By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Temptation to Turn Inward

Yes, the Church is beset by enemies, some discreet, some not so discreet (to say the least). But, as the Pope recently said, our most dangerous enemies are the temptations within us. One temptation that I see today is a desire by some to turn inward, to cling to ornate ritual or even clericalism as a lifesaver in a tumultuous and confusing world. It is a temptation similar to that of excessive nationalism. When nations are unnerved by events, they turn to nationalistic fanaticism (Germany between the world wars). We see the same phenomenon in the turn toward Islamic extremism. We Catholics must resist the temptation to retreat to some kind of neo-Baroque traditionalism.  The practical reason to resist that temptation to excessive ritualism and triumphalism is that it will not work: neither we nor others will be transformed by such ritualism any more than the hostile Pharisees of Jesus' day. But there is an even more important reason: the Jesus of the Gospels is not an inward-turning traditionalist or ritualist, but rather a dynamic presence subversive of our human obsessions with security, ego, and winning and the crutches we reach for in our insecurity. The freedom of the Gospel calls us to a radical daring in agape, not to the transient security of traditional pomp and high fences.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Anecdotal Hope

Lately, I have been impressed, in my personal encounters, by how many young people are opting for life. The evidence is all anecdotal and would not merit a statistical nod for significance. So take it as simply this, no more and no less: I am reporting my own direct observations from a very tiny sample. I have seen the embrace of life among graduate students who choose to keep a child, even if they are not married. That is a big gesture in a country where "career, career, career" becomes the mantra, the end, that justifies all means, including evil ones like abortion. (That mantra also justifies the harm caused by contraception in a fornication culture--but that is a related controversial topic for another occasion.) I have seen the choice for life also among the less educated, who fresh out of high school, opt for life, in spite of the obvious temptation to turn to abortion in a society that has made the formerly unthinkable and taboo now thinkable and acceptable for the last 38 years. There is a strong human fundamental instinct for life that survives even after 38 years of an all-out attempt to make us believe the lie that the "fetus" is not human life worthy of the protection you and I routinely get.

What do we do, we who claim to be so "pro-life"? We need to celebrate and support those very human choices rejecting the abortion alternative. We need to make practical gestures of support, including, where possible, financial support. The battle for minds and hearts and souls takes place more on our streets, campuses, and daily encounters than in the Supreme Court. Even the Supreme Court, from its august Greek temple on Capitol Hill, has not been able to stamp out the fundamental, very human intuition that life is life, regardless of its stage of development. Look around and see what opportunities you may be given to bring alive a practical, concrete dimension to your pro-life beliefs. Talk to people, and the needs will become apparent. And then act. I am reminded of the Ignatian dictum (my paraphrase): be aware, think, act. I am also reminded of Josemaría Escriva's constant, urgent advice: to "react" to what you see happening around you (in Spanish, the strong verb and infinitive "reaccionar," not to pass by with indifference). Josemaría was very Ignatian.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Way to End the Journey

A beloved 80-year-old Bronx priest retires; and we see the face of Jesus at, of all places, this N.Y. Times link. For years, he walked the streets of his parish, a parish in a dangerous "hood." I have always wondered, since the days I had a small urban law office near a large Catholic church, why more priests do not "walk" their city parishes and mingle with the people, "their" people.

If this Bronx priest could do it in that neighborhood, certainly, more could do it in much safer areas. Jesus was peripatetic, so should his priests be, in one form or another. At one point in the article, one cleric clumsily and inartfully remarks that this old priest's social concern is "passé" nowadays. With all due respect, the Gospel is never passé. It was not just "social concern"--it was being Jesus to others. "Social concern" is too reductionistic. Today, a whole range of people show "social concern"--it is de rigeur and very respectable and bourgeois in many settings. Mere "social concern" is a very common, even conventional, phenomenon; but agape is not as common and usually comes in more humble guises.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Like the Walls of Jericho

A big wall is tumbling down, promising to provide greater, much more convenient access to millions of veteran and new readers to books and other media: Amazon has just significantly cut the price of its best-selling Kindle e-reader from $259 to $189 (see link). In the not too distant future, even kids will likely be toting around a Kindle or some other e-reader. For more background, see this N.Y. Times link.

My own books and writings, including this blog, are now available in Kindle form (see the blog sidebar). May the walls keep tumbling down! I expect that more people will start reading more and spending less time watching movies or TV as these devices become as ubiquitous as cell phones.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Second Method

No, this post is not about natural family planning; but it is about planning, the planning of our lives, in communion with God. As noted before on this site, Fr. James Martin, S.J., has written a book about discerning decision-making which applies the insights of the Spanish-Basque founder of the Jesuit order, St. Ignatius Loyola. The "Second Method" is one way that Ignatius suggests in choosing between two or more good alternatives. I describe the "Second Method" here because it is the method that appeals more to me personally. If you read Fr. Martin's book, you may very well or likely find something else that appeals to you more than this particular method. Here is the "Second Method" in a very small nutshell with my paraphrasing or quoting directly from the book:

1. "Imagine what advice you would give to" a person facing the same alternatives as you are facing. This tactic enables us to be more objective about our situation and "free[s] [us] from focusing" too much on ourselves and our emotions--although we certainly should not ignore our deepest, mature desires, which are often, