by Fr. Pablo Sarto | Homiletic & Pastoral Review
It is only when we exercise obedience and the expression of our own personality at the same time that we have real faith. Faith is born from the union of the two freedoms: God’s and ours.
In his Introduction to Christianity, written while he was living in a revolutionary Tübingen, Professor Ratzinger examined the problem of faith in contemporary society. He was writing in the famous year of 1968, surrounded by the student riots, and in a context of polemic and skepticism that is almost ancient history today. The three Ms—Mao, Marx, and Marcuse—were put up against Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and Barth, names that were already gathering rust. The question addressed in the book was how to understand faith in that turbulent world. Ratzinger turned to a story once told by Kierkegaard: “A traveling circus in Denmark had caught fire”—related Ratzinger, in front of a numerous public—“The manager thereupon sent the clown, who was already dressed and made-up for the performance, into the neighboring village to fetch help. … The clown hurried into the village and requested the inhabitants to come as quickly as possible to the blazing circus and help to put the fire out. But the villagers took the clown’s shouts simply for an excellent piece of advertising, meant to attract as many people as possible to the performance; they applauded the clown and laughed till they cried.” 1
They applauded and laughed: belief can be expressed as an attitude, a wager, a risk. The professor of Tübingen puts this in existential terms, realizing that Christian belief reveals how the deepest essence of the human person cannot be nourished simply by the sensible and tangible, but longs to go deeper. 2 In spite of the inevitable doubt that can assail us, faith reveals itself in the invisible, he says. Ratzinger continues along these lines: we can arrive at this attitude through what the Bible calls “reversal,” “con-version.” A person needs to change in order to become conscious that he is blind when he believes only in what he can see with his own eyes. Faith always has something to do with breaking free and leaping. “It has always been a decision calling on the depths of existence, a decision that in every age demanded a turnabout by man that can only be achieved by an effort of will.” 3 On the other hand, this faith cannot be understood alone: Ratzinger has always been eager to examine the relationship between the gifts of charity and of faith, between the beauty of faith and the exercise of human reason. 4 We shall see this in the words that follow.
Faith is not a leap in the dark, but the believer will have the impression—which also carries potential risks—that he can walk over firm land.
The Pope Emeritus and the Questioning Atheist | Fr. James V. Schall, SJ | CWR
A recently released letter by Benedict XVI confronts and challenges several faulty premises of militant atheism
“Distinguished Professor, my critique of your book [Dear Pope, I’m Writing to You (2011)], is, in part, tough. However, frankness is a part of dialogue. Only thus can knowledge grow. You have been very frank and so you will accept that I am, too. In any case, however, I consider it very positive that you, in confronting my Introduction to Christianity, have sought such an open dialogue with the faith of the Catholic Church and that, despite its contrasts, at the centre of it all, convergences are not completely lacking.
— Benedict XVI, “Letter to an Atheist” (National Catholic Register, November 26, 2013)
In September, the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, published a letter of Pope Benedict to Professor Piergiorgio Odifreddi. The whole of this letter was finally published in English in the National Catholic Register on November 27. In 2011, Odifreddi had published a book in the form of an open letter to the Pope about his understanding of the Pope’s position on various basic issues. Obviously, it took some time for Benedict to get around to reading and responding to this critique of his work and thought. Evidently, after his retirement, Benedict found time to read and respond to Odifreddi’s comments.
The whole issue follows the format that we have become used to, even with Pope Francis. The atheist professor analyzes religion, particularly Catholicism, from the viewpoint of modern philosophy or science. He finds it wanting on fundamental points. The three-page response by the Pope Emeritus is divided into six parts; pages of Odifreddi’s or Benedict’s books are cited in the text. Both authors are aware that this discussion between them is now public. The books are published. All that is lacking is a response of Pope Ratzinger himself. Evidently, he thought the book of sufficient gravity to merit attention, though the Pope says that he is not up to a more thorough analysis than he provides in his letter.
One cannot help, initially, to remark on the presence and use of the principle of contradiction, the basic intellectual tool or principle, in the argumentation. Benedict thanks Odifreddi for the “faithful manner in which you dealt with my text, earnestly seeing to do it justice.” However, he begins by remarking, “I marvel that you interpret my choices to go beyond the perception of the senses in order to perceive reality in its grandeur as an ‘explicit denial of the principle of reality’ or as ‘mystical psychosis.’” The reason Benedict “marvels” at this basic position (that what is beyond the senses is, in Odifreddi’s words, a denial of the principle of reality) is that Odifreddi himself has said the same thing. The professor had stated that the methods of natural sciences “transcend the limitations of the human senses.” Benedict was saying the same thing, that is, reality is more than what is given or known by our senses, though our senses are in reality, in what is.
Odifreddi had remarked that “mathematics has a deep affinity with religion.” He added that “true religiosity today is to be found more in science than in philosophy.” This view, Benedict quickly points out, “is certainly open to discussion.” Not so fast, in other words. Odifreddi had presented his view as “true religiosity”; he then goes on to state that this “true religiosity” has to renounce an “anthropomorphism,” a God understood as a person. Rationality would be higher. Odifreddi concluded, “drastically,” as Benedict describes it, that “math and science are the only true religion. The rest is superstition.” This is clearly a rationalist position and an implicit denial of the basic Christian understanding of Logos, of reason. It does not come to grips with rationalism’s own need to be grounded in real being.
How does Benedict deal with this view?
by Carl E. Olson | Catholic World Report | Editorial
When the language of American politics is used to define Catholic belief and practice, the result is confusion, discord, and ideological obfuscation
“Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, a leading conservative in the Roman Catholic hierarchy, defended himself Tuesday against perceptions that he is hostile to the more liberal inclusiveness of Pope Francis.” — “Chaput to Catholics: Don't use Francis to 'further own agendas'” by David O'Reilly (Philly.com; Nov. 13, 2013)
“Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. 'Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.'” — Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 2089 (quoting from Code of Canon Law, 751)
“...” — Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) on the terms “liberal” and “conservative”
I have a dream. In it, a man dressed in strange clothing stands in front of the courthouse in downtown Eugene, Oregon, just a ten minute drive from my home. He begins to preach. He speaks of Jesus Christ, of God, of the Church, of the need for salvation. At one point he quotes another author, saying, “Anyone who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil. When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil, a demonic worldliness.” He speaks of the Cross. The small crowd gathered before him snicker; there is some hissing.
