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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: THE LAST SUPPER

WHY WAS JESUS CHRIST TO BE ARRESTED AT NIGHT, RATHER THAN IN BROAD DAYLIGHT?

“It was Wednesday, the second day before the Feast of the Passover. The enemies of Jesus were anxious to defeat Him. Having failed to discredit Him, they were now determined to put Him to death. Even though Jesus Himself had refused to accept the role of a political Messias who would lead the people in revolt against the Roman authority, the Pharisees and Scribes were apprehensive that He might stir up such a revolt during the eight days of the Paschal Feast. If He did, then the wrath of Pilate, the Roman Procurator, would direct the power of the Roman soldiery against Jerusalem. To forestall this possibility, they felt, it was necessary to put Jesus to death. But they were also afraid of the people. Many of them had manifested a belief in Jesus. If Jesus was arrested publicly, the people might stir up such a tumult as would induce Pilate to act. How could they take Jesus by stealth?

STABBED IN THE BACK BY ONE OF HIS CLOSEST FRIENDS

Their problem was solved for them by the treachery of Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve Apostles. Each day, after teaching in the Temple, Jesus withdrew at night either to Bethany or to the Mount of Olives. Judas undertook to inform the enemies of His whereabouts, so that they might take Him secretly, without causing any public tumultuous demonstration.

WHAT WAS JUDAS’ REAL MOTIVE OF HIS BETRAYAL?

The action of Judas is the most infamous betrayal in all human history. The opinions of men on the character and action of Judas have varied with their attitude toward Jesus Himself. To some, who reject Jesus as the Messias of God, Judas appears as a follower of the Pharisees. The strength of the Pharisees’ opposition to Jesus finally convinced Judas that Jesus was a seducer of the people, a man who would lead the people away from true Judaism. In betraying Jesus Judas would be doing a service to the people and to God. The nobility and purity of this motive, however, are somewhat discoloured by the willingness of Judas to accept thirty pieces of silver to betray Jesus.

A REVOLUTIONARY?

Others would like to think that the betrayal was simply a stratagem adopted by Judas to force Jesus to manifest His power and inaugurate the political revolution which Judas desired. Since the Apostles, like the people generally, still looked for political liberation, the actions of Judas, in such a case, would be stripped of their sickening appearance. This is not, perhaps, impossible. But once again the avaricious spirit of Judas and his acceptance of money to betray His Master detract also from the sincerity of his motive.

NO DOUBTS ABOUT HIS PART IN THE EVENTS

On the other hand the one thing clear in the Gospel story is that Judas, who was avaricious, did accept money to betray Jesus. St Matthew states that it was Judas who first mentioned money, saying to the chief priests, ‘What are you willing to give me, and I will deliver him to you?’ (Matthew 26:15).

THE IMPORTANCE OF FREE WILL IN HISTORY

Probably, then, Judas was moved to his action both by disappointment at the refusal of Jesus to become a political Messias and by a love of money.
The fall of Judas is, however, a striking instance of God’s way of dealing with men and the importance of free will in history. God knows that Judas will betray his Master. Yet Jesus chooses Judas as one of the favoured twelve Apostles. This means that, at least at the beginning, Judas was a man of some good will. He could have served his Master faithfully. He could have overcome his own greed for money and power. Jesus, the Son of God, gave him the chance to achieve great spiritual glory. But neither Jesus nor His Father in heaven would force Judas to remain faithful. It was for Judas himself to impress upon history his own likeness as a man of great loyalty or a man of ignominious betrayal.

THE EMPTINESS OF HUMAN REBELLION AGAINST THE WILL OF GOD

The betrayal by Judas is also an instance of the emptiness of human rebellion against the will of God. It was not God’s will that Judas should be unfaithful. ‘Woe to that man by whom he will be betrayed’ (Luke 22:22). But yet, the betrayal will be used by God to accomplish His plan for the salvation of mankind. ‘For the Son of Man indeed goes his way, as it has been determined’ (Luke 22:22a).

WHY THURSDAY, NOT FRIDAY?

