Men of Emmaus – June 7, 2014

Where: St. Francis
When: 8:00 AM
What: 2 Corinthians, Chapter 4

Looking around the web for some potentially helpful resources, I found the following:

St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians

This is a short and a bit of an odd letter. It primarily focuses upon the relationship between Paul and the Corinthians, not doctrinal teachings. This fact should give pause to Protestants who claim exclusive authority for Scripture, which includes such letters by Paul, rather than the writings of the Church fathers which claim apostolic authority for their teachings. The specifics of the relationship between Paul and the Corinthians are of limited relevance today, but the general character is of great importance.

There are two overarching Catholic doctrinal themes in this letter: apostolic authority and the necessity and ministry of reconciliation. In the face of doubters and false apostles, Paul is forced to reassert his apostolic authority. In dealing with a repentant sinner, Paul exercises his apostolic authority to forgive sins in the person of Christ and to indulge the repentant sinner in comfort rather than require more penance of him, demonstrating the ministry of reconciliation he mentions in the letter.

Paul’s letter does the following things with regard to the Protestant-Catholic divide:

Contradicts the heresy of sola Scriptura and upholds the authority of oral apostolic preaching and discipline in person (1:19, 23-24; 2:1, 3-4, 17; 3:2-6; 4:5-7; 5:5; 10:5, 9-11, 16; 12:19; 13:10-11)
Affirms apostolic/Church authority over lay believers (1:1, 21-24; 2:1; 6:11-13; 7:15; 10:8; 11:17; 12:14, 19; 13:2-4, 10-11)
Contradicts the fallibilism of Protestantism (2:17; 3:4-6, 12; 4:5-7; 5:5, 18-20; 10:5; 11:5-6, 10; 13:3)
Affirms the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation (2:5-11; 5:17-20; 13:2)
Affirms the necessity of perseverance in obedience and repentance for salvation/to obtain heaven (1:24; 2:11, 15-16; 5:20; 6:1; 7:8-13; 11:3-4; 12:21; 13:2-5)
Contradicts certainty of knowledge of others’ or one’s own salvation (1:6-7; 5:20; 6:1; 7:13; 11:3-4; 12:20-21; 13:5)
Contradicts sola fide (5:10-11, 15; 7:1, 15; 10:15)
Affirms the necessity of the institutional and doctrinal unity of the Church (1:1; 11:2-4, 12-15)
Affirms the Catholic view of suffering (1:5-7; 4:9-11; 12:7-9)
Affirms the Catholic custom of referring to priests as father (6:13; 12:14)
Supports the Catholic doctrine of praying to dead saints (1:11)
Supports the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory (12:2-4)

The author then comments on a selection of these verses. This could be a useful resource, especially for linking the words of Scripture to what we believe as Catholics.

The author claims that what we just read – Chapter 3 — contradicts sola scriptura. Do we agree? Comments are open.

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Five Words To Get You To Heaven — (Originally Published: March 20, 2010)

This was the second post (the very first was an event suggestion).  It was viewed fifteen times directly (I can’t count how many times it was viewed on the home page.  This is where it started.  Here we go:

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“Do Whatever He Tells You”

John 2:1-21

Today’s meeting covered two events in Jesus’ life – the wedding feast at Cana – and the first sign – and the cleansing of the Temple. In discussing the feast, we saw elements of three sacraments – holy matrimony, reconciliation, and the holy Eucharist (Why don’t we say “Holy Reconciliation”?). We saw St. John speaking to us about Mary (or, as he says, “the mother of Jesus”) and how she provides us both a model of faith and a simple, straightforward rule to live by. On this topic, we focused on verse 5: “Do whatever he tells you.” We need not fear approaching Mary or placing ourselves under her guidance because her guidance is always the same: “do whatever he tells you.” Mary, of course, lived by these words perfectly.  She also helps us to listen and strengthens us through God’s grace. As that grce transforms us, we are better able to hear Christ and to “do whatever He tells you.”

We also discussed the superabundance of God’s grace – Christ provided more wine than they needed, which we also see as more grace, more love than we can even imagine. All we have to do is say yes and “do whatever He tells you.” As for the cleansing of the Temple, our discussion was somewhat limited by time. We introduced it and talked about the difference between “nice, sentimental Jesus” and an “angry” Jesus. We emphasized that our Lord experienced the whole range of human emotions, but he never erred or sinned. His activities in the Temple were righteous and they expose us to an aspect of righteousness that is not often emphasized (probably because it’s so easy for us to err; the likelihood that we will sin, where our Lord did not, is too great.) We also discussed some of the implications of our Lord’s actions for the old Covenant and how the marketers fit within the Temple system. Finally, we talked about how these reading challenge us for the upcoming week. Although the scholarship can be (and is) quite interesting, the point is to allow the Word to transform us.

Next Week

We will be doing the next lesson. As you read, here are some questions to ponder: (1) How is Christ seeking to reach me through the events that I’m reading now? Why these events? Why now? Why me? Am I Nicodemus? Am I John the Baptist? Am I a little of both? What does the answer honestly require from me? Remember Christ’s question to the disciples at Ceaserea Phillipi — “Who do you say that I am?” What was Nicodemus’ answer? What was John the Baptist’s answer? What difference the answer make? If it makes no difference, keep asking; everything depends on the answer

(2) How am I resisting Christ’s action in my soul and what do these events teach me about overcoming my resistance to Christ?

See you next Saturday!

A really radical sacrifice. . .

We chatted about the idea of little sacrifices at home…i.e., doing our home chores enthusiastically.  Here’s an even more radical suggestion – what if we did one of our wives’ chores — enthusiastically?  Well, God doesn’t ask the impossible.

