BACCALAUREATE EXAMS: JUNE 4

The presenters for the Baccalaureate Exams on June 4th were:

Dc. Amit Xess SDB, he presented and successfully defended his synthesis titled; THE EUCHARIST: THE SOURCE AND SUMMIT OF CHRISTIAN LIFE. He will be ordained in Kansbahal India.

Dc. Nishanth Stephen SDB, he presented and successfully defended his synthesis titled; CHRIST'S RESURRECTION AS THE FULFILLMENT AND THE NEW BEGINNING OF THE MYSTERY OF SALVATION. He will be ordained in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, and will be a teacher in Sayalkudi

June 4, 2021

BACCALAURTEATE EXAMS: JUNE 3

The presenters for the Baccalaureate Exams on June 3rd were:

Dc. Calvin Akunga M.Afr, he presented and successfully defended his synthesis titled; BE HOLY FOR I AM HOLY: THE SUPREME DIVINE COMMANDMENT. He will be ordained in the Archdiocese of Nairobi, Kenya; and is appointed for mission in the Province of Maghreb.

Dc. Steven Demaio SDB, he presented and successfully defended his synthesis titled; CREATED, ACCOMPANIED AND DIVINIZED IN TRINITARIAN FRIENDSHIP. He will be ordained and ministering in New York

 

June 3, 2021

BACCALAUREATE EXAMS: JUNE 2

The Baccalaureate Exams Continued on June 2nd .  The presenters  were:

Dc. Leonard Carlino SDB, he presented and successfully defended his synthesis titled; CONSECRATION AND THE RECAPITULATION OF ALL THINGS IN CHRIST. He will be ordained and ministering in New York.

Dc. Albino Sacanjila Sabonete SDB, he presented and successfully defended his synthesis titled; CHRIST'S OFFERING ON THE CROSS FOR THE SALVATION OF HUMANKIND. He will be ordained in Luanda City, and will be ministering in Huambo City.

Dc. Michal Jeszke SDB, he presented and successfully defended his synthesis titled; CHRISTIAN REVELATION THROUGH THE PARADIGM OF FAMILY. He will be ordained in Rumia Poland, and will minister in Bydgoszcz.

June 2, 2021

BACCALAUREATE EXAMS: JUNE 1

The Baccalaureate Exams Commenced on June 1st.  The presenters  were:

Dc. Craig Charles Spence SDB, he presented and  successfully defended his Synthesis titled; SHEPHERDING AT THE HEART OF THE CHURCH FOR THE GOOD OF ALL HUMANKIND.  He will be ordained in New Orleans and has been assigned to teach in Washington D.C.

Dc. Tresor Lulenga M.Afr, he presented and  successfully defended his Synthesis titled; THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, MOTHER OUR SAVIOUR, MODEL OF OUR CHRISTIAN LIFE. He will be ordained in the diocese of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo; and will be appointed for mission in the province of Ghana/Nigeria.

 

June 1, 2021

MY ORDINATION: REFLECTION

In two months, I will be ordained a Catholic Priest with the Salesians of Don Bosco. It has been an 11-year journey of formation and preparation. My grandmother has stopped asking me when I will be ordained because it always seemed like it was years away. Now it is only a matter of months. Traditionally, as part of the preparation, it is common to choose an image and a quote that would be a symbolic representation of this moment of ordination. I will take this opportunity to explain the image I have chosen because I find it to be rich in spiritual and theological content. It is not a typical image and, in fact, it is not something I thought I would choose. Yet I was captivated by it. This painting can be found above the altar in St. Stephen’s Church in Wasseralfingen, Germany, painted by Father Sieger Koder.

St. Peter, on the left, is painted in the water after hearing the insight from St. John; “It is the Lord.” (Jn 21:7)  He leaves the disciples in the boat and swims in haste to the Risen Jesus who waits for him on the shore. The hand coming out of the sea symbolizes the event of the walking on the water, when Peter, soon begins to drown the moment he takes his eyes off Jesus. “Lord save me!” (Mt 14:30) This is the hand of surrender, the acknowledgement our weakness, of our need for a Savior. Now, Peter has his eyes fixed on the Lord. There is nothing else. No one is more important. It is the Lord! 

