Thursday, February 20, 2014
Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church, and the New Covenant
What does this all mean for us? Let’s summarise:
Jesus Christ’s is first of all born in the city of Bethlehem; “Bethlehem” means “House of Bread”. Jesus Christ is born in the manger, where the animals in the stable eat. This is symbolic because Jesus Christ is offered as a living sacrifice, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29; and think back to the Passover Meal in Exodus).
Jesus Christ is baptised by St. John the Baptist in the River Jordan. But why did he do this? The Church teaches us this on Christ’s baptism:
“Our Lord voluntarily submitted himself to the baptism of St. John, intended for sinners, in order to ‘fulfill all righteousness.’ Jesus' gesture is a manifestation of his self-emptying. The Spirit who had hovered over the waters of the first creation descended then on the Christ as a prelude of the new creation, and the Father revealed Jesus as his ‘beloved Son.’” - Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1224
“In his Passover Christ opened to all men the fountain of Baptism. He had already spoken of his Passion, which he was about to suffer in Jerusalem, as a ‘Baptism’ with which he had to be baptized. The blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus are types of Baptism and the Eucharist, the sacraments of new life. From then on, it is possible ‘to be born of water and the Spirit’ in order to enter the Kingdom of God.” - Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1225
Speaking of the Eucharist: Christ tells His followers that he is “the bread of life that came down from Heaven” (John 6:51). Again we have Christ completing what was shown in the Old Testament. The accounts of bread “coming down from Heaven” are found in Numbers 11 and Exodus 16; this bread was given because the people of God complained to Moses that they were hungry and needed sustenance. The Lord blessed them with the miracle of “manna from Heaven” and it came in abundance, so much so that they had to put what was leftover in the Ark of the Covenant; the manna was placed in a golden pot. Sound familiar? When we go to Mass, where are hosts contained? In the Ciborium, a golden pot.
In the same discourse, Christ says this about himself but not before the Jews quarrelled among themselves about Jesus giving them His flesh to eat:
“’I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.’ The Jews quarrelled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.’” - John 6:51-56
One year later, Christ institutes the Sacrament of Holy Communion, the Eucharist, at the Last Supper; giving us bread which is His body, and wine which is His blood of the new covenant, to eat and to drink so that we may have life in us. And Christ, giving up Himself for us on the cross, pours out his blood for our salvation. So just as the Hebrew people at the first Passover were saved by the blood of the lamb, so too are we saved by the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Every Sunday, we Catholics have the opportunity to partake in Christ’s body and His blood so that we may become walking tabernacles of Christ; Christ resides in us and we are commissioned to bring the Good News to others, just as the Disciples, 40 days after Christ’s resurrection at the Ascension, were commissioned by Christ to bring Christ to all nations:
“Then Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.’” - Matthew 28:18-20
We begin our journeys at Baptism, we are led by grace, we partake in the sacraments - which unite us with Christ - so that we may continue to perfect ourselves and grow in holiness as God desires.
Folks, we are blessed with the gift of the Catholic Church, which is the conduit which brings us first to Christ, and in our Christian living we grow in holiness, prepare ourselves for the journey on the way to paradise, unification with God in Heaven. Christ built the Church on St. Peter, the Rock. God gave authority to man to carry out His work on earth:
“’And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’" - Matthew 16:18-19
We have this:
“The children of our holy mother the Church rightly hope for the grace of final perseverance and the recompense of God their Father for the good works accomplished with his grace in communion with Jesus. Keeping the same rule of life, believers share the ‘blessed hope’ of those whom the divine mercy gathers into the ‘holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.’” - Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 2016
This journey to paradise, our salvation, all began with creation and it climaxes with living life daily, in every thought, word, and action, with Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
“Then he said to all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” - Luke 9:23
No one ever said the journey would be easy, but we place our confidence and hope in the Lord that we may inherit eternal life. We are all partakers in this salvation history.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Noah and the Great Flood
We’re all familiar with this story: God calls Noah to build the Ark because God’s not happy, basically, and He wants to establish a new covenant with man.
God washes the world from its sinfulness with a flood, with water, and Noah, his family, and pairs of animals - male and female - of every kind (Genesis 6:12-19). So in essence, sin was washed away with water, and those who were cradled in the Ark, floating upon the water were saved. Now doesn’t that sound familiar?
St. Peter comments on Noah and the Ark this way and makes a very interesting analogy:
“For Christ also suffered or sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water.