On the next day, Thursday, Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare for the celebration of the Paschal Feast at Jerusalem. From St John’s Gospel it would appear that the Sadducees were going to celebrate the Paschal Feast on Friday night that year. The intention of Jesus to celebrate it on Thursday night might be explained by the fact that Galileans, present at the feast, would celebrate it on Thursday in order not to defile the Sabbath, which would begin on Friday evening.

THE HISTORY

On Thursday evening Jesus and His disciples entered Jerusalem and went to the upper room of a house (probably the house of a friend of Jesus) to celebrate Passover. Now the Passover meal was a remembrance of the Exodus, God’s deliverance of the Chosen People from Egypt. It was therefore a joyous feast. The joy of the feast was symbolised by the drinking of four cups of wine and the eating of the Paschal lamb. The feast began with the blessing of the first cup of wine. After this bitter herbs were eaten after being dipped in a sauce composed of nuts, fruit and vinegar. The bitter herbs were a remembrance of the bitter oppression which the Chosen People suffered under the Egyptians. The unleavened bread eaten with the meal was a reminder of the haste with which the Jews had had to depart from Egypt; they had not time to bake leavened bread. The sacrifice of a lamb and the eating of it recalled that the blood of lambs, smeared on the door-posts, had caused the angel of death to ‘pass over’ the houses of the Israelites without bringing death to their firstborn, whereas it had passed through the houses of the Egyptians, bringing death to their firstborn. The entire feast celebrated then the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian oppression and from death.

PASSOVER CEREMONIES

After the eating of the herbs the Paschal lamb was brought to the table and the head of the family recalled to all the participants in the feast the deliverance of the Chosen People from Egypt. The second cup of wine was then drunk and the lamb was eaten. Then the third cup was drunk and an act of thanksgiving offered to God. This was followed by the drinking of the fourth cup and the singing of the Hallel, which was composed of Psalms CXIII, 8-18, CXIV-CXVII.

THIS WAS NOT SIMPLY AN ORDINARY PASSOVER MEAL

It was at such a Passover meal that Jesus ate with His Apostles for the last time before His death. Yet it was not simply an ordinary Paschal meal, for Jesus was soon to die for men and this last Passover of Jesus on earth was also the beginning of a new sacrifice which would replace the old Passover.

THE DEATH OF JESUS WILL INSTITUTE THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Jesus began the Passover by saying to the Apostles, ‘I have greatly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you that I will eat of it no more, until it has been fulfilled in the kingdom of God’ (Luke 22:15-16). Jesus alludes to His own coming suffering and death. The old Paschal sacrifice of a lamb heralded the deliverance of the Chosen People from slavery and death. The passion and death of Jesus will deliver the human race from the slavery of sin and eternal death. The death of Jesus will institute the Kingdom of God.

THE APOSTLES STILL LACKED UNDERSTANDING OF THE SPIRITUAL NATURE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Then Jesus blessed the first cup of wine and said to them, ‘Take this and share it among you; for I say to you that I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God comes’ (Luke 22:17-18). Once again Jesus refers to His own approaching death which will establish the Kingdom of God among men.

This reference to the Kingdom of God excited the Apostles and they began to dispute with one another as to which one would be greatest in the kingdom. To us who know the great solemnity of the moment it is somewhat surprising to find the Apostles disputing about so vainglorious a matter at this time. But the Apostles were still worldly-minded and lacking in understanding of the basically spiritual nature of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus at once moved to enlighten them. ‘The kings of the Gentiles,’ He said to them, ‘lord it over them, and they who exercise authority over them are called Benefactors. But not so with you. On the contrary, let him who is great among you become as the youngest, and him who is the chief as the servant. For which is the greater, he who reclines at table, or he who serves? Is it not he who reclines? But I am in your midst as he who serves. But you are they who have continued me in my trials’ (Luke 22:25-28).

THE MEANING OF THE WASHING OF THE FEET

Then Jesus rose from the supper table and girded Himself with a towel. He poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of His Apostles. Simon Peter at first refused to let Jesus do this for him. Jesus said to him. ‘What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter’ (John 13:7). Peter replied, ‘Thou shalt never wash my feet!’ Jesus answered, ‘If I do not wash thee, thou shalt have no part with me’ (John 13:8). Peter then allowed Jesus to wash his feet.