Then the man calmly states, “ Every unborn child, condemned unjustly to being aborted, has the face of the Lord, who before being born, and then when he was just born, experienced the rejection of the world.” Someone shouts, “You're a fanatic, old man! Go home!” The man smiles, unswayed. He concludes by remarking on the power of baptism: “The Church teaches us to confess our sins with humility, because only in forgiveness, received and given, do our restless hearts find peace and joy.” A woman sneers, “Take your talk of sin somewhere else, you fundamentalist!” Someone else mutters, “Yeah, that's what the world needs—more conservative Christian ideology.”
Yes, it's just a dream. But if you know anything about Eugene, Oregon—or other university towns with the same hip, enlightened, progressive, educated citizenry—you know it's not far from reality.
The strange thing is that when this man gets up in front of crowds of tens of thousands in St. Peter's Square and says the same things, he is described by many as “liberal”. In fact, arguments and debate over whether or not Francis is a “liberal” have been both common and heated in recent months. Many in the American media, however, have already made up their minds: yes, the new pope is “liberal”, and that supposed fact is a big problem for those “conservative” bishops who keep harping about fringe issues such as the killing of the unborn, sexual immorality, the familial foundations of society, and the need to evangelize.
Fabricated Conflicts, Lacking Contexts
The quote above, about Francis and Abp. Chaput, is a good example. Chaput, readers are informed, is “a leading conservative in the Roman Catholic hierarchy” who is, in some form or fashion, in conflict with “the more liberal inclusiveness of Pope Francis.” Is it because Pope Francis is for abortion, “same-sex marriage,” co-habitation, and contraceptives? Is it because Chaput is against higher taxes, is for building more fences on the U.S.-Mexican border, and thinks the term “social justice” should be banished from use in the Catholic Church? Is it because the two have been sending out tweets blasting the other as “extremist”, “right-wing”, and “leftist”?
by Fr. James V. Schall, SJ | Catholic World Report
A world of automatic salvation would not be worth creating or worthy of God
“God, who is justice and truth, does not judge by appearances.”
— Antiphon #3, Daytime Prayer, Wednesday, Week III, Roman Breviary.
“But you, God of mercy and compassion, / slow to anger, O Lord, / abounding in love and truth, / turn and take pity on me.”
— Psalm 86.
“Clemency, though she is invoked by those who deserve punishment, is respected by innocent people as well. Next, she can exist in the person of the innocent, because sometimes misfortune takes the place of crime; indeed, clemency not only succors the innocent, but often the virtuous, since in the course of time it happens that men are punished for acts that deserve pardon. Besides this, there is a large part of mankind which might return to virtue, if the hope of pardon were not denied them.”
— Seneca, “On Clemency,” I, 2.
The philosopher Plato was worried about whether or not the world was created in justice, since it did not seem to be. For in it, the innocent were often punished but many of the guilty went away untouched. While tyrants died in their beds, heroes languished in prison. Pope Benedict XVI held that the best chance of our seeing the good and necessity of the resurrection was through the logic of the virtue of justice. The actual persons who committed the crimes or who did the virtuous act had to be judged and properly punished or rewarded. Otherwise, no real and ultimate justice could take place. Without the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body, the world is created in injustice.
Aquinas too asked whether the world was created in justice. He said that it was created in mercy, not justice. Machiavelli, however, held that if we were merely just, we would be destroyed by the unjust. Thus, it was necessary also to be wicked at times, lest we perish. In C. S. Lewis’ novel, Till We Have Face, the Greek philosopher is asked, “Then the world is not created in justice?” He replies, “Thank God that it is not.” Finally, one of the first and most celebrated remarks of Pope Francis was: “The truth is that I am a sinner whom the mercy of God has loved in a special way.” If there are sinners in the world, they have no hope without there also being mercy, not merely justice.
Christianity professes to be a revelation of God’s love, the full dimensions of which are incomprehensible to us because of the limited nature of our being. We are finite beings who are created good but are not gods. However, Christianity affirms that things can be figured out by human reason since we depend on them and acknowledge them as true. We can know what is true. We know it when we affirm in our minds what is actually there in reality. Through our minds, we have a real connection with what is. The truths about the inner life of God and our relation to it are beyond the power of our reason, though not contradictory to it. We can think on them when we come to know them. In thinking of them, we learn to think better than when we only think of natural and human things.
Christianity purports to be grounded in the truth, the whole truth, not just that part of truth naturally open to human reason. It acknowledges that all truth fits together in a consistent order. It conceives that the purpose of the mind is to know this order. But can a society without justice or mercy be a society of truth?
Now available from Ignatius Press:
by Ignacio Carbajosa
This book is a response to a desire expressed by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (the future Pope Benedict XVI) who called for a diachronic study of the results of the historical-critical method. The study of the last 150-200 years of biblical research shows how the claim to scientific rigor made in many works, that is, the claim to have obtained results comparable in their certainty to those of the natural sciences, is clearly unrealistic.
This is a comprehensive analysis of the results of almost two centuries of the historical-critical method in two areas: the investigation into the sources of the Pentateuch and the study of the figure of the prophet. It reveals the philosophical and cultural presuppositions which influenced the development of exegesis and it's most notable hypotheses, demonstrating the world of prejudices which frequently have conditioned the exegesis called "scientific".
It also engages the characteristic dimensions of the Catholic interpretation of the Old Testament, attempting to unify the two basic dimensions of the exegetical method: history and theology. Overcoming the disconnect between "scientific" exegesis and "believing" theology is one of the great contemporary challenges to the intellectus fidei. This dualism cannot be overcome simply by a call to greater devotion or the generous intention of adding pious commentary to an exegesis which has not, from the beginning, been based on faith.
This book provides a positive contribution to the hermeneutical problem at the heart of current exegetical debate, the status of exegesis, addressing such questions as: Does exegesis have a theological character? Should it have one? If it does have one, would it not then lose its scientific character? Thus one arrives at the main question: how can one conceive of an exegesis that is at the same time critical and theological? How can faith be the foundation of exegesis from the beginning? Could Faith really be the "Fount of Exegesis"?