Amazing Grace: A Church Guys Discussion of John 6:1-21

Yesterday’s discussion focused on the two episodes recounted in John 6:1-21. The first was the feeding of the 5,000. Guys commented on several aspects of this episode. We noted St. John’s use of numerical symbolism — 12 baskets, 5 loaves etc. At the beginning, it seemed that interpreters were reading meaning not intended by St. John and not intrinsic to his witness. The constant appearance of meaningful numbers (the meaning of which may have been more apparent to St. John’s immediate audiencce) makes it more and more apparent that St. John did intend to use these numbers meaningfully.

Along these lines, we noted how this episode hearkens back to the Old Testament in so many ways and how the episode would have resonated with a person of St. John’s time and place in ways that are difficult for us to grasp just as people in 3020 A.D. will have a difficult time grasping our witness to the Risen Lord. We discussed manna — what is it? What is means for us? Its relationship to the multiplied bread.

We noted the connection to the Liturgy. The eucharist is the obvious connection, but it was noted that if one puts St. John’s description together with that of the Synoptic evangelists, we have a pre-figurement of the Mass: preaching and then breaking of the bread. It is not crystal clear, of course, but it is there nonetheless. Especially interesting was the connection to the Didache. The Didache is believed to be one of the earliest catechisms of the Church — its full name is “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles to the Nations.” Interestingly, the Eucharistic prayer that it records recalls this episode and connects it to the Old Testament. (This blog provides a link to the Didache).

We talked about much, much more.

The second episode was Jesus walking on water. John 6:15-21. Our discussion was not as wide-ranging because one of us offered an insight that opened it up in a wholly new and fascinating way. In fact, the passage was what convinced him that Catholicism was true. This is what he saw. Initially, we imagine ourselves in the boat. Remember, Sts. Andrew and John (remember St. Andrew was part of St. John’s community and was instrumental in bringing about the writing of this Gospel) were in the boat. This is the Sea of Galilee at sunset:

The Sea of Galilee is approximately 8 miles wide and very long. They should have been able to cross it easily (the majority were, after all, professional fisherman.) Yet, they only got between 3 and 4 miles after at least 9 hours of rowing (Mt. 14:25). This was hard work and they were having an incredible difficulty doing it on their own without Christ’s help (starting to sound familiar?). Christ then appears. What does He say to them? All the translations that we had said, “It is I.” The specific words that He is reported to have used — the words that reflect St. John’s and St. Andrew’s living witness — were “I AM.” To Jewish ears, “I AM” meant one thing: that Christ was asserting that He was God. When He said this, what happened? “They wanted to take him into the boat, but the boat immediately arrived at the [shore] to which they were heading.” John 6:22. Again, a more literal translation is more meaningful symbolically; instead of shore, the literal word is “land.” It reads: “[i]mmediately the boat reached the land at the place they were heading for.”

The echoes of “Promised Land” in “land” are evident. Remember, what happened when Moses and the Israelites first reached the Promised Land. They sent spies/scouts into the land to find out who and what was there. What they reported was fearsome (Numbers 13:26-33) (“ 31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”)

As a result of the report, the Israelites were afraid to enter the Promised Land. They were so afraid that they doubted God’s promise to them and God was not happy. Numbers 14:26 ff. In John, Christ reminds them “Do not be afraid” as they move slowly and labriously toward the “land” to which they are heading in the face of serious physical danger. But once He is present and makes Himself known as God, they arrive immediately where they are going (note how St. John give us this detail — they didn’t just run aground.)

What does all of this mean? Two messages leapt out at us and as always they are related to each other. First, God’s grace is essential; we cannot get to the Promised Land without His grace. The disciples went practically nowhere — they rowed for nine hours (roughly) and only traveled, at most, four miles. “I AM” appears, removes their fear, and supplies the grace they lacked. What does this tell us? That we need to get out of the way of God’s grace; we need to trust that when we put in all of our effort and that is insufficient, we need to ask for grace and “I AM” will supply the rest. Second, God’s grace is efficacious. Immediately, they reached the Promised Land. His grace changes things in the real world; what are signs, instituted by Christ, that efficaciously make present the grace they signify? Sacraments. St. John’s gospel is very sacramental and this is yet another example.

As always, once Scripute is broken open, it yields so, so much.

“Hey, Einstein”

Once, when I young and brash, I heard former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the US Supreme Court speak.  It was uneventful until . . . she glaringly misquoted the Constitution.  Not just a little bit. But glaring. Afterwards, we were all thinking ‘how could a JUSTICE of the Supreme Court mistake the Constitution….” (Yes, we were law geeks).

Not to draw any analogies, but Jesus probably felt the same way during his conversation with Nicodemus.  Nicodemus was probably a member of the Great Bet Din, the supreme Jewish religious authority of Jesus’ day (except for Jesus, of course).  He came to check Jesus out — whether on a mission for the Bet Din, for personal interest, or both.  Jesus begins to explain to him that Original Sin killed the spiritual life in us and that we had to be re-born from above through water and the Spirit.  Simple.  But, if your viewpoint is literal and you think mainly in terms of the physical, very difficult.  Nicodemus doesn’t get it.  He and Jesus are talking past each other.

A few questions come to mind:  How are we limited by our ways of thinking?  Do we shape our way of thinking by what Christ teaches through the Church) or do we shape our understanding of what Christ teaches through the Church by our way of thinking? Which was Nicodemus doing?  Which is right? Are we willing to give up or merely modify a dearly held belief if Christ teaches something different (even if, as I am sure Nicodemus did, we think it is, shall we say, challenging)?  Are we trapped like Nicodemus?