After Jesus had washed the feet of all the Apostles He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If, therefore, I the Lord and Master have washed your feet, you also ought to wash the feet of one another. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you also should do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed shall you be if you do them. I do not speak of you all. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled,

‘He who eats bread with me has lifted
up his heel against me.’

I tell you now before it comes to pass, that when it has come to pass you may believe that I am he. Amen, amen, I say to you, he who receives anyone I send, receives me; and he who receives me, receives him who sent me’ (John 13:12-20).

By washing the feet of the Apostles, Jesus, Who was the Lord and Master of the Apostles, sought to teach them the lesson of humility. What makes the lesson even more impressive is the fact that Jesus washed the feet of Judas Iscariot, even though He knew that Judas was about to betray Him.

WHO IS IT?

Then, while they were eating, Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me’ (Mark 14:18).

The Apostles began to wonder which one it might be. Peter asked John who it might be. John asked Jesus. Jesus replied to him, ‘It is he to whom I shall dip the bread, and give it to him’ (John 13:26).

Jesus then dipped bread and gave it to Judas. Then He said to Judas, ‘What thou dost, do quickly’ (John 13:27). Judas departed to betray Jesus. None of the others, except perhaps John and Peter, understood what was taking place. Some thought that Judas was going to execute some errand for Jesus.

‘THIS IS MY BODY’

After the departure of Judas the paschal lamb was brought to the table and the second cup of wine was served. Then Jesus took bread in His hands, blessed it, broke it and gave it to the Apostles, saying, ‘This is my body, which is being given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ Then He took a cup of wine, blessed it and gave it to them, saying, ‘All of you drink this; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins’ (Luke 22:19; Matthew 26:27-28).

AT THIS POINT JESUS HAD DEPARTED FROM THE USUAL PASSOVER CEREMONIAL

This was the most solemn act of the Last Supper. It was not simply a usual part of a Passover meal. At this point Jesus departed from the usual Passover ceremonial. Jesus had already promised to give His followers His own Body to eat and His own Blood to drink. Now He fulfils this promise. At His words bread really becomes His Body and wine really becomes His Blood. Moreover the Body and Blood which Jesus thus offers the Apostles are the Body and Blood which will be separated in death on the Cross at Calvary. This is the Body which shall be given for men and the Blood which shall be shed for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is offering His Body and Blood, His life as a sacrifice for the salvation of all mankind. In so doing He is making a new covenant, a new contract between men and God: ‘this is my blood of the new covenant.’ It was customary among the peoples of the Middle East to seal a covenant in blood. Jesus is now sealing a new covenant between God and man by His own Blood shed for the forgiveness of the sins of all men.

‘DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME’

In addition, this is not a rite to be performed just this once. Jesus intends that this sacrificial offering of His Blood shall continue until the final establishment of His kingdom at the end of time. ‘Do this in remembrance of me,’ He says. And St Paul tells us, ‘For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink this chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until he comes.’ St Paul referring, of course, to the second coming of Jesus at the end of time to judge all men and institute the eternal Kingdom of God.

THE NEW COVENANT

By telling the Apostles to repeat His own actions in turning bread into His Body and wine into His Blood and to offer this Body and Blood to God as a sacrifice, Jesus made the Apostles priests, empowered by Him to offer the sacrifice of His Body and Blood, and empowered to pass on this tremendous gift to those who would succeed them in the Kingdom of God on earth.

Jesus blesses, or consecrates, the bread and the wine separately. Thus He symbolises by this ritual and mystical separation of His Body and Blood the actual separation which will take place on the next day on the Cross. At this moment Jesus is, if we may so speak, beginning the inauguration of the new pact between God and men which will be sealed on Friday by the actual shedding of His Blood, the offering of His human life for the sins of men.

UNTIL THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS

But this Body and Blood, made mysteriously present under the appearances, the sign of bread and wine, made thus present by the words and the power of Jesus, are not only a sacrifice offered to God. They are also a sacrament, a sacred sign instituted by God to give grace to men. For the Body and Blood thus present under the sign of bread and wine are the Body and Blood of Jesus, the Son of God, the Author of Grace. This is what Jesus meant when He said, ‘He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me: and I in him’ (John 6:55-57).