On the other side, St. Mary Magdalene, who is face to face with the brightness of the Risen Lord, has her hand opened in the same surrendered prayer after hearing her voice pronounced by her Rabbouni. (Jn 20:16) Her life has been a difficult one. Cleansed of seven demons, she knows what it means to suffer. She knows how difficult this world can be. The road behind her is filled with death, injustice, pain and suffering. Yet on this road there is also beauty. Jesus brings the fullness of this reality. We will suffer, we will die but neither of them can have any power over us. Death and suffering are not the last word. The last word is always love. Love conquers even death. 

The center piece is a dynamic representation of the disciples on the road to Emmaus who have met the risen Lord in the breaking of the bread. (Lk 24:13-35) Yet another reality is added. This risen Lord is the transfigured One, surrounded on either side by Moses, who receives the manna from Heaven, and Elijah who is sustained by the bread brought by the ravens. The coming together of heaven and earth. The old and the new. The human and the divine. Jesus, the first-born from the dead, the new creation, gives us the new covenant in his very own body and blood. The one disciple is fully immersed, his hand raised in surrendered prayer. Metanoia. Repent and believe in the Good News. (Mk 1:15) The other disciple is still holding on, unwilling to be swept away by the abundant grace freely offered yet necessary for this promised new life of the Kingdom. The two women coming back from the cross are contemplating the stone that separates them from their beloved Friend, Brother and Lord. Who will roll away the stone for us? (Mk 16:3) Even in this tragic moment, their love continues to bind them to Jesus. This love continues to urge them forward in service. They continue to seek him. To ask questions. To desire to be close with him, even in the presence of the painful separation. They will soon realize that he is closer than they could ever imagine. 

The three people on the bottom left are said to represent our fallen humanity. The sinner, the tax collector and the prostitute draw near to the warmth and brightness of the Resurrection. Their restless hearts seek a Love that will finally satisfy. On the top right, the window of the Papal apartment is wide open. There is to be no more hiding, no more darkness. It is time to allow the fresh air of the Spirit to move freely, to blow where It will. St. Paul just below has had his life turned upside down. His hand raised in the surrendered prayer that is now common throughout the painting. It is the encounter that changes his life and sends him out on mission. He, at the very core of his being, his very person, becomes a mission on this earth. (Evangelii Gaudium 273) There is nothing left to live for than to preach Christ crucified (1 Cor 1:23), the one who loved him and gave his life for him. (Gal 2:20)

The last of the characters are up for debate. The Pope is most surely St. John XXIII. The older gentlemen according to one description is Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, an influential theologian before Vatican II. However, in my interpretation, the image more closely reflects the person of Jules Isaac, the Jewish historian from France who had a brief but intimate friendship with John XXIII and was very influential in Christian-Jewish relations and an inspiration for the document Nostra Aetate. Jules knew suffering, he knew love, he knew the cross, even if it was hidden within his heart. It is in the context of friendship, even between people of different religions, that will allow each of us to be prepared to encounter the risen Lord. 

For me, this entire painting portrays the dynamic life of faith. A faith of beauty and pain. Life and death. Betrayal, forgiveness, surrender, doubt, peace, war, sadness and joy. It is within all of this that we encounter the Risen Lord. It is with our burden and our weakness that He raises us along with his own body. He invites us into his very own passion, death and resurrection. This is the upward calling in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:14). The life of the Spirit towards the Father. All are invited into this Mystery. In my own encounter with the Risen Lord, I have been called to follow him as his priest. I have been called to break the bread, to open up a space for an encounter with Him. It is not my priesthood. It is HIS. My hands, lifted in surrendered prayer, must always be ready to do the will of the Father. To allow his love to move me to action. To listen as he calls my name, day after day, accompanying me as I carry the cross I have been given. Yet, the cross is not a symbol of death, but of unconditional and total love given freely. This love transforms. This love offers us the gift of becoming partakers in the divine nature. (2 Peter 1:4) I am not yet sure what I shall be, but when it is revealed, I do know that I will be like him, for I shall see him as he is. (1 Jn 3:2). The call is to abide; to abide in Love; to abide in the great Mystery of Faith and as we abide, we become. May our hearts be surrendered and may we enter into his glory. (Lk 24:26)