This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.” - 1 Peter 3:18-22
Some churches will tell you that baptism isn’t necessary for salvation. How unbiblical. St. Peter there makes it pretty clear in his letter, “This prefigured baptism, WHICH SAVES YOU NOW”. Furthermore, as Noah and his family are on the Ark for forty days and forty nights (Genesis 7:17) - which I might add is the same amount of time Christ spent in the wilderness fasting, praying, being tested, and preparing for his public ministry - before they attempt to find new land, and what do they send out? First it’s a poor, old raven that flies back and forth until the waters dried off (Genesis 8:7). Selfish raven! Noah then sends out the dove - that represents the Holy Spirit - is then sent out but at first does not find any dry land for the Ark to alight. The dove is then sent out after seven more days, it returns with an olive leaf.
Noah waits seven more days before sending off the dove again but this time it does not return; it was finally time for Noah and his family, and the manner of animals they had brought with them to alight from the Ark. Now again, I know you’re familiar with this story but the significance of this story in terms of our salvation is this: Our covenant with God begins with baptism; as the Holy Spirit moved over the waters during creation and breathed life into the world, so too did the dove, the Holy Spirit, move over the waters of the flood to establish new life for all on the Ark.
We are filled with the Holy Spirit - the Spirit dwells within us - Original Sin, the sin of Adam and Eve, is put into remission and we are filled with sanctifying grace. We must allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit - the dove - so that the covenant promise made by God can be fulfilled in the name of Jesus Christ. In other words, our free will must work in cooperation with grace so that we may draw nearer to God and one day be fully united with him in paradise, just as Noah on the Ark allowed the dove - the Holy Spirit - to lead them to a place where they could begin their covenant relationship with God, so too we must submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit as the Church does and has from the beginning.
Moses and the Exodus
Okay, on Moses and the liberation of the Hebrews from Pharaoh… We have Moses, a prefigurement of Christ, born a Hebrew, raised in Pharaoh’s palace, exiled to the wilderness, encounters God and is led by God to lead his people out of bondage. As we know, Pharaoh was stubborn, and as a result the tenth plague, the death of every first born, was imminent. For the people of God to be protected from the tenth plague, God gave Moses these instructions:
“The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, ‘This month shall stand at the head of your calendar; you shall reckon it the first month of the year. Tell the whole community of Israel: On the tenth of this month every one of your families must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household. If a family is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join the nearest household in procuring one and shall share in the lamb in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it.
The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish. You may take it from either the sheep or the goats. ‘You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, and then, with the whole assembly of Israel present, it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight. They shall take some of its blood and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel of every house in which they partake of the lamb. That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. It shall not be eaten raw or boiled, but roasted whole, with its head and shanks and inner organs. None of it must be kept beyond the next morning; whatever is left over in the morning shall be burned up.
‘This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight. It is the Passover of the LORD. For on this same night I will go through Egypt, striking down every first - born of the land, both man and beast, and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt-I, the LORD! But the blood will mark the houses where you are. Seeing the blood, I will pass over you; thus, when I strike the land of Egypt, no destructive blow will come upon you.’” - Exodus 12:1-13
Now tell me if this doesn’t sound familiar: the people of God were to eat from a sacrificed unblemished lamb, everything had to be consumed, and the blood of the lamb was used to mark the door posts and lintel (the horizontal beam), so that when death passed over the lands of Egypt, those covered by the blood of the lamb would be spared from death. Not seeing the connection yet? Let’s explore it…
It’s no coincidence that today’s Gospel reading [Sunday, January 19 2014] is taken from the Gospel of John. All I’m going to do is read the first verse from today’s reading:
“The next day he [St. John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’” - John 1:29
Jesus Christ is the prefigured unblemished first born lamb on the Book of Exodus, and he came, as we continue to read on the Gospel of John, to save the world from its sins:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” - John 3:16-17
That is the covenant promise of the New Testament; the old law has not been abolished but fulfilled in Jesus Christ and it is through Him that we come to God:
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” - John 14:6
Let’s put a bow on Moses and the Exodus: Moses eventually leads he people to freedom, and as we know they pass through the Red Sea. Well, gee, this is sounding familiar again: God’s people passing through water. It’s another prefigurement to Baptism! And as we know, the people of God pass through the Red Sea - it is miraculously parted by the power of God through Moses - the people of God are in a sense baptised, escape death and they then begin their journey to the promised land.
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To be concluded in part three.