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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wednesday's Audience: On St. Paul and Justification

Wednesday's Audience

On St. Paul and Justification
"To Be Just Means Simply to Be With Christ and in Christ"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 19, 2008 (Zenit.org ).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the journey we have undertaken under the guidance of St. Paul, we now wish to reflect on a topic that is at the center of the controversies of the century of the Reformation: the issue of justification. How is a man just in the eyes of God? When Paul met the Risen One on the road to Damascus he was a fulfilled man: irreproachable in regard to justice derived from the law (cf. Philippians 3:6); he surpassed many of his contemporaries in the observance of the Mosaic prescriptions and was zealous in upholding the traditions of his forefathers (cf. Galatians 1:14).

The illumination of Damascus changed his life radically: He began to regard all his merits, achievements of a most honest religious career, as "loss" in face of the sublimity of knowledge of Jesus Christ (cf. Philippians 3:8). The Letter to the Philippians gives us a moving testimony of Paul's turning from a justice based on the law and achieved by observance of the prescribed works, to a justice based on faith in Christ: He understood all that up to now had seemed a gain to him was in fact a loss before God, and because of this decided to dedicate his whole life to Jesus Christ (cf. Philippians 3:7). The treasure hidden in the field, and the precious pearl in whose possession he invests everything, were no longer the works of the law, but Jesus Christ, his Lord.

The relationship between Paul and the Risen One is so profound that it impels him to affirm that Christ was not only his life, but his living, to the point that to be able to reach him, even death was a gain (cf. Philippians 1:21). It was not because he did not appreciate life, but because he understood that for him, living no longer had another objective; therefore, he no longer had a desire other than to reach Christ, as in an athletic competition, to be with him always. The Risen One had become the beginning and end of his existence, the reason and goal of his running. Only concern for the growth in faith of those he had evangelized and solicitude for all the Churches he had founded (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:28), induced him to slow down the run toward his only Lord, to wait for his disciples, so that they would be able to run to the goal with him. If in the previous observance of the law he had nothing to reproach himself from the point of view of moral integrity, once overtaken by Christ he preferred not to judge himself (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:3-4), but limited himself to run to conquer the one who had conquered him (cf. Philippians 3:12).

It is precisely because of this personal experience of the relationship with Jesus that Paul places at the center of his Gospel an irreducible opposition between two alternative paths to justice: one based on the works of the law, the other founded on the grace of faith in Christ. The alternative between justice through the works of the law and justice through faith in Christ thus becomes one of the dominant themes that runs through his letters: "We ourselves, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified" (Galatians 2:15-16).

And, he reaffirms to the Christians of Rome that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:23-24). And he adds: "For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law" (Ibid. 28). Luther translated this point as "justified by faith alone." I will return to this at the end of the catechesis.

First, we must clarify what is the "law" from which we have been freed and what are those "works of the law" that do not justify. Already in the community of Corinth there was the opinion, which will return many times in history, which consisted in thinking that it was a question of the moral law, and that Christian freedom consisted therefore in being free from ethics. So, the words "panta mou estin" (everything is licit for me) circulated in Corinth. It is obvious that this interpretation is erroneous: Christian liberty is not libertinism; the freedom of which St. Paul speaks is not freedom from doing good.

Therefore, what is the meaning of the law from which we have been freed and that does not save? For St. Paul, as well as for all his contemporaries, the word law meant the Torah in its totality, namely, the five books of Moses. In the Pharisaic interpretation, the Torah implied what Paul had studied and made his own, a collection of behaviors extending from an ethical foundation to the ritual and cultural observances that substantially determined the identity of the just man -- particularly circumcision, the observance regarding pure food and general ritual purity, the rules regarding observance of the Sabbath, etc. These behaviors often appear in the debates between Jesus and his contemporaries. All these observances that express a social, cultural and religious identity had come to be singularly important at the time of Hellenistic culture, beginning in the 3rd century B.C.

This culture, which had become the universal culture of the time, was a seemingly rational culture, an apparently tolerant polytheist culture, which constituted a strong pressure toward cultural uniformity and thus threatened the identity of Israel, which was politically obliged to enter into this common identity of Hellenistic culture with the consequent loss of its own identity, loss hence also of the precious inheritance of the faith of their Fathers, of faith in the one God and in God's promises.

Against this cultural pressure, which not only threatened Jewish identity but also faith in the one God and his promises, it was necessary to create a wall of distinction, a defense shield that would protect the precious inheritance of the faith; this wall would consist precisely of the Jewish observances and prescriptions. Paul, who had learned these observances precisely in their defensive function of the gift of God, of the inheritance of the faith in only one God, saw this identity threatened by the freedom of Christians: That is why he persecuted them. At the moment of his encounter with the Risen One he understood that with Christ's resurrection the situation had changed radically. With Christ, the God of Israel, the only true God became the God of all peoples.