‘HE THAT EATETH MY FLESH AND DRINKETH MY BLOOD ABIDETH IN ME AND I IN HIM’

Nor did Jesus, in instituting what we now call the Eucharist, the sacrament and sacrifice of His Body and Blood, cater to any gross cannibalistic understanding of His promise and His action. The eating of His flesh and the drinking of His Blood minister not to the grossly material nourishment of men’s flesh, but rather to the spiritual nourishment of their souls. By receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus His followers attain spiritual union with Him and, through Him, with His Father in heaven.

THE NEW COVENANT BETWEEN GOD AND MEN

In instituting the Eucharist Jesus had begun a new covenant between God and men. That covenant He was to seal on the next day with His Blood. Judas had already gone to make the arrangeements for His betrayal into the hands of His enemies. Jesus knew that the end of His earthly life was near. But He also knew that His apparent humiliation in death was to end in the triumph of His resurrection and ascension into Heaven. So He said to the Apostles, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and, as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so to you also I say it now’ (John 13:31-33).

THE FRUIT YOU WILL BE RECOGNISED BY

But before He ascends to heaven Jesus gives His Apostles a new commandment, a new rule of life, a rule which will enable men to recognise them as the disciples of Jesus: ‘A new commandment I give you, that you love one another: that as I have loved you, you also love one another. By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (John 13:34-35).

Because of His love for all men Jesus is about to shed His blood as a propitiation to God for the sins of men. As He Himself had said, no man can have greater love for a friend than to lay down his life for the friend. This is the love which Jesus now commands His followers to exercise toward all men. This all-embracing Christian love will be the distinguishing mark of the follower, the disciple of Jesus.

After giving this wonderful but difficult commandment of love the mind of Jesus turns in sorrow to the thought that His Apostles will fail Him in His hour of trial. ‘You will all be scandalised this night because of me,’ He said; ‘for it is written, ‘I will smite the shepherd, and the flock will be scattered’ (Matthew 26:31). Jesus applies to Himself the prophecy of the prophet Zacharias, ‘O sword… Strike the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered’ (Zacharias [Zechariah] 13:7).

But immediately He gives them a note of hope: ‘But after I have risen, I will go before you into Galilee’ (Matthew 26:32).

‘ALL SHALL BE SCANDALISED’

The Apostles, still not understanding that Jesus must die for the sins of men, and still trusting in His power, protest that they will not desert their Master. Peter is especially vehement in his protestation: ‘Even though all shall be scandalised because of thee, I will never be scandalised’ (Matthew 26:33). Jesus sadly rebuked him for his presumption, saying, ‘Amen I say to thee, this very night, before a cock crows, thou wilt deny me thrice’ (Matthew 26:34).

But Jesus also knows that Peter and the Apostles will repent their failure and will return to Him in faith. And so He says to Peter, ‘Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith may not fail; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, strengthen thy brethren’ (Luke 22:31-32).

JESUS PRAYED FOR PETER

Why Jesus chose as His Apostles men who would fail Him in His hour of trial is a question which only God can answer with certainty. What is clear to us in the Gospel story is that Jesus knew that the eleven Apostles would repent of their failure and be all the stronger for it. To make certain this turn of events He prays for Peter. He has already promised to make Peter the foundation stone of His Church. Now He prays that Peter, in spite of his failure in the crucial hour of Jesus, will retain his faith and so be able to strengthen the faith of the others. Because Jesus is the Son of God, the prayer will be heard. The faith of the Apostles will be steadfast because the faith of Peter will be firm.

Peter, even in the face of the warning of Jesus, was obdurate in protesting his courageous loyalty. ‘Even if I should have to die with thee, I will not deny thee’ (Matthew 26:35). The other Apostles joined with him in the same resolution.

DIFFICULTIES AHEAD

Jesus had tried to warn them of their own weakness. They would not listen. He tried once again. He reminded them that when He first sent them out to preach the coming of the Kingdom of God they had lacked nothing, they had been well received in the countryside. But now everything would be changed. He Himself would be regarded as a criminal. He referred to Himself the prophecy of Isaias [Isaiah], ‘And he was reckoned among the wicked.’ His followers would also be so regarded. Catering for the moment to their fiery Galilean spirit He said to them, ‘Let him who has no sword sell his tunic and buy one’ (Luke 22:36).