- Steve Demaio SDB

May 26, 2021

STUDY TRIP TO EILAT

It doesn’t happen every day... it’s hard to convey in one page the beauty of the experience we had together, right at the end of the semester of classes. Southern Israel was still an unexplored land for many of us until recently. Three days were enough to let this corner of the earth, made up of history and nature, into our lives.

We set off on Sunday morning, leaving the mild climate of Jerusalem for the decidedly hotter one of the Negev. The first great fortune we had was to have a guide who is deeply in love with this area of Israel, with its desert, its sea, its history and people. Fr. Piotr was waiting for us at his home, in the parish of the Hebrew-speaking Christian community, in Beersheba. It was from there that we left for our first destination: the archaeological site of Tamar, in the Arava valley, whose layers speak of a history that began in the period of the First Temple (10th century BC) and survived until the Arab period (7th century AD). Accompanying us along the ancient ruins was Yoanan, a young boy who calls this place “home” and whose voice reveals a great passion for archaeology and Bible history. After all, living here, on the edge of the desert, with one’s family cannot be explained otherwise.

It is often thought that a bus trip consists of successive stages, between which nothing interesting happens or is seen. Nothing could be further from the truth in our case. Road 90, which accompanied us to the far south, cuts through the Arava and then the Negev desert and is a perfect observatory for this unique landscape, made up of a plain surrounded by mountains that go from the ochre of sand, to the silver of rock, to the red of copper. Copper! The same mineral that had already attracted ancient civilizations 6000 years ago, also attracted us there, to the mines of Timna. Here, from the marriage between wind and water came to light an incredible scenery, where the red earth takes on the most impressive forms, from the bizarre and giant mushroom to the elegant and majestic arches and pillars of a temple. Evening came and morning followed, the first day.

It does not seem inappropriate to use the same formula here as in the creation story. What we experienced was a real journey through the beauties of creation that are concentrated in this small piece of land. The second day of our adventure was dedicated entirely to the sea and its life. The coral reef of the Red Sea is a unique and precious spectacle and you don’t have to be a diver to witness it. A visit to the Underwater Observatory Marine Park in Eilat kept us busy and “underwater” all morning. Of the many attractions here, two deserved our full attention: an underwater glass-walled chamber and a large
pool with a name as fascinating as it is disquieting: the “shark pool”. Corals and fish of all varieties awakened in us that sense of admiration and meditation on the wonders of creation, which became even more real in the afternoon, thanks to the snorkelling experience. Mask and snorkel and then two hours in the water, spent looking closely at the colours of the fish that we had only seen through the glass in the morning. No sharks, fortunately: those are best seen only in a pool and from a distance! A good dinner at the hotel and a long night’s rest gave us back the energy that the sea had demanded as the price for so much beauty. And so, ready for the third day, we set off on the road back home. Leaving Eilat, a few kilometres away, more animals awaited us in the Wildlife Reserve of Hai Bar Yotvata: no more fish and corals, but ostriches, oryxes, addaxes, gazelles and ibexes. A short safari in this desert area brought us close to these curious creatures, who wanted to get closer to the bus to “see us a bit more closely.” Once again, an immersion in nature, a prelude to the spectacle that was waiting for us... in Makhtesh Ramon. A crater of 40 x 9 km in a red and arid land that gives the impression of having landed on another planet. The view of this landscape from the village of Mitzpè Ramon was as breathtaking as the story the museum tells: that of Ylan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut to give his life on a space journey. All that remained was to conclude with a salute to the true “masters” of the Negev, those men and women who proved that life in the desert is possible: the Nabateans. Today, the city of Mamshit is in ruins, but it gives a glimpse of the splendour of a civilization that knew how to organize its existence to adapt to these scenarios. The signs of Christianity are also present here, in the two churches built when the inhabitants of this and other villages in the Negev became Christian, Byzantine. It is difficult to forget the harmony of these buildings, whose colour and elegance seem to have risen from the desert with almost no effort, naturally.