Ignacio Carbajosa, Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from the Pontifical Biblical Institute, is a Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at the San Dámaso University in Madrid. He is the editor in chief of the journal Estudios Bíblicos, a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, and author of numerous books on Scripture including The Character of the Syriac Version of Psalms and A Scribe in the King's Court: Read the Old Testament from Christ.
A Scriptural Reflection on the Readings for Sunday, November 10, 2013 | Carl E. Olson
• 2 Mc 7:1-2, 9-14
• Ps 17:1, 5-6, 8, 15
• 2 Thes 2:16-3:5
• Lk 20:27-38
“Let us put it very simply: man needs God, otherwise he remains without hope.” That statement by Benedict XVI, made in his 2007 encyclical, Spe Salvi (“Saved In Hope”), serves well as a prologue to today’s readings. Each has something to say about the virtue of hope, which is, the Holy Father notes, closely intertwined with the virtue of faith, “so much so that in several passages the words ‘faith’ and ‘hope’ seem interchangeable.”
Both 1 and 2 Maccabees describe the Jewish struggle against the political domination and religious suppression inflicted, first, by the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt and, later, by the Seleucid dynasty of Syria. The story from 2 Maccabees of the seven brothers took place sometime in the early to mid-second century B.C. The story demonstrates, rather dramatically, that some just Israelites would rather die than renounce or “transgress the laws of our ancestors.” This resolve was based in their belief that “the King of the world”—that is, God—“will raise us up to live again forever.” One of the brothers spoke directly and passionately about his hope of “being raised up by him”, while flatly declaring that his oppressors would not experience resurrection from death to life.
The passage’s description of martyrdom and the Jewish belief in a future resurrection of God’s faithful ones, provides some helpful context for Jesus’ teachings about the afterlife. The Sadducees were an influential group that arose within Palestinian Judaism around the time recorded in 2 Maccabees. During Jesus’ earthly life, the high priest and the temple authorities were Sadducees (Acts 4:1; 5:17). They were distinguished by a staunch, even radical, adherence to the laws of Moses alone; they believed the Torah did not allow for or teach the resurrection from the dead, a belief held by the Pharisees.
The Sadducees presented a dilemma to Jesus based on the levirate law (Deut. 25:5), which stated that if a married man died childless, his brother was obligated to marry his widow. Jesus pointed out there is no marriage in the afterlife because there is no death or procreation in that state. He then went to the heart of the matter, which had to do with God’s nature. Having called out to Moses from the burning bush, God declared: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” pointed out that those men “all are alive” to God, for he is the source and realization of an eternal hope.
The Bible is the story of God calling man out of sin and to his eternal home. Throughout the Old Testament there is a growing awareness of a hope for the Kingdom of God and an eternal, perfect covenant to be established by the Messiah. While always rooted in dependence upon God and His promises, that hope often focused on material prosperity and freedom from oppression. This hope was strongly connected to wisdom, which is a trusting knowledge of God’s goodness and faithfulness. “Know that wisdom is such to your soul,” wrote the author of Proverbs, “if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off” (Prov. 24:14). There was a gradual realization of an afterlife beyond the earthly realm. “Hope in the bodily resurrection of the dead established itself as a consequence intrinsic to faith in God as creator of the whole man, soul and body” (CCC, 992).
Hope is central to the Christian life. It is also distinctive, a mark of the uniqueness of the Christian view of life, death, and history. The Church has always taught that if death was not and cannot be conquered, there is no hope. And if there is no hope beyond this temporal realm, there is no meaningful life in this world. Any vision of life that ignores the reality of mortality cannot be a source of authentic hope, for such hope is a grace and a source of everlasting encouragement.
(This "Opening the Word" column originally appeared in the November 7, 2010, issue of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)
A Christian Way of Being Present in the Digital World | Michael J. Miller | Catholic World Report
A new (and free) e-book compiles messages by Pope Benedict XVI about social communications
When Pope Benedict XVI opened a Twitter account in December 2012, it was not a publicity stunt but rather the logical development of Vatican involvement in the communications media that began with the founding of L’Osservatore Romano in the nineteenth and Vatican Radio in the twentieth century. The Second Vatican Council issued a brief Decree on the Means of Social Communication (Inter mirifica) at the conclusion of its second session in 1963, declaring that “it is the Church’s birthright to use and own any of these media which are necessary or useful for the formation of Christians and for pastoral activity” (IM 3).
The intense multi-media coverage of the Council itself seemed to herald a new era of Catholic presence in the public forum. Televised papal Masses—whether at midnight on Christmas, on pastoral journeys or at World Youth Days—became a regular feature in the life of the Church and in her outreach to the modern world. The Vatican’s website www.vatican.va and its recently consolidated news portal www.news.va are invaluable online resources.
In September 2013 the Pontifical Council for Social Communications expanded this development in yet another direction by publishing in e-book format a collection of the World Communications Day messages by Pope Benedict XVI. These annual messages are all dated January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists, but were promulgated later in the year during the Easter season. Pope Benedict composed eight of them for the years 2006-2013 inclusive to offer his “reflection on some aspect of communication with a view to both promoting public discussion and providing some guidelines for the Church’s own engagement in this constitutive dimension of its mission” (from the Introduction by Abp. Claudio Maria Celli, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications). The e-book is free and can be downloaded from the Vatican website.
Some of the messages have themes geared to other Church events, such as the Year of the Priest (2010) or World Youth Days.
Toward a More Human State
of Economics | Br. Gabriel Torretta, OP | Catholic World Report
Maciej Zięba's book, Papal Economics, offers the right questions (and some good answers) about Catholic social thought
When Pope Francis was first elected on March 13 of this year, some of the early media reports about the largely unknown Argentine cardinal painted a dire portrait of a man with shadowy connections to a military dictatorship, a man whom rumor described as conspicuously silent during the government-sponsored murder of priests preaching liberation theology. But in recent days, in the wake of the compelling interviews with America and La Reppublica, many of these same voices have discovered a new Pope Francis, one who is tolerant, open-minded, anti-establishment, and perhaps even supportive of some forms of the liberation theology he was once accused of persecuting.
Readers of papal encyclicals on politics and economics, broadly called Catholic social thought, often walk away with a similarly double image: commentators on John XXIII’s Mater et Magistra, John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus, and Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate have claimed and counter-claimed each document as a certain and final victory for democratic capitalism or state-run socialism, depending on the commentator’s predilections.
