should never punish a person, or deprive a person of the enjoyment of any human right, based just on the person's feelings and thoughts, including sexual thoughts and feelings. But states can, and must, regulate behaviors, including various sexual behaviors. Throughout the world, there is a consensus between societies that certain kinds of sexual behaviors must be forbidden by law. Pedophilia and incest are two examples.

Third, the Holy See wishes to affirm its deeply held belief that human sexuality is a gift that is genuinely expressed in the complete and lifelong mutual devotion of a man and a woman in marriage. Human sexuality, like any voluntary activity, possesses a moral dimension: It is an activity which puts the individual will at the service of a finality; it is not an "identity." In other words, it comes from the action and not from the being, even though some tendencies or "sexual orientations" may have deep roots in the personality. Denying the moral dimension of sexuality leads to denying the freedom of the person in this matter, and undermines ultimately his/her ontological dignity. This belief about human nature is also shared by many other faith communities, and by other persons of conscience.

And finally, Mr. President, we wish to call attention to a disturbing trend in some of these social debates: People are being attacked for taking positions that do not support sexual behavior between people of the same sex. When they express their moral beliefs or beliefs about human nature, which may also be expressions of religious convictions, or state opinions about scientific claims, they are stigmatized, and worse -- they are vilified, and prosecuted. These attacks contradict the fundamental principles announced in three of the Council's resolutions of this session.[3] The truth is, these attacks are violations of fundamental human rights, and cannot be justified under any circumstances.

Thank you, Mr. President.


[1] Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties, Article 31(1): "A treaty shall be interpreted in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to the terms of the treaty in their context and in the light of its object and purpose" (emphasis added). Article 31(4): " A special meaning shall be given to a term if it is established that the parties so intended. " These rules of treaty interpretation are based on customary international law, and are applicable to "soft law."

[2] Moreover, many publications have given definitions of "sexual orientation," and all of the ones that we have seen are similar: they do not refer to behavior; they refer to sexual feelings and thoughts.

(1) "sexual orientation means the general attraction you feel towards" another person or persons. Equality Commission (The United Kingdom); See,, under "What does sexual orientation mean?

(2) "sexual orientation may be broadly defined as a preference for sexual partners …." International Labour Office, ABC of Women Workers' Rights and Gender Equality (2nd ed., 2007), p. 167). A "preference" is a mental-emotional state; it is not conduct.

(3) "sexual orientation refers to a person's sexual and emotional attraction to people …." Amnesty International, Crimes of Hate, Conspiracy of Silence (Amnesty International Publications, London, 2001), p. vii (emphasis omitted).

(4) "'Sexual orientation' refers to each person's capacity for profound emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations …." Asia Pacific Forum, ACJ Report: Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (15th Annual Meeting, Bali, 3-5 Aug. 2010), p. 8.

[3] L-10 on freedom of opinion and expression; L.14 on freedom of religion or belief; L. 38 on combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization.

Monday, March 28, 2011

New Life

Jesus of Nazareth, vol. 2 is filled with provocative thought on taking Christ seriously in the modern world, with the modern mind, perhaps especially for the Jew, for those Jews of our day who are sincerely searching for the truth. It seems to me that the Holy Father's purpose with this work is to take the perspective, perhaps especially, of his Jewish readers, and to honestly answer their legitimate questions, so that they may believe, so that we may all believe more, in the one true God.

He is focusing on, and being especially sensitive to, the legitimate sensibilities of the Jewish people. In the introduction (p. xvi) he explicitly states that this is not just another presentation of the life of Christ.

He says that he is attempting to do what Saint Thomas Aquinas did in his treatise on the mysteries of the life of Jesus in the Summa Theologiae (S. Th. III, qq. 27-59), in a different historical and spiritual context, and therefore with a different inner objective which determines the structure of the text in essential ways: viz., trying to appeal to the modern disbelief. Pope Benedict uses the Enlightenment mentality with the Historical Critical Method to prove the truth of God, Jesus Christ, the Gospels and salvation. Saint Thomas Aquinas appropriated aristotelianism and answered the Islamic interpretations of Christ and of Aristotle. Pope Benedict is appropriating all of the post-enlightenment scientific rigor while answering the present day interpretations of Christ, which are most characteristically beset with woeful ignorance. So, in the process, he is educating the Jews on the deep and unadulterated meaning of Judaism, which many have perhaps forgotten. A Jew who does not know what the scripture says about Judaism cannot know anything about the coming of the Messiah, and, therefore, of the truth of God.