And so, with eyes full of all this beauty, we returned to Jerusalem, grateful to Fr. Andrzej for having conceived this great project for us and to Fr. Piotr for the passion with which he made it come true.

- Matteo Vignola, SDB

May 14, 2021

UNDERSTANDING OF DEATH

      My reflection about death begins with an illustration of a valid syllogism, 'All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.’ The mortality of Socrates is correctly inferred from the two premises, the major and the minor, linked together by their middle term. The fact that Socrates is long since dead may have helped manoeuver his argument. Death (מוות (remains an abstract proposition to which we give, to use Cardinal Newman's expression, a 'notional' and not a 'real' assent. It is always the mortality of Socrates, or someone else's, that is the matter under consideration, not mine. Metaphysics, according to Aristotle, should not be taught to people under the age of thirty. Moreover, given today's much greater longevity, Aristotle would no doubt extend the age limit considerably. Because they would not be mature enough to comprehend it, so death is not an appropriate subject for the young's mental, psychological and spiritual capacities due to their innocence. Being a Christian and not only that, but also a theologian student of which I am aware that theology is not simply a matter of interpreting scriptures. The Bible or the Quran bring the amazing concept of a metaphysical force that death is a physical universe being, that gives hope only in the risen Lord. I make it clear that I have never been close to death so I am not giving a first-hand experience and a total objectivity of it. But my emotions exists in it and only hope compromises my rationality and balance. I have come to the affirmation that, this ‘death mysticism’ by dying in baptism which every Christian dies, buried with, rises sacramentally to a new life in Christ (Trinity). However, death is a participation in Christ's death. Our physical death, besides being a natural physical end, is also a punishment for sin. Therefore, dying to sin is already a preparation for and overcoming physical death. This journey from death to life is sustained throughout our lives by other sacraments, especially by the Eucharist which has been called the Medicine of Immortality, deepening the Christian's companionship with Christ in suffering and death.

      Moreover, in all these ministries, the Church often holds out the passion and death of Jesus as the model of patience and obedience, urging the sick and dying to unite themselves with Christ and to 'die like Jesus' (ישוע כתו למות .( The two cries of Jesus on the cross, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' (Mark 15:34) and 'Father, into your hands I commend my spirit' (Luke 23:46), comforts the dying in their conflicting experiences of remoteness from and nearness to God, doubt and faith, despair and hope, defiant rebellion and loving obedience in the face of death. The Church also recommends that the dying 'offer up' their sufferings to God as a way to merit eternal life. In conclusion, death is the permanent, irreversible cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living organism. Therefore, it is in the light of the kingdom of God that the resurrection of Jesus and ours must be understood. Resurrection is not coming back to life, being 'reunited' (התאחד ( with our bodies. The core of Jesus' resurrection does not lie in his regaining his former body but in his new and transformed life with God and in God, in the peace and love of God's reign for which he lived and died. So too will our own resurrection be: we do not live and hope for the reunion with our bodies after death, rather, we live and rejoice and suffer and die for the reign of God, and in this way hope for a new, transformed life in God and with God, in the company of Jesus and all our sisters and brothers, in a new heaven and a new earth.

- Nelson Mwale SDB

May 10, 2021

THE DATE OF EASTER: ONE FAITH, TWO CALENDARS

A Latin Christian meets his Orthodox friend in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and asks him: “On which day is the resurrection of your Jesus this year?” – “Well, four weeks after yours.”

This anecdote shows what living and supporting ecumenism in the Holy City really means: having a large calendar in which all the different dates of the Christian feasts can be logged in. Is it not strange that Christianity prays to be “one in Christ” but insists on different dates for Easter, Christmas and other important liturgical feasts? Or is it true, what malicious tongues tell us: There are different liturgical dates for the Christians, because there is not enough space for all the Patriarchs with their entourage in the grotto of the Nativity Church and in the tomb of the Holy Sepulchre?