Asking the Right Questions
All too often, questions about the Church’s politics end up like the trompe-l’oeil images that vex freshman philosophy students. Is it a duck or a rabbit? An old lady or a young girl? Is Pope Francis a fascist or a Marxist? Is Catholic social thought capitalist or socialist? Is it all in the eye of the beholder?
These questions do not have a satisfying answer because they are the wrong questions.
by John Herried | IPNovels.com
We sit down with the author of the new Ignatius novel Ceremony of Innocence, Dorothy Cummings McLean. A Canadian writer living abroad, she has been a regular contributor to The Catholic Register (Toronto). Her first book, Seraphic Singles, is a popular work of nonfiction. Until Wednesday, Ceremony of Innocence is also featured in our novel sale.
Ceremony of Innocence owes a debt to Graham Greene’s The Quiet American. Did Greene’s novel inspire you to write yours?
My novel is both a tribute and a parody to Greene’s novel. It’s a tribute to Greene’s amazing gifts as a storyteller and a parody of “Greeneland” in that it turns various elements of The Quiet American on their heads.
You have lived in Europe for many years. How have your experiences informed the story?
I didn’t move to Europe until after I had written the novel. However, the themes and setting of the novel spring from the summer I studied in Germany. I spent most of my time in Frankfurt-am-Main. I loved this city. It was energetic, cosmopolitan, and strangely beautiful. While I was writing, I would trace my characters’ peregrinations along a Frankfurt city map.
It was a lucky summer to be in Frankfurt because Germany was hosting the FIFA World Cup, and the German team exceeded all expectations. Suddenly it was as if the Germans had decided to be proud of Germany. Normally the Germans around me, even 22-year-old seminarians, acted as if Germany had the mark of Cain on its collective forehead. They complained about Germany endlessly, but heaven help you if you agreed. I was careful never to mention the last war—but they all did. My German friends call the Hitler years the national trauma.
The summer was lucky in other ways. While I was there, news broke that a gang of young Islamists had been arrested for planning terrorist attacks in my hometown of Toronto. I was beside myself with rage but also deeply thankful no one had been hurt. And a month later, news broke that two young Islamists had been arrested for planting bombs on trains leaving Cologne. The bombs had been left two days after I had visited Cologne—by train. They were foreign students and, as a fellow foreign student, I was disgusted.
In Joseph Ratzinger’s (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) book A Turning Point for Europe? he declares that the term “fundamentalist”, primarily associated with American Protestantism, does not really apply to current Islamist radicals, instead pointing to a fusion of Marxist and Islamic theories of liberation as being the undercurrent driving Islamist terrorism. So, despite being used as a weapon against the West, this form of terrorism has some roots in Western ideologies. Does this attraction to a kind of Marxist “liberation” play a part in the plot? Does it explain why a Westerner might be attracted to Islamist radicalism?
I think Westerners are attracted to Islamist radicalism because, to be blunt, they think it is sexy. It is strong, it is well-funded, it is exotic, and it claims to fight for the underdog. It also aligns itself with the religion of Islam, which is itself culturally strong and, thanks to the jaded Western palate, appeals to Orientalist sexual fantasies of masculine domination and feminine submission.
By contrast, Western culture divorced from Christianity and its own past is pallid, shallow, consumerist, and even distasteful, and that is the culture most Westerners of the post-Vatican II, post–mainstream Protestant era have grown up in. Unfortunately, millions of Europeans and Americans have been indoctrinated by the culture to believe that the Christianity of their ancestors is uncool and therefore bad. The victory of the counter-culture has also given rise to North America’s fratricidal culture wars and, where Islamism is concerned, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
I am certainly concerned by what Western teenagers, especially in the English-speaking world, are taught about their ancestors and the histories of their countries or, rather, what effect it has on the teenagers. If the teenagers feel inspired to make their countries better places to live, good. If the teenagers despair and think Al Qaeda is justified, bad.
Meanwhile, I am very concerned about idealistic teenagers being sucked into causes by manipulative adults, no matter what the cause.
Despite the serious nature of the issues explored in Ceremony of Innocence, there is also a great deal of humor—much of it laced with irony. How does humor assist in storytelling?
by Carl E. Olson | CWR Blog
Although he might not be well known outside of certain theological circles, Dr. Hans Boersma is one of the finer young Evangelical theologians writing today. He is the J.I. Packer Professor of Theology at Regent College, one of the best Evangelical schools in Canada, and he is the author of some books that engage deeply and thoughtfully with Catholic theology, notably Nouvelle Théologie and Sacramental Ontology: A Return to Mystery (Oxford, 2009), and Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry (Eerdmans 2011). As his bio on the Regent website states, Boersma's "main theological interests are Catholic thought, the church fathers, and spiritual interpretation of Scripture." (And in the words of a snide Amazon.com reviewer, he is "A Roman Catholic in evangelical clothing".)
In the September/October 2013 edition of Books & Culture: A Christian Review, in an article titled, "The Real Presence of Hope & Love" (subscription required for full article), Boersma praises the "Christocentric legacy" of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and touches on how it should help fruitful ecumenical conversation between Catholics and Evangelicals. He notes that far too many discussions of theology begin with premises about "conversative" and "liberal," which often derail matters before anything of substance is actually discussed. "With regard to Benedict," writes Boersma, "what stands out is not his alleged 'conservatism' but his focus on Christ in matters both theological and moral. That is what will render him relevant for many years to come." He then writes:
Protestants have long been afraid that Catholics take their starting-point in human realties. Human merit before God, Mary and the saints as objects of our adoration, the concrete materiality of Baptism and Eucharist—these, and other aspects of Catholic theology and spirituality, seem to Protestants attempts to place ourselves in the position of the risen Lord, as a move from Christocentrism to anthropocentrism. Oakes' insistence, therefore, that Ratzinger's theology is marked first and foremost by its Christocentrism, should make Protestants sit up and listen. And I think there is a sense in which it should make both Protestants and Catholics sit up and listen. If, after all, [Fr. Edward] Oakes is right that Christocentrism lies at the heart of Ratzinger's thought, then this is the key also to how we can deconstruct the relativism of our culture that thinks only in terms of the binaries of "conservative" and "progressive." To place Christ at the center is to gainsay the need to be "up-to-date" or "relevant." To place Christ at the center is, therefore, also to stab at the heart of the relativism that underlies this division between "conservative" and "progressive." There is good reason, I think, why Ratzinger's most stringent rejection of relativism comes under the title of Dominus Iesus (2000). It is the Lord Jesus who sent us on a mission in the world, and it is his Lordship and the definitive character of his revelation that are " 'the true lodestar' in history for all humanity," as the document's concluding paragraph puts it. Evangelicals and Catholics should be drawn together by this theological—that is to say, Christological—focus, which is the real antidote to so much non-theological humbug that typifies most media interest in Catholic thought and in the Christian faith in general. The insistence that Christ is the beginning, the center, and the end of theology has always served as reminder that in terms of theology and morality there is something more important to worry about than God's relevance to us, namely, our relevance to God.