Jesus was not counselling His Apostles to spread the Kingdom of God by the sword. But He was trying to impress upon them the difficulty they would face in retaining their loyalty to and their faith in Himself.

The Apostles, however, took up the reference to a sword literally and bravely replied, ‘Lord, behold, here are two swords’ (Luke 22:38). What were two swords against the Temple guards or against the Roman might? But Jesus, knowing that His kingdom would grow by grace and faith and not by the sword, replied indulgently, ‘It is enough’ (Luke 22:38).”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: CITIZENS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

PREPARING THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

“In Galilee Jesus announced to the people that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. He invited them to repent of their sins that they might enter the kingdom. He insinuated that He was the Messiah by assuming the title ‘Son of Man,’ and by claiming to be the ‘Lord of the Sabbath.’ He also claimed the divine power to forgive the sins of men. He authenticated these claims by the miraculous cures He worked. The nature of His teaching and His claims and the miracles which accompanied them excited the admiration of the people. Some, such as Peter and Andrew, James, John and Nathanael, attached themselves to Him as disciples. But the Pharisees refused to accept Him or His claims and resolved to do away with Him.

THE CHOICE OF HIS TWELVE APOSTLES SHOWS JESUS CHRIST’S INTENTION OF EXTENDING AND BROADENING HIS WORK ON EARTH

Despite their opposition Jesus continued His work to establish the kingdom of heaven. Some time after the crystalisation of the opposition of the Pharisees to Him He took the first definitive measures to ensure the continuation and the extension of His work on earth. He went up a mountain and prayed to God. Then He summoned His disciples and from them He chose twelve Apostles to assist Him in His work. As St Mark says:

‘… he appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them forth to preach. To them he gave power to cure sicknesses and to cast out devils. There were Simon, to whom he gave the name Peter, and James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (these he surnamed Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); and Andrew, and Philip and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alpheus, and Thaddeus, and Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him’ (Mark 3:14-19).

The choice of the twelve Apostles is an important event in the Galilean ministry of Jesus. It shows, first of all, His intention to broaden the field of His work. He chooses them so that they also may preach the kingdom of heaven, and preach it in power, for He gives them the power to work miracles. They will bring His message and power to those to whom He Himself will not personally appear.

THE ROLE OF THE APOSTLES

Secondly, by choosing only twelve out of His followers, and by giving only to those twelve the power to preach the kingdom, Jesus Himself establishes a distinction of function and authority among His disciples. Some will be only His disciples; by their belief in Him and by their repentance they will enter the kingdom with Him and enjoy its blessings. But others – the twelve Apostles – will not only enter the kingdom with Him to enjoy its blessings, they will also share in His own power to establish the kingdom, to rule it, to preach its doctrines and to disperse its blessings.

Lastly, it is interesting to note that Jesus chose twelve Apostles. No doubt He chose twelve in remembrance of the fact that God’s blessings were promised to the twelve tribes of Israel. In this way He relates the founding of the kingdom of heaven to the original promises made by God to Israel.

THE BEAUTIFUL SERMON ON THE MOUNT

Shortly after the choice of the twelve Apostles Jesus ascended a mountain again and delivered to His disciples, and perhaps to some of the crowd that followed Him the beautiful Sermon on the Mount. The high moral and spiritual tone of this sermon has retained the admiration of all men down to the present time. It is well to remember though, that the sermon does not contain the whole message of Jesus. In it He does not, for example, speak of the nature of His Church nor of the doctrine of Redemption. These and other doctrines He will speak of later. In the Sermon on the Mount He is content to describe to His disciples the moral climate of the Kingdom of Heaven, its identity with and its perfecting the Old Law delivered to the world through Moses and the Prophets.

Jesus begins His sermon with the Beatitudes:

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:3-10).