While this year (2021) the Anglicans, some Armenians, Roman-Catholics, Protestants and others, celebrated Easter on April 4 th , the Eastern Catholics together with the Greek and Russian Orthodox had their Easter Sunday nearly one month later (28 days), on May 2 nd . In some years the difference of the Easter date between the Christian denominations reaches a maximum of 35 days, in other years it is on exactly the same day for all Christians. It is one of the many signs of division and fragmentation that Christians celebrate Easter on very different dates.

However, certain events of the last weeks around Easter show that the ecumenical movement among Christians is not dead but very alive and active: On March 9, 2021, Archbishop Job Getcha of Telmessos (Autocephal Ucrainian Orthodox Church and representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople at the World Council of Churches) suggested that the year 2025, which will be the 1,700 th anniversary of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea (325 A.D.), would be a good year to unify the date of Easter (and consequently of all the other feasts, too) in all the calendars of Christianity and from then on to celebrate on the same date every year.

In 2014, the Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II (Egypt) had already suggested the unification of the date of Easter for all the Christian Churches. His proposal had been supported by other important representatives of Churches: the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (Eastern Orthodox Church) and the Roman Pontiff. One year later in 2015 Pope Francis even had proposed the second Sunday in April as the general date for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ for all Christians in the world, referring back to a suggestion made by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council. While the latest proposal of 2021 had been appreciated highly by some Christian denominations, e.g. the Holy See and his representative for Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, others rejected this suggestion entirely: Cardinal Koch´s Russian Orthodox counterpart, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolams (Chairman of the Moscow´s Patriarchat ´s Department for External Church Relations) immediately replied that a unification of the Easter date “is not on the agenda of the (Russian) Orthodox Church” and in any case the Russian Orthodox has “no intention” of changing the traditional system of the Easter date in their Church.

But why are there different dates of Easter in the one and only Christianity today? – All Christian denominations follow the same tradition of the 1 st Council of Nicea (325), which determined that Easter Sunday has to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the beginning of spring and after the Jewish Feast of Passover (Pesach). With this decision of the Fathers of the Council of Nicea an intense controversy of the Early Church came to an end: The dominant Roman Christians and their tradition exulted, while Christians in Eastern Provinces as Asia and Syria who celebrated the tradition of the 14 th Nisan, the day of the Jewish Passover feast (for this they were called the “quartodecimans”), had to change their custom.

After the Council of Nicea, the Easter date was fixed for all Christians on the same respected date for more than 1,000 years. Today the Eastern and the Western Churches celebrate Easter again on different days, what happened? The current problem is simple but at the same time complex: all Christian Churches are still following the rules of Nicea, but they use different calendars. While the Churches of the Eastern (mostly Orthodox) tradition follow the Julian calendar, the Churches of the Western tradition follow the Gregorian calendar. But the system of the “Julian calendar”, named after the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar (46 BC), had a flaw: it lagged behind the solar year more and more throughout the centuries, and in the 16 th century the difference was up to ten days. The Catholic Church as scientific authority at this time decided on a new counting of the dates in order to bring the solar year and the calendar back into harmony. This “Gregorian calendar”, named after Pope Gregor XIII, came to birth in October 1582, skipping ten days of the former Julian calendar and setting 365 days per year, including a “leap year” with 366 days every four years. By the way, it is a fascinating part of Church history that Teresa of Ávila, the great nun and saint that reformed the Carmelite order, died on October 4, 1582, the last day when the Julian calendar was in force, and had been buried one day later, which was October 15, 1582. Today most countries of the world follow the counting of the Gregorian calendar, including the (Western) Christian Churches. And the Julian calendar is still in use in the liturgy of the Eastern (Orthodox) Churches.