Beorsma then focuses on Benedict's first two encyclicals—Deus caritas est (2005) and Spe salvi (2007)—highlighting "Benedict's insistence that the love of God has become incarnate:
The Latin Mass is “not only for a small group, an elite…it leads us to be humble” | Alberto Carosa | CWR
An interview with Guillaume Ferluc, an organizer of the second pilgrimage for traditional Catholics to Rome, about the promising future he sees for the “people of Summorum Pontificum”
The “people of Summorum Pontificum”—that is, those who find the pre-conciliar liturgy, liberalized by Pope Benedict XVI with his 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, to be better suited to their spiritual needs—are fully mobilizing for a second pilgrimage to Rome, to take place October 24-27. The first pilgrimage was held last November, in commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the motu proprio and culminated in a pontifical high Mass in the extraordinary form celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica.
To learn a little more about this year’s event, I spoke with its coordinator and international spokesman, Guillaume Ferluc, a journalist for the well-known web portal Paix Liturgique. He also discussed at length the signs of hope he sees today in the worldwide community of traditional Catholics.
How are things unfolding in preparation for this second pilgrimage?
Guillaume Ferluc: We are proceeding according to schedule. Thursday, October 24, there will be the first Pontifical Vespers in the Church of Santissima TrinitÀ dei Pellegrini, while on Friday morning, October 25, there will be a recitation of the Rosary…[then] we will all rally under the Arch of Titus for the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) on the Palatine. [Later] there will be a Pontifical Mass in the Church of Pellegrini, celebrated by Msgr. Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Astana in Kazakhstan, with the choir of St. Cecilia from Paris.
Saturday 26 there will be a Pontifical Mass in St. Peter’s celebrated by Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos, preceded by Eucharistic adoration at the Chiesa Nuova (Santa Maria in Vallicella) and a procession through the streets of Rome. The presence of Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos on the anniversary of his priestly ordination is a great joy and an honor for all the people of Summorum Pontificum. As president of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, the cardinal did not spare efforts for the rights of both the faithful and the priests tied to the traditional liturgy to be upheld and respected, by supporting with great enthusiasm and loyalty the promulgation of the motu proprio by Pope Benedict XVI. We will have a great opportunity to thank him for this.
The pilgrimage will wind up Sunday, October 27, with the celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King by Msgr. Rifan, bishop of the apostolic administration of St. John Mary Vianney in Campos, Brazil, in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. The pilgrimage will come to an end in tune with the official closing of the Year of Faith, which will take place in late November, on the same Solemnity of Christ the King but according to the reformed calendar. In addition, on Friday morning, October 25, there will be another important event, reserved only for the priests taking part in the pilgrimage, who will be briefed by Msgr. Fisichella, in his capacity as head of the new evangelization.
Are you noticing major differences between the organization of the pilgrimage last year and this year?Continue reading on the CWR blog.
Francis: The Good, the Baffling, and the Unclear | Carl E. Olson | CWR Editorial
Recent comments by the Holy Father, especially in interviews, are lacking in three important things
"Nonetheless, Lombardi stopped short of saying that every line was literally as pronounced by the pope, suggesting instead that it represents a new genre of papal speech that’s deliberately informal and not concerned with precision." — John Allen, Jr., reporting today that journalist Eugenio Scalfari's Oct. 2nd interview with Pope Francis was not recorded, but was the product of "an after-the-fact reconstruction".
The 19th-century controversialist William G. Ward, a convert from Anglicanism and a vigorous defender of all things Catholic, once exclaimed, "I should like a new Papal Bull every morning with my Times at breakfast." Since weekly papal interviews were not yet a common occurrence in the 1860s, it's not clear if Ward, were he among us today, would accept papal interviews in lieu of the somewhat more authoritative papal bulls.
A sense of humor and a sense of perspective are both helpful when pondering the recent interviews given by Pope Francis. For those who might be ready to jump off the edge of their Catechism of the Catholic Church into the cold darkness of either cynicism or despair, just consider how turbulent things would have been if the internet had been around during the Avignon papacy. Even worse, imagine if Twitter, Facebook, and Andrew Sullivan had been around during that infamous (but little discussed) period sometimes called "the Pornocracy"—a stretch of six decades or so in the tenth century that witnessed about as much mortal sin, nepotism, and abuse of power as the papacy could handle.
If that seems like an overly extreme historical reference, you may have missed how some are saying, with obvious glee, that Francis is unlike any previous pontiff and is set to remake the papacy and the Catholic Church in ways that eyes have not seen and ears have not heard before. You may have also missed how others are saying, with obvious distress, that Francis is unlike any previous pontiff and is set to remake the papacy and the Catholic Church in ways—well, you get the picture. There are also those who are, with the best of intentions, insisting that nearly all of the hysteria, furor, and meta-narratives are completely missing that Francis is both a surprising breath of fresh air and an often misunderstood man who desires nothing more than a Church radically committed to Jesus Christ and living the Gospel with a profound spirit of evangelical fervor. The oft-expressed hope that the Pope can unite and bring all men of good will together is apparently being realized, albeit in a unity based in countless arguments over what Francis really says, means, and intends.