THE SPIRITUAL ATTRIBUTES AND BLESSINGS OF THE MEMBERS OF THE KINGDOM

In these Beatitudes Jesus describes both the spiritual attributes of the members of the kingdom of heaven and the blessings which God gives them both in this present world and in the world to come, in this present time and in eternity. The members of the kingdom, the disciples of Christ, must be ‘poor in spirit,’ ‘meek,’ that is, they must be men who turn to God alone for relief from the woes of this world. They are men who mourn their sufferings, but who hope for consolation in union with the sufferings of the Messias. They are men who hunger and thirst for justice, that is, holiness. They are men who extend mercy to all, who live in union with God in purity of heart, who seek to bring peace to the troubled world of men, who suffer persecution for the sake of Christ, the Son of Man.

The men who possess these spiritual qualities will be members of the kingdom of heaven: ‘theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ They will inherit the Messianic blessings. To them will be given purity of heart, real holiness. In eternity they shall be called the children of God and they will see God face to face.

FALLEN MAN’S NATURE LEFT TO ITS OWN DEVICES TENDS TO SEEK SECURITY RATHER THAN HOLINESS

In the Beatitudes Jesus simply but strongly shows the contrast between the conception of life of fallen man and the new idea of life which He has come to realise in the kingdom of heaven.

Fallen man, betrayed by his own weaknesses and misled by the devil, tends to find security and happiness by relying on force and power. He puts his faith in wealth and domination, rather than in God. He seeks security rather than holiness. He chafes under poverty, distress or suffering. He will not forgive injuries or extend mercy to the erring. Insecure in such happiness as he may find, he is ever at odds with his neighbours. Afraid of pain and loss, he will compromise with truth and principle for the sake of comfort.

IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN MAN’S ESTIMATE OF VALUES IS CHANGED

But in the kingdom of heaven which Jesus is to establish, man, with God’s help, will change his estimate of values. He will no longer be so passionately, so desperately concerned with the pleasures, the wealth, the power of this world. He will raise his eyes on high and seek the holiness, the justice of God. To gain this great blessing he will rely not on his own strength but on the power and the love of God. Trusting in God he will hope for his own ultimate redemption. Buoyed up by this consoling hope he will accept his own sufferings, the penalty of sin, and will extend mercy and peace to his fellow sufferers in the general torment of mankind. Firm in this hope he will suffer persecution, even unto death of his mortal body, for the sake of attaining union with God in justice and holiness.

UNION WITH GOD IN JUSTICE AND HOLINESS

After the solemn announcement of the Beatitudes Jesus addresses His disciples more directly and tells them that they are the recipients of these blessings, and through them these same blessings will be given to the world.

‘You are the salt of the earth,’ He tells them. ‘You are the light of the world … so let your light shine before men in order that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5:13, 14, 16).

‘I HAVE NOT COME TO DESTROY, BUT TO FULFIL’

Following this admonition to the disciples Jesus goes on to explain the relation between the Law of His kingdom and the Old Law of Moses and the Prophets.

‘Do not think,’ He says, ‘that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For amen I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle shall be lost from the Law till all things have been accomplished’ (Matthew 5:17-18).

Since Jesus Himself in the rest of the sermon will make some changes in the Old Law, and since His Apostles will later abrogate many of the detailed and minute prescriptions of the Mosaic Law, this statement of Jesus is not easy to understand. Fortunately He Himself provides the clues to His real meaning.

A HIGHER PLANE OF MORALITY

In the first place, we notice that the changes which Jesus Himself institutes are not so much an abrogation of the Mosaic Law as they are an extension of it, or rather an elevation of it to a higher plane of morality. Thus Jesus tells His disciples that not only is murder wrong but even anger against or contempt for one’s fellow man.

CHARITY IS THE FOUNDATION

It is quite clear also that the foundation of the changes made by Jesus is love or charity.

‘You have heard,’ He says, ‘that it was said, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and shalt hate thy enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute you and calumniate you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, who makes his sun to rise on the good and the evil, and sends rain on the just and the unjust’ (Matthew 5:43, 45).

Men are to love one another as God loves them, loving both friends and enemies, both good and evil, the just and the unjust. In this way, men, as Jesus says to His disciples, ‘are to be perfect, even as (their) heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matthew 5:48).

WHAT IS THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE LAW OF MOSES AND THE LAW OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN?