One of the Pope's numerous insights, which, since I read it a couple of days ago, has given me renewed evangelical enthusism and a largely different perspective, is his definition of eternal life. "'Eternal life' is life itself, real life, which can also be lived in the present age and is no longer challenged by physical death. This is the point: to seize "life" here and now, real life that can no longer be destroyed by anything or anyone...[A] distinguishing feature of the disciple of Jesus is the fact that he 'lives': beyond the mere fact of existing, he has found and embraced the real life that everyone is seeking. On the basis of such texts, the early Christians called themselves simply 'the living' (hoi zontes). They had found what all are seeking--life itself, full and, hence, indestructible life." p. 83

That idea is also present throughout the Old Testament. For example, the last verses of the book of Tobias (Douay Version) says: "[Tobias--the younger] saw his children's children to the fifth generation. And after he had lived ninety-nine years in the fear of the Lord, with joy they buried him. And all his kindred, and all his generations continued in good life, and in holy conversation, so that they were acceptable both to God, and to men, and to all that dwelt in the land."

Life on earth should not, shall not, be drudgery for those who live the new life of God, viz. the life of Christ. Everything is a joy when you live for Him, even death! That is eternal life, that my life should depend on nothing except on the love of the one true God, my communion with Him in all things, starting in this life!!!...and, later, passing joyfully to the life hereafter, at His good will.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Prince of Peace

That is my title for the first chapter of Pope Benedict's newly published book Jesus of Nazareth, Volume 2 (Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection), with my summary of the content below. The Holy Father's title of that first chapter is "The Entrance into Jerusalem and the Cleansing of the Temple"

Christ enters regally into Jerusalem and "cleanses the temple" not in violent revolution but peaceably. Because "[v]iolence does not build up the kingdom of God, the kingdom of humanity. On the contrary, it is a favorite instrument of the Antichrist, however idealistic its religious motivation may be. It serves, not humanity, but inhumanity...The cruel consequences of religiously motivated violence are only too evident to all." p.15

His fundamental purpose in cleansing the temple is to open a space for God in the world by "...remov[ing] whatever obstacles there may be to the common recognition and worship of God..." p.18 And He does that "...with the 'zeal' of self-giving love." p.22 His numerous Temple healings show "...the true cleansing of the Temple...Jesus brings his healing goodness...Jesus does not come as a destroyer." p.23

Jesus never killed anyone, nor encouraged the harming or killing of anyone, and healed everyone who came to Him for healing. "He reveals God as the one who loves and his power as the power of love." p.23 "The 'zeal' that would serve God through violence He transformed into the zeal of the Cross." p.22

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Two Wings of Prayer

Prayer has two wings. One is fasting and the other is alms.

" a privileged time for prayer. St. Augustine says that fasting and almsgiving are 'the two wings of prayer,' which give it greater impulse to reach God. He states: 'In this way our prayer, made with humility and charity, in fasting and almsgiving, in temperance and the forgiveness of offenses, giving good things and not returning bad things, removing ourselves from evil and doing good, seeks peace and obtains it. With the wings of these virtues our prayer flies safely and is taken with greater certainty to heaven, where Christ, our peace, has preceded us' (Sermon 206, 3 on Lent: PL 38, 1042). "

(Quote from Pope Benedict XVI Ash Wednesday General Audience 9 March 2011)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

El Sol de Buenos Aires

On my recent visit to Buenos Aires I happily noticed the ubiquitous town seal with the Holy Spirit hovering above with the brilliance of the Sun. Would that Argentina should be bathed once again by the light of the Holy Spirit and prosper in the light of it's foundational Catholic faith, in the light of Christ with the guidance of the Pope.
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