Is there any solution for this difference? Experts of theology are still in discussion. Father Nicodemus Schnabel, Benedictine monk of Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem and expert for Eastern Liturgy, in April 2021 proposed the “Jewish-Christian solution” that Easter should be celebrated on the Sunday after Nisan 14 th (Passover / Pesach), following the Hebrew (lunar) calendar. This led Andrea Riedl, deputy Professor at the Chair of Early Church History and Patrology at the University of Regensburg, Germany, to the harsh response that the first “Christians” at the time of the Early Church drew a strict line to Jewish Pesach (traditions) e.g. by emphasizing Sunday as the day of the Resurrection of Jesus (cf. Didache). Representatives of the Chief Rabbinate (in Germany) also took part in this Catholic theological discussion by pointing out that the difference between Passover and Easter marks an important point of intersection between Judaism and Christianity. These feasts, traditions and their religious backgrounds should not be mixed, but Christian Churches should be aware of their Jewish roots, as long as the Christian denominations still show enormous differences regarding Judaism – from anti-Semitism to fraternity. Father Nicodemus Schnabel rounded off the topic by emphasizing Jewish-Christian dialogue in unifying a common Christian date of Easter after the Jewish Feast of Pesach.

It seems that the current Christian discussion on the date of Easter opened up a new minefield. Is there any possibility of a peaceful solution – although we are well aware that even the Early Church Councils appeared more than a battlefield of bishops than a unanimous choir prayer?

The current discussion reminds me of an anecdote attributed to the Austrian Jew and Israeli philosopher Martin Buber (1878–1965), told by the Romanian born Jewish-American writer and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel (1928–2016): While Jewish faithful are still waiting for the Messiah coming to redeem the world at the end of the days, Christian faithful are also waiting for Jesus the Messiah’s return. And so, Buber declared, we should all wait together. He
continued: “And no doubt when the Messiah comes in those end days, someone will lean over and ask in his ear, ‘Hey, have you been here before?’ And when that happens, I hope I’m here too so I can caution him, ‘For heaven’s sake, whatever you do, don’t answer that’”.

Not only in Jerusalem the calendar of religious feasts shows duplications and tensions between Christian Churches and Jewish holydays. If we take 1 Cor 8:6 seriously, “Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things are and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are and through whom we exist”, we should no longer doubt and debate one unified Easter date, but take first steps and actions to one Christian celebration in different rites.

- Sr. Gabriela Zinkl, SMCB, SThD

April 3, 2021

Aedicule of the Holy Sepulchre
Inside the Tomb

THE FIFTH GOSPEL

A great blessing of studying Theology here at the Studium Theologicum Salesianum is the experience of life in the Holy Land. As students of theology, we experience the Gospel, not only in the classroom and our prayer lives, but also when we walk the holy sites, as any purveyor of our website will recognize is a common occurrence for all students. Here we encounter the 5th Gospel.

This term, though its exact origins remain unclear, is most commonly attributed to St Jerome who is credited as saying the following: “Five gospels record the life of Jesus. Four you will find in books and the one you will find in the land they call Holy. Read the fifth gospel and the world of the four will open to you.” More recently, during the first visit of a Pope to the Holy Land since Peter himself, Pope Paul VI referenced many of the sites as living stones that can inform the reading of the Gospel. Benedict XVI expressly utilized the term, referencing the 2008 Synod on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church, when he spent an entire paragraph of his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, saying that “the stones on which our Redeemer walked are still charged with his memory and continue to ‘cry out’ the Good News.” 1

For sure, this land explains so much of the Gospel and Jesus’ actions. We can visit the sea of Galilee, see how the waters acted as natural amplification when one speaks on a boat, and recognize the desire for as many to hear him when Jesus commanded the disciples “to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd” (Mk 3:9). We can walk the road to Emmaus from Jerusalem, follow the steps of Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the place of his imprisonment at Caiphas’ house, and even journey, like the holy family, from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Bargil Pixner, a noted biblical scholar and archaeologist, emphasized this when he said that “In the unfolding of the relationship between God and man there exists not only a progressive History of Salvation but also a Geography of Salvation.” 2 Each site and the land as a whole has the capacity to enlighten the understanding of the scriptures, and only walking the land oneself can one truly experience these lessons.