The bond of continuity or identity between the Mosaic Law and the new Law of the kingdom of heaven is love, the love of God for men and the love of men for God and for their fellowmen in God. Jesus will say later that the two great commandments of the Old Law are the commands to love God and to love one’s neighbour, and He will explain that one’s neighbour is every fellow human being. Even here in the Sermon on the Mount He sums up the Old Law in the Golden Rule:

‘Therefore all things whatever you would that men should do to you, even so do you also to them; for this is the Law and the Prophets’ (Matthew 7:12).

And this Golden Rule is a law of love, for it commands men to love one another with the wholehearted love they give themselves.

When Jesus says, then, that He has not come to destroy the Mosaic Law but to fulfil it, He means that He will not revoke the essential meaning of that Law, the law of love. But He will fulfil it by extending the scope or the object of love and by deepening the quality of love. In His kingdom men must love God and all other men, and in this way Jesus makes all men the object of Christian love.

Moreover Jesus deepens the quality of love by insisting that it is concerned not only with external actions but also with the inner man, with the heart and the mind of man. So he castigates not only the actual adulterer, but even those who look with lust at another human being (Matthew 5:27-28).

IN THE KINGDOM THERE IS NO HUMAN PRAISE FOR PIETY – IT GOES WITHOUT SAY

Jesus also emphasises the purity of the love which He demands in His kingdom by contrasting the piety demanded of His disciples with the piety of the Pharisees. The Scribes and the Pharisees perform works of piety ostentatiously so that they may be well regarded by men. When they give alms to the poor, they call it to everyone’s attention. When they fast, they disfigure their faces and look gloomy so that all may know they are fasting. On the contrary the disciples of Jesus are not to parade their virtues before the crowd, nor to seek the praise of men for their piety. They are to do good for the sake of God alone, and God will give them their true reward. They are to pray often, for prayer is powerful. God will answer their prayers. They are not to judge others; judgement is reserved to God. Their love of God must be a real, an effective love; it must be a love which produces works of virtue. ‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father in heaven shall enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 7:21).

A TRUE INTERIOR LOVE

The primary message of the Sermon on the Mount is the message of love. Jesus accepts what His Father had revealed to mankind through Moses and the Prophets, the law of love. Men are to love not only their friends but also their enemies, not only their fellow countrymen but also all men.

The true child of God loves all men. And this love must be a true interior love, proceeding from the innermost heart of man, a love as strong as his love for himself. Moreover it must be a love patterned after God’s love for men, complete, sovereign and impartial. As such it will go far beyond the demands of the old Mosaic Law. It will rule not only the external actions of a man but also his innermost thoughts and desires. It will be a total, a dedicated love. In this present world it will be a disinterested love, seeking no present reward for men.

JESUS CHRIST’S MESSAGE IS STARTLING

When Jesus had finished preaching this message of love, this foundation of His kingdom, as St Matthew tells us, ‘the crowds were astonished at his teaching; for he was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their Scribes and Pharisees’ (Matthew 7:28).

It was clear to the crowd that had followed Jesus that there was something new and strange about the preaching of Jesus. Not only was His message new and startling but He had deliberately emphasised the difference between His preaching and the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees. The latter spoke as theologians, appealing to the authority of other theologians or to the authority of their ancient scriptures. But Jesus dared to speak in His own name and, in His own name, to make changes in the Pharisaic interpretations of the law.

Though the crowds did not fully realise it, Jesus was speaking to them as the Christ, the Messias, instituting the Kingdom of God. He spoke as the Lawgiver, establishing the new law of grace which would be the foundation of the Kingdom of God.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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“O PRECIOUS AND WONDERFUL BANQUET, THAT BRINGS US SALVATION AND CONTAINS ALL SWEETNESS!”

NO ONE CAN FULLY EXPRESS THE SWEETNESS OF THIS SACRAMENT…

“Since it was the will of God’s only-begotten Son that human beings should share in His Divinity, He assumed our nature in order that by becoming human He might make humans gods. Moreover, when He took our flesh He dedicated the whole of its substance to our salvation.

He offered His Body to God the Father on the altar of the cross as a sacrifice for our reconciliation. He shed His Blood for our ransom and purification, so that we might be redeemed from our wretched state of bondage and cleansed from all sin.