For my part (and I'm hardly alone here, I'm certain), I reject the first two options and agree in part with the third, with some important qualifiers. Let's begin with the Good:
by Marc Cardinal Ouellet
Fifty years after the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Cardinal Marc Ouellet-considered by many to have been a top candidate to succeed Pope Benedict XVI-gives his thoughts on the Council and what the Vatican II means for us today. In interviews with French priest Fr. Geoffroy de la Tousche, Cardinal Ouellet speaks both personally and professionally about the state of the Church since the Council, explaining what went wrong-and right-in the implementation of the Council's teachings.Ouellet discusses his own life, including his childhood in post-colonial Quebec, the search for meaning leading to his personal encounter with Christ, his vocation to the priesthood, being a professor in Latin America and Rome, and his more recent positions as archbishop of Quebec, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. Drawing on his experience as both a formator of priests and a professor at the John Paul II Institute for the Family, Ouellet speaks of the significance of married love, the meaning of consecrated life, and the spousal nature of the priesthood. He illuminates these realities with the teachings of the Council. Among other topics, the Cardinal discusses his acquaintance with popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, his experience on the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, and his admiration for the youth today.
The interview continues with questions about the Council's four Constitutions and the Council in general, leading to a discussion of a wide range of topics including liturgy, ecumenism, evangelization, the work of the laity, new movements and communities, vocations, celibacy, human dignity, war and justice, ecology, sin, and the Eucharist. Moving with clarity and ease between theological realities and personal impressions, Cardinal Ouellet discusses the state of the Church today with points that are challenging, edifying, and full of hope.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet is the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and also president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. He was ordained in 1968 and is a priest of the Society of Saint-Suplice. After serving over 20 years as a university and seminary professor, he was appointed Archbishop of Quebec in 2002 and created cardinal by Pope John Paul II.
Fr. Geoffroy de la Tousche was ordained in 1998 and is a priest of the Diocese of Rouen, France. In 2002, he completed a doctorate in dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University on the subject of bishops as addressed in the Vatican II Constitution Lumen Gentium.
Francis, Catechist in Action | Fr. James V.
Schall, SJ | CWR
Thoughts on the Holy Father's recent address about "one of the most beautiful educational adventures"
“If a needy person requires medicine or other help during prayer time, do whatever has to be done with peace of mind. Offer the deed to God as your prayer. Do not become upset or feel guilty because you interrupted your prayer to serve the poor. God is not neglected if you leave him for such service. One of God’s works is merely interrupted so another can be carried out.”
— St. Vincent de Paul, (d. 1660), Letter #2546.
“Even if at times it (catechetical teaching) can be difficult, if it is so much work, if it presses upon us and we do not see the results we wish, still to educate in the faith is beautiful! The faith is perhaps the most beautiful heritage that we can give because it makes you grow. To help children, boys and girls, young men, women, and adults to know and to love the Lord ever more is one of the most beautiful educational adventures, for it comprises the Church!”
— Pope Francis, Address to International Catechetical Congress, September 27, 2013.
“Old Jesuits,” Pope Francis explained to the Catechetical Congress in the Paul VI Audience Hall in the Vatican, this past Friday, always divide their talks “into three parts.” In fact, practically everything I have read of Pope Francis divides into three parts, like Caesar’s Gaul. This discourse to the catechists is no exception. In his recent interview with the Jesuit editor, the Pope also recalled the famous Jesuit advice to learn to “contemplate in action.” Though he does not neglect times of prayer and solitude, as we see in this discourse, still Pope Francis seems, like St. Vincent de Paul, to be a man eager for action, for getting things moving.
In his exhortation to the catechists, Pope Francis continues his almost relentless attack on those who think that an office or a status is sufficient. Just to have the name or diploma of being a catechist (or a professor, or a vicar, or a bishop) is not enough. “To be a catechist is a vocation.” What really counts is our personal “testimony,” not our titles. This witness is what people watch for. Francis cites Benedict XVI: “The Church does not increase by proselytism but by attraction,” by the attraction of those lives that live the faith. “To be a catechist means to give testimony to the faith.” Francis also cites Francis of Assisi who told his brothers: “Preach, always preach the Gospel, and, if necessary, also with words.” That is, our best “preaching” is not with words but with the witness of our lives. People see the Gospel first in the way we live. That is where they “read” the Gospel.
Obviously, Francis puts a great responsibility on every one who has the faith—the responsibility of passing it on. To be a catechist requires love, always one that is “stronger.” This love comes from Christ. It is a “gift.” We do not concoct it by ourselves. If we think we can, we depart from the love that Christ gives to us. “What does it mean to be a catechist?” the Pope asks. What does it mean for you, “even for me?”
First of all, to go forth from Christ means to be “familiar” with Him.
Ignatius Press brings stunning film on Mary exclusively to North America
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 24, 2013 – Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ is revered throughout the world. However, her amazing life has not been featured on the big screen — until now.
Ignatius Press will release MARY OF NAZARETH, a major motion picture on the life of Our Blessed Mother, for sponsored theatrical screenings across the country beginning in October. The North American premiere will take place in San Francisco on October 11 featuring the stunning actress who portrayed Mary in the film, Alissa Jung, and well-known Marian expert Father Donald Calloway, MIC.
“Ignatius Press is very excited to bring to the silver screen this incredible new epic feature film on Our Lady, MARY OF NAZARETH,” said Ignatius Press Director of Sales and Marketing Anthony Ryan. “Produced by the same European studios who have made such other high-quality films with profound spiritual depth like Restless Heart: The Confessions of Augustine, Pope John Paul II, Bakhita: From Slave to Saint and Padre Pio: Miracle Man, this powerful film on the life of Mary will provide deep inspiration for all who see it on the big screen. Ignatius is very happy to follow in the wake of the theatrical sponsored screening success of Restless Heart to work with faith-filled movie fans everywhere to bring this amazing film on Mary to theaters in their neighborhoods, providing a unique opportunity for inspiring entertainment, strong evangelization and significant fundraising.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI screened the movie in the Apostolic Palace in 2012, and was touched by the portrayal of Mary so movingly revealed on film. He commented that “it is not easy to characterize the figure of any mother, because the riches of the maternal life are difficult to describe, but this is even more challenging when it comes to the Mary of Nazareth, who is the mother of Jesus, the Son of God made man.”
Unlike many faith-based films that open in limited release around the country and often don’t make it to cities and towns with significant interest, MARY OF NAZARETH is available for showing anywhere in North America. Individuals, parishes, church groups or other organizations can arrange to bring this epic film to their towns immediately. There are currently close to 250 screenings in various stages of planning. Interested groups and individuals work with local theaters and other venues to rent a screen, and Ignatius provides a copy of the film with a complete promotional kit for an affordable fee.