The wall -- so says the Letter to the Ephesians -- between Israel and the pagans was no longer necessary: It is Christ who protects us against polytheism and all its deviations; it is Christ who unites us with and in the one God; it is Christ who guarantees our true identity in the diversity of cultures; and it is he who makes us just. To be just means simply to be with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Other observances are no longer necessary.

That is why Luther's expression "sola fide" is true if faith is not opposed to charity, to love. Faith is to look at Christ, to entrust oneself to Christ, to be united to Christ, to be conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence, to believe is to be conformed to Christ and to enter into his love. That is why, in the Letter to the Galatians, St. Paul develops above all his doctrine on justification; he speaks of faith that operates through charity (cf. Galatians 5:14).

Paul knows that in the double love of God and neighbor the whole law is fulfilled. Thus the whole law is observed in communion with Christ, in faith that creates charity. We are just when we enter into communion with Christ, who is love. We will see the same in next Sunday's Gospel for the solemnity of Christ the King. It is the Gospel of the judge whose sole criterion is love. What I ask is only this: Did you visit me when I was sick? When I was in prison? Did you feed me when I was hungry, clothe me when I was naked? So justice is decided in charity. Thus, at the end of this Gospel, we can say: love alone, charity alone. However, there is no contradiction between this Gospel and St. Paul. It is the same vision, the one according to which communion with Christ, faith in Christ, creates charity. And charity is the realization of communion with Christ. Thus, being united to him we are just, and in no other way.

At the end, we can only pray to the Lord so that he will help us to believe. To really believe; belief thus becomes life, unity with Christ, the transformation of our life. And thus, transformed by his love, by love of God and neighbor, we can really be just in the eyes of God.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the Audience, Benedict XVI greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on St. Paul, we now consider his teaching on our justification. Paul’s experience of the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus led him to see that it is only by faith in Christ, and not by any merit of our own, that we are made righteous before God. Our justification in Christ is thus God’s gracious gift, revealed in the mystery of the Cross. Christ died in order to become our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (cf. 1 Cor 1:30), and we in turn, justified by faith, have become in him the very righteousness of God (cf. 2 Cor 5:21). In the light of the Cross and its gifts of reconciliation and new life in the Spirit, Paul rejected a righteousness based on the Law and its works.

For the Apostle, the Mosaic Law, as an irrevocable gift of God to Israel, is not abrogated but relativized, since it is only by faith in God’s promises to Abraham, now fulfilled in Christ, that we receive the grace of justification and new life. The Law finds its end in Christ (cf. Rom 10:4) and its fulfilment in the new commandment of love. With Paul, then, let us make the Cross of Christ our only boast (cf. Gal 6:14), and give thanks for the grace which has made us members of Christ’s Body, which is the Church.

I am pleased to greet the participants in the international Catholic Scouting Conference meeting in Rome. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, South Africa and the United States, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

(http://www.zenit.org/article-24302?l=english)

Faith and Love together

Pope Clarifies Luther's Idea of Justification
Says It's True, if Faith Is Not Opposed to Love

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 19, 2008 (Zenit.org ).- Benedict XVI says Martin Luther's doctrine on justification is correct, if faith "is not opposed to charity."

The Pope said this today during the general audience dedicated to another reflection on St. Paul. This time, the Holy Father considered the Apostle's teaching on justification.

He noted that Paul's conversion experience on the road to Damascus "changed his life radically: He began to regard all his merits, achievements of a most honest religious career, as 'loss' in face of the sublimity of knowledge of Jesus Christ."

"It is precisely because of this personal experience of the relationship with Jesus that Paul places at the center of his Gospel an irreducible opposition between two alternative paths to justice: one based on the works of the law, the other founded on the grace of faith in Christ," the Pontiff explained. "The alternative between justice through the works of the law and justice through faith in Christ thus becomes one of the dominant themes that runs through his letters."

What is law

But in order to understand this Pauline teaching, Benedict XVI affirmed, "we must clarify what is the 'law' from which we have been freed and what are those 'works of the law' that do not justify."

He explained: "Already in the community of Corinth there was the opinion, which will return many times in history, which consisted in thinking that it was a question of the moral law, and that Christian freedom consisted therefore in being free from ethics. [...] It is obvious that this interpretation is erroneous: Christian liberty is not libertinism; the freedom of which St. Paul speaks is not freedom from doing good."

Instead, the Pope said, the law to which Paul refers is the "collection of behaviors extending from an ethical foundation to the ritual and cultural observances that substantially determined the identity of the just man -- particularly circumcision, the observance regarding pure food and general ritual purity, the rules regarding observance of the Sabbath, etc."

These observances served to protect Jewish identity and faith in God; they were "a defense shield that would protect the precious inheritance of the faith," he remarked.