But to ensure that the memory of so great a gift would abide with us forever, He left His Body as food and His Blood as drink for the faithful to consume in the form of bread and wine. O precious and wonderful banquet, that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness! Could anything be of more intrinsic value? Under the old law it was the flesh of calves and goats that was offered, but here Christ Himself, the true God, is set before us as our food. What could be more wonderful than this?

NO OTHER SACRAMENT HAS GREATER HEALING POWER

No other Sacrament has greater healing power; through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift. It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead, so that what was instituted for the salvation of all may benefit all.

Yet, in the end, no one can fully express the sweetness of this Sacrament, in which spiritual delight is tasted at its source, and in which we renew the memory of that surpassing love for us which Christ revealed in His Passion.

It was to impress the vastness of this love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful that our Lord instituted this Sacrament at the Last Supper. As He was on the point of leaving the world to go to the Father, after celebrating the Passover with His disciples, He left it as a perpetual Memorial of His Passion.

It was the fulfilment of ancient figures and the greatest of all His miracles, while for those who were to experience the sorrow of His departure, it was destined to be a unique and abiding consolation.”
– St Thomas Aquinas

 

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THE HOLY MASS – THE GREATEST PRAYER

÷ ESSENCE OF THE MASS ÷

“At the Last Supper, our Saviour instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again.

Thus the Mass is:

• the TRUE SACRIFICE of the New Covenant, in which a holy and living Victim is offered, Jesus Christ, and we in union with Him, as a gift of love and obedience to the Father;

• a SACRED MEAL and SPIRITUAL BANQUET of the children of God;

• a PASCHAL MEAL, which evokes the passage (passover) of Jesus from this world to the Father; it renders Him present and makes Him live again in
souls, and anticipates our passage to the Kingdom of God;

• a COMMUNITARIAN MEAL, that is, a gathering together of the Head and His members, of Jesus and His Church, His Mystical Body, in order to carry out a perfect Divine worship.

Thus, the Mass is the greatest prayer we have. Through it we give thanks and praise to the Father for the wonderful future He has given us in His Son. We also ask forgiveness for our sins and beg the Father’s blessing upon us and all human beings.

÷ OUTLINE OF THE MASS ÷

INTRODUCTORY RITES

The Eucharist consists of the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist plus introductory and concluding rites. During the Introductory Rites acts of prayer and penitence prepare us to meet Christ as He comes in Word and Sacrament. We gather as a worshipping community to celebrate our unity with and in Him.

LITURGY OF THE WORD

The proclamation of God’s Word is always centred on Christ. Jesus is the Word of God Himself and the Author of Revelation. It is He Himself Who speaks to us when the Sacred Scriptures are liturgically proclaimed, and He calls for our positive response.

LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST

We enter now into the Eucharistic sacrifice itself, the Supper of the Lord. We are God’s new people, the redeemed brothers and sisters of Christ, gathered around His table.

PREPARATION OF THE GIFTS

We bring forward our gifts of bread and wine as well as our monetary offerings for the upkeep of the church building and the clergy, and the relief of the poor. These are but a symbol of our inner readiness to give God all of ourselves with our hopes and disappointments, our work and leisure, and our whole everyday lives.

EUCHARISTIC PRAYER

The Eucharistic service of praise and thanksgiving is the centre of the celebration. We join Christ in His sacrifice, celebrating His memorial and acknowledging the wonderful works of God in our lives. At the consecration of the bread and wine Christ’s words spoken through the priest accomplish what they signify: His Eucharistic Body and Blood, His Real Presence with all the riches of the Kingdom.

The people now praise Christ in the Memorial Acclamation. We celebrate the fact that Christ has redeemed us, is with us now to apply that Redemption to each of us, and will return in glory to perfect that Redemption for all.

COMMUNION RITE

The Communion Rite is the conclusion of the Mass. It is the part when God gives a gift to us after we have presented our gift to Him: Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Saviour of the world. We receive the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, that gives access to eternity.

CONCLUDING RITE

We have heard God’s Word and responded to it. We have received Christ’s Body and Blood and achieved greater union with Him and others. Now we leave to praise and bless the Lord in our daily lives.”

 

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