An exclusive trailer of the film is available online now at www.MaryFilm.com. For more information or interviews, please contact Kevin Wandra (404-788-1276 or KWandra@CarmelCommunications.com).
To bring MARY OF NAZARETH to a theater in your area beginning Oct. 1, please inquire via email through Carmel Communications at screenings@carmelcommunications.
Ignatius Press will host the MARY OF NAZARETH premiere at 7 p.m. PT Friday, Oct. 11 at the AMC Metreon 16, 135 4th St #3000, San Francisco, CA 94103. Alissa Jung, the German actress who stars as Mary in the film, and Fr. Donald Calloway, author of UNDER THE MANTLE: Marian Thoughts From a 21st Century, who has endorsed the film, will attend the premiere, and be available for a Q-and-A following a screening of the movie.
About the Film
MARY OF NAZARETH vividly captures the essence of Mary’s profound faith and trust in God amidst the great mysteries that she lived with as the Mother of the Messiah, her compassionate humanity and concern for others, and the deep love that she and Jesus shared for one another. This movie underscores her special role in God’s plan for our redemption, her unique relationship with Christ, and the tremendous suffering that she endured in union with his passion and death, as well as her serene joy at his Resurrection.
Filmed in Europe, this major new epic film on the life of Mary is the first full-length feature movie on the story of this incredible woman to be shown in theaters. It was shot in English in high definition.
MARY OF NAZARETH is directed by acclaimed European film director Giacomo Campiotti (BAKHITA, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, ST. GIUSEPPE MOSCATI) and written by Francesco Arlanch (RESTLESS HEART, PIUS XII, POPE JOHN PAUL II). The original music score was written by Guy Farley.
New Pope, Good Interview, Old Story | Carl E. Olson | Editorial | Catholic World Report
Secularist journalists and progressive Catholics try to make hay to feed their obsessionsJudging by some of the reactions to the September 19th America interview with Pope Francis, which was originally conducted over three days in August, you might be tempted to think a pontiff had never given an interview before. How quickly some forget, if they ever knew at all.
The first papal text I ever read, as a young Evangelical Protestant with a growing curiosity about the Catholic Church, was John Paul II's 1994 book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope (available online in PDF format), which was an interview conducted by Italian journalist Vittorio Messori. And, of course, Pope Benedict XVI was interviewed in 2010 by German journalist Peter Seewald, resulting in Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Sign of the Times (Ignatius Press, 2010). That book certainly garnered widespread attention, especially for comments that Benedict made about contraception.
In fact, if you read only accounts from many mainstream news sources, you may have concluded that the entire book was about condoms. The obsession with the “condom comments” became so ridiculous that the president of Ignatius Press, Mark Brumley, penned an interview with himself which satirized the nonsense:
Mainstream Media: So the Pope has written a book about condoms!
Mark Brumley: Well, actually, it’s an interview book. And journalist Peter Seewald interviewed Benedict about a wide-range of topics, not just about condoms.
MM: Yes, but condoms must be a major theme of the book. Look at all the coverage that has focused on condoms!
Mark: Actually, the Pope’s comments about condoms cover only about two pages out of about 200 pages of Q & As.
MM: Well, what did the Pope say about condoms?
Mark: You can go here and read for yourself what he said.
What does this have to do with the interview with Pope Francis? Quite a bit. Consider some of the headlines that a Google search turns up for “Pope Francis” and “interview” (all from the first page ):
Catholics, the Environment, and a “Culture of Waste” | J. J. Ziegler | Catholic World Report
Recent popes have highlighted the necessity of caring for the environment—but how does what they say differ from secular environmentalism?
On June 5, Pope Francis devoted his Wednesday general audience to the environment. Decrying the “culture of waste,” he linked disrespect for the environment to disrespect for human life:
This “culture of waste” tends to become a common mentality that infects everyone. Human life, the person, are no longer seen as a primary value to be respected and safeguarded, especially if they are poor or disabled, if they are not yet useful—like the unborn child—or are no longer of any use—like the elderly person.
Pope Francis’s concern about the environment is not novel: Venerable Paul VI reflected on the topic in Octogesima Adveniens (no. 21), his 1971 apostolic letter on the 80th anniversary of Pope Leo’s XIII’s landmark social encyclical Rerum Novarum.
Early in his pontificate, in his 1979 apostolic letter Inter Sanctos, Blessed John Paul II proclaimed St. Francis of Assisi the heavenly patron of those who promote ecology. At various points in his pontificate, John Paul directed his attention to ecological concerns, most significantly in his 1987 encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (nos. 26, 34), his 1990 Message for the World Day of Peace, and his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus (nos. 37-40), in which he linked the environment to a “human ecology” whose “first and fundamental structure” is “the family founded on marriage” (no. 39).
It was Pope Benedict, however, who earned the nickname “the green pope,” in part because of the installation of solar panels above some Vatican buildings and in part because of the Vatican’s attempt, which proved ill-fated, to become the world’s first carbon-neutral nation.
Of more enduring significance is Pope Benedict’s teaching on the environment, most significantly his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate (nos. 48-52) and his 2010 Message for the World Day of Peace. The pope emeritus reflected on ecology in a number of speeches as well, from his 2008 address to the Roman Curia, in which he discussed creation and gender, to his 2010 “state of the world” address to the diplomatic corps, in which he said that
concern and commitment for the environment should be situated within the larger framework of the great challenges now facing mankind. If we wish to build true peace, how can we separate, or even set at odds, the protection of the environment and the protection of human life, including the life of the unborn? It is in man’s respect for himself that his sense of responsibility for creation is shown.
“Today, more than ever, it appears clear to us that respect for the environment cannot fail to recognize the value and inviolability of the human person in every phase of life and in every condition,” he likewise said in a 2011 address. “Respect for the human being and respect for nature are one and the same, but they will both be able to develop and to reach their full dimension if we respect the Creator and his creature in the human being and in nature.”