But, the Holy Father continued, at the moment of Paul's encounter with Christ, the Apostle "understood that with Christ's resurrection the situation had changed radically."

"The wall -- so says the Letter to the Ephesians -- between Israel and the pagans was no longer necessary," he said. "It is Christ who protects us against polytheism and all its deviations; it is Christ who unites us with and in the one God; it is Christ who guarantees our true identity in the diversity of cultures; and it is he who makes us just. To be just means simply to be with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Other observances are no longer necessary."

And it is because of this, the Bishop of Rome continued, that Luther's expression "by faith alone" is true "if faith is not opposed to charity, to love. Faith is to look at Christ, to entrust oneself to Christ, to be united to Christ, to be conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence, to believe is to be conformed to Christ and to enter into his love."

"Paul knows," he added, "that in the double love of God and neighbor the whole law is fulfilled. Thus the whole law is observed in communion with Christ, in faith that creates charity. We are just when we enter into communion with Christ, who is love."

(http://www.zenit.org/article-24309?l=english)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The enduring value of the Creed

If words are to be used to describe the content of the faith then the Creed
has more to say than one can absorb in a lifetime. This is why it took so
much time and effort to come about and why its formulation is one of the chief
reasons, if not the primary reason, why two branches of Christianity have taken
the directions they have taken. The subject of the Creed is of utmost
value.

Whether or not these branches ever unite it may not matter. For both still
hold the Creed dear and confess it before the world. The farther Christians
move away from this Creed the more they separate themselves from faith that
rests on divine revelation and which ultimately unites them more than they
realize. In moving away or negating the Creed they are left to the whims
of belief that rises from self and which tends to focus on self, on belief
that changes in a moment and can move in dozens of directions at the same
time. This becomes not true belief, or faith, but rather an acceptance of
only that which one can experience or define for oneself.

Here is right where the Creed's value endures. The Creed requires faith to
see beyond oneself and confess the mystery of God as He has revealed Himself
in Scripture. The words point beyond our limited knowledge and understanding
to that which is greater than us Who has given us life and Who saves and preserves
our lives in spite of sin and death through One who died that we may live.
The Giver of life is sent to us and creates such faith in our hearts. That
which is from the foundation of the world leads us to life everlasting.

The enduring value of the Creed is that the world hears and knows what the
one, holy, catholic and apostolic church believes and teaches and the Church is
reminded of that which is greater than the struggles, suffering and trials that are
within and which she faces from without. More than a lifetime is the eternity
that is ours in the One who comes to us in His Body and Blood, Who we know
and confess in the Spirit and whose Father is the only unbegotten.

In short, the Creed has more to say than one can absorb in a lifetime.

Monday, November 17, 2008

St. Elizabeth



The Charity of St. Elizabeth of Hungary
by Edmund Blair Leighton (1853-1922)

St. Elizabeth (1207-1231), daughter of the king of Hungary, is remembered for her charitable work on behalf of the poor and building hospitals. She was influenced by the ideals of St. Francis of Assisi through Franciscan monks. Her husband, Ludwig IV, was a ruler in central Germany. He supported her charitable work. After six years of marriage he died of the plague. Her life was made more difficult afterwords and she died young. She is buried in a church named for her, the Elisabethkirche in Marburg, Germany.

From the Missal:
Shed Thy light upon the hearts of Thy faithful people, O merciful God, and through the glorious prayers of blessed Elizabeth, grant that we may despise worldly success and find our joy in heavenly consolation; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.

A Collect:
Almighty God, by whose grace your servant Elizabeth of Hungary recognized and honored Jesus in the poor of this world: Grant that we, following her example, may with love and gladness serve those in any need or trouble; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tagged

by Rev. Benjamin Harju at Paredwka Apparently, this is called "123 Book Meme." The rules are:

1. Pick up the book closest to me and find page 123,

2. count the first five sentences,

3. post the following three sentences

----------------------------------------------------
Interesting, both books closest to me speak of the Resurrection on p. 123. Decisions!

"For He has promised us this Resurrection which He showed us in Himself; because the members must share the glory of their Head. Our Redeemer for this reason took death upon Him, that we might not be afraid to die; He showed us His own Resurrection, that we might hope that we too shall rise again. And He willed this same death might not continue longer than three days, lest, should resurrection be delayed in Him, we might wholly despair of it."
(Gregory the Great, Sermon on Job xix. 25-27, The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers,Tr. and Ed. by M.F. Toal, Vol. IV, p. 123
----------------------------------------------------
Thank you Rev. Harju. I tag Dan Woodring at Beatus Vir and Rev. Randy Asburry at RAsburry's Res

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Liturgical Quote of the Day

An Eastern Orthodox quote on the liturgy:

"Another divorce which needs to be mentioned is that between theology and liturgy. For an Orthodox theologian, liturgical texts are not simply the works of outstanding theologians and poets, but also the fruits of the prayerful experience of those who have attained sanctity and theosis. The theological authority of liturgical texts is, in my opinion, higher than that of the works of the Fathers of the Church, for not everything in the works of the latter is of equal theological value and not everything has been accepted by the fullness of the Church. Liturgical texts, on the contrary, have been accepted by the whole Church as a 'rule of faith' (kanon pisteos), for they have been read and sung everywhere in Orthodox churches over many centuries..."
- Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev (cited here and here)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Liturgical Conference

Here is a news release regarding a Catholic conference on the liturgy. Note how
the conference stresses the unity of Scripture and Liturgy:

------------------------------------------------------------
Conference Calls For Deeper Knowledge of Liturgy Says It's Key to Healing Divisions Over Reforms
By Karna Swanson

OXFORD, England, NOV. 4, 2008 (Zenit.org ).- Before the divisions over the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council can be healed, liturgy needs to be more fully understood and lived, concluded a congress held at Oxford University.

The one-day congress on "Scripture and Liturgy in the Theology of Benedict XVI" took place Saturday at the Catholic chaplaincy of the university. Nearly 300 attended the event sponsored by the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, founded and directed by Scott Hahn, professor of theology and Scripture at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

The Center for Faith and Culture in Oxford, the U.K. outreach program of Thomas More College in New Hampshire, organized the conference. Stratford Caldecott, director of the center and conference organizer, told ZENIT that "it is no secret that Catholics are still deeply divided over questions of liturgical style and use, many of them nursing wounds that have never completely healed" since the introduction of reforms in the wake of Vatican II.

"Now, with pressure building under Benedict XVI for a far-reaching 'reform of the reform,' some fear a new wave of liturgical changes causing further division in a generation that has grown used to the 'novus ordo' (new order)," he added. "Such disagreements emerge whenever a public forum is created in which to discuss the question of liturgy."

Caldecott said the conference's message was clear: "Before any real healing of these wounds can take place, the nature and meaning of the Church's liturgy needs to be more widely understood and lived."

Speakers

Papers were presented by four speakers: Dominican Father Aidan Nichols, author of numerous books including "The Thought of Pope Benedict XVI" and the forthcoming "G.K. Chesterton, Theologian"; Michael Waldstein, the Max Seckler Professor of Theology at Ave Maria University in Florida; Adrian Walker, an editor of "Communio" and translator of Benedict XVI's book "Jesus of Nazareth"; and Scott Hahn.

"All the papers highlighted the fact that that the Bible is fundamentally a liturgical book," said Caldecott. "The canon of Scripture was originally determined by the decision to read certain books at Mass. Old and New Testament both point toward the body of Christ, dead and risen, which is then received in the Eucharist. The homily itself should lead the faithful from the act of listening to the Word to receiving it in communion."

The conference organizer said after several conference participants spoke, a single thread emerged that all agreed upon: "The liturgy cannot remain frozen, nor can abuses be left unaddressed, but the most urgent need of all is for mystagogical catechesis. Young people as well as old need to become aware of the cosmic nature and theological depth of the Mass."

Hahn underlined in his address -- titled "Eucharistic Kingdom and the World as Temple" -- the meaning and beauty of the liturgy by drawing attention to the fact that "we are with Jesus in heaven, whenever we go to Mass."

Caldecott commented: "Only if this understanding is present will the necessary liturgical changes be understood and accepted."

Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-24159?l=english

Monday, November 03, 2008

Commemoration of All Faithful Departed



Commemoratio omnium Fidelium Defunctorum


Also known as All Souls' Day

The emphasis of The Feast of All Saints (Nov. 1), which in our parish we observed yesterday (Sunday, Nov. 2), is more on those, prophets, apostles and martyrs through whom we have received the divine revelation. In Christ Jesus we have communion with them and with the angels and archangels. Through the Lamb and His blood we have peace and communion with God.



The celebration of All Saints' Day being on Sunday means that the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed (Nov. 2) is transferred to today, November 3. However, with the congregation gathered for the mass on Sunday, the faithful of our parish who died during the last year were also remembered in the Prayer of the Church. This prayer ended with the Collect for the Commemoration. (Liturgically, this Commemoration was included with yesterday's celebration of the Feast of All Saints.)

Below is the Collect of the Day for today's Commmemoration:

Almighty God, in whose glorious presence live all who depart in the Lord and before whom all the souls of the faithful who are delivered of the burden of the flesh are in joy and felicity, we give You hearty thanks for Your loving-kindness to all Your servants who have finished their course in faith and now rest from their labors, and we humbly implore Your mercy that we, together with all who have departed in the saving faith, may have our perfect consummation and bliss, in both body and soul, in Your eternal and everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.