For us students of theology it is a great blessing to live here and study here, among “the places in which God revealed himself to man [which] still remain ever present.” 3 As we journey through this Eastertide, our prayer is that the experience of the risen Jesus may enlighten our lives, and we may be confident in his presence through this experience of the places of his geographical incarnation.

- Lenny Carlino, SDB

 

1. Verbum Domini 89.
2. Bargil Pixner, With Jesus through Galilee according to the Fifth Gospel, trans. Christo Botha and Dom David Foster
(Rosh Pina, Israel: Corazin Publishing, 1992)
3. Ibid.

April 27, 2021

“BLESSED”, BROKEN, CHOSEN, GIVEN (P. 1)

Introduction:

 

      This reflection is aimed to show that as Christ is blessed, chosen, broken and given for all humanity. So too we are blessed, broken, chosen and given to humanity. This reflection will be divided into 4 series, named as Blessed, Broken, Chosen and Given. The series will cover the individual elements pertaining to them as seen through Scripture and experience. The aim is also to retain an interconnected structure with the elements, because a human person has all of these elements within them at once.   

 

Part 1: Blessed

      What does it mean that we are blessed, and what does this blessing call us to do? We are blessed by many factors, first by the mere factor of our existence, second by the calling into Christ’s community by Baptism, and third by the sealing of living faith in Confirmation. How generous is his goodness, to call us into existence, to sing us into the life that is a total gift, unmerited and incapable of being paid back. How great is God, to not only bless us with life, but to make us with an immortal soul! “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1: 27) Can we even begin to comprehend the greatness of this gift? We are similar to animals with life, affectivity and a body that can enjoy many things. But then we are granted something much more precious than any mere life. We are created with free -will, intellect and a sense of introspection. But even beyond this, we are granted even yet a greater gift, that is an immortal soul. If we could not pay back the gift of life, how much more we are granted with this resplendent gift of immortality. Truly this gift, this glory of our being is so far beyond our imagination, so far beyond what we can even begin to pay back. If we had to pay it back, then all of us would tragically fall short. 

      The blessing of God goes far beyond one simple act, nor is it a passive addition to our humanity. The blessing of God is ongoing, ever alive and active in our being, every fiber of our being is part of this blessing. “God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth.” (Gen 1 :28)  God not only blessed us once, but by the sending of his Son, the God-Man, he chose to be with us; (Which in itself is another unmerited blessing) but he also died and rose from the dead, which draws us into the mystery of his divinity. Can we even begin to understand this everlasting mystery? He first gave us his blessing to grant us entrance to heaven, he blesses us in every act that we undertake. By this blessing he asks us to exercise our free-will, to follow him, since he has blessed us to use our free-will. But within this we must exercise our free-will, we must cooperate in his grace that is already moving in us. “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it’” (Mat 16: 24-25) 

      If we do not follow him, then we not only violate our own free-will, but we also pervert all of human life, and we degrade ourselves by abusing the gifts God so lavishly pours onto us. We are asked to trust, to strive, to get up and follow him. Can we even understand, or fully appreciate his blessing? His blessing is like the only fire in a frozen earth, how needed it would be for life, but yet we often prefer our cold dark corners. Still that example is in no way close to the extraordinary blessings of God. “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him,” (Cor 2: 9) 

      Only those who are blessed by God can convey their blessing onto another. As it has been seen throughout the O.T. and N.T. As Melchizedek blessed Abram, (Gen 14)  for he was a blessed priest of God. So too as Isaac blessed his son Jacob, (Gen 27) for he was the rightful authority over his son. So too Christ who himself is blessing, blessed his apostles so they might bless others. (Jhn 20:19-29) We then who are blessed are called to bless all those whom we meet. Through our life, actions and words, we are called to respect, honor and love all peoples as is rightly due to them. This blessing is to glorify God, and to make human-kind into the image of Christ. Moreover this blessing must be held together with the cross and suffering, for blessing cannot be understood without the complete effulgence of self. Blessing cannot be true blessing without aspects of brokenness, chosenness and being given to others.  

- Joshua Sciullo SDB

March 20, 2021