Earlier this week, noted Scripture scholar and author Dr. Scott Hahn (see Ignatius Press books authored and co-authored by Dr. Hahn) delivered the inaugural lecture in Christendom College’s Major Speaker Program, entitled, “The Bible, the Eucharist, and the New Evangelization.” The press release from Christendom College provides some highlights from Hahn's address:
The entire lecture can be downloaded at Christendom on iTunes U, christendom.edu/itunesu. This past April, America magazine published an article by Hahn, "Mass Evangelization", which covers much of the same material. In that piece, Hahn wrote,
scholar and author Dr. Scott Hahn (see Ignatius Press books by and edited by Dr. Hahn) delivered the inaugural lecture in Christendom College’s Major Speaker Program, entitled, “The Bible, the Eucharist, and the New Evangelization.” The press release from Christendom College provides some highlights from Hahn's address:
“We face the task of re-evangelizing the de-Christianized,” Hahn said. “The cause of de-Christianization has been this oppressive secularization, which doesn’t just cause us to forget the faith, but it causes us to become more and more distant from those structures that make it real.”
Hahn explained that just as human love and relationships lead to a sacrament—Matrimony—so too does our love and relationship with God lead to a sacrament—the Eucharist. He noted that it was Blessed Pope John Paul who first called for the new evangelization to be based on the Eucharist and, citing and a paper by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, he said, “all evangelizers proclaim Christ, but Catholic evangelizers proclaim a Eucharistic Christ.”
“But there is something else that is new about the new evangelization,” Hahn said. “It isn’t just for clergy. It isn’t just for missionaries. It isn’t just for those who go out to the foreign lands. It’s for each and every single one of us. Not only to go out and share the faith, but also to allow ourselves to be evangelized and converted.”
Hahn debunked the myth that St. Francis said, “preach the Gospel at all times and use words when necessary,” saying that there is no proof or historical record of the saint saying those words to his friars.
“I would want to say this to those who use that as an excuse,” he continued. “Just look in the mirror some evening and ask yourself, ‘Am I so upright, so virtuous, so compelling that all people really need to do is just keep their eyes on me and my life and that should be sufficient to give them the grace of conversion?’ Before you answer that question yourself, ask your spouse or your roommate. You may be in for a surprise.”
Hahn said that Catholics must not only recognize their need to evangelize, but also their need to be evangelized themselves in their family life and marriages.
“Conversion is life long,” he said. “It is ongoing. It is ever deepening. It is daily. And it is also difficult.”
Concluding, Hahn said that all Catholics are involved in the new evangelization, but very few Catholics are going to be equipped like Christendom students.
“Very few Catholics are ever going to be launched like Christendom grads,” he said. “Let me just ask you those old questions: if you don’t, who will? And if you wait, when will it happen? And if you say ‘yes,’ I got to tell you, stand back and watch, because God wants to do more through us than we want Him to do.”
He encouraged the students to study and pray hard and to take all that they have gained from the college out into the world.
“What you are learning here is what the world is dying for,” he said. “I hope that none of you ever get to the point where you take it for granted. This is one of the largest slices of heaven on earth.”
The entire lecture can be downloaded at Christendom on iTunes U, christendom.edu/itunesu. This past April, America magazine published an article by Hahn, "Mass Evangelization", which covers much of the same material. In that piece, Hahn wrote,
A Scriptural Reflection on the Readings for Saturday, September 14, 2013 | Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross | Carl E. Olson
• Num 21:4b-9
• Ps 78:1bc-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38
• Phil 2:6-11
• Jn 3:13-17
“By its elevation, the Cross is like an appeal to the whole creation to adore the blessed Passion of Christ our God who was suspended on it, for Christ destroyed by this Cross the one who had destroyed us.”
These words, from the Vespers celebrated on this feast day by Byzantine Catholics, proclaim some of the mystery, hope, and paradox of the Holy Cross. There is the mystery of the death of the God-man, the hope of salvation because of His death and Resurrection, and the paradox of finding joy in such a bloody reality. In the words of the Crucified One, prior to His ascent onto the Cross: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (Jn 12:32).
Today’s Epistle and Gospel readings focus on the relationship between the Incarnation—the entrance of God into history as the man Jesus Christ—and the exaltation of the Incarnate One by His death on the Cross. That relationship is, of course, at the heart of Christianity, for belief in the Incarnation and the salvific work accomplished on the cross are central for Christians. If Jesus was not truly God and truly man, Christianity is simply another school of ethics; if the Passion and Resurrection did not take place, Catholicism is merely a ritualized exercise in empty piety.
The reading from Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians is a great Christological hymn offered in thanksgiving for the Incarnation. Although the Son was equal to the Father, He emptied Himself. What does that mean? Much scholarly ink has been spilled over this difficult theological question, but the essence of this emptying, or kenosis, is the perfect acceptance of God’s will. The willingness of the Son to be sent by the Father for the salvation of man is a major theme in the Gospel of John. “You know me and also know where I am from,” Jesus declared in the Temple, “Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true” (Jn 7:28).
This can also be seen in the third
chapter of John, in which Jesus states that God “gave his only Son”
and sent His Son into the world so “the world might be saved
through him.” In that same discourse to Nicodemus, Jesus stated
that no one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down.
This is one of many claims to divinity made by Jesus, who foretold
His death, Resurrection, and Ascension, even as He revealed that He
had been sent by and from the Father in heaven.
This raises a significant point about the Cross: it is not a sign of God’s wrath, but a concrete demonstration of His love for man. The Romans used the cross to punish, kill, and control. God used the altar of the Cross to forgive, to destroy death, and to offer eternal life. “Accordingly, in the New Testament the Cross appears primarily as a movement from above to below,” wrote Joseph Ratzinger in Introduction to Christianity, “It stands there, not as the work of expiation that mankind offers to the wrathful God, but as the expression of that foolish love of God’s that gives itself away to the point of humiliation in order thus to save man; it is his approach to us, not the other way about.”
The Cross, then, is an invitation to faith, to life, to love. It is a revelation of the nature of God. It is also a sign of contradiction and a source of scandal. This is what Jesus meant when He spoke of being lifted up. I know people who, when they see a crucifix, are disgusted and appalled. I also know a young lady who, after being an atheist for several years, finally crumbled on her knees before a crucifix and wept, broken and healed.
“We exalt his Name with great rejoicing,” continue the Vespers, “and glorify his infinite condescension.” Amen!
(This "Opening the Word" column originally appeared in the September 14, 2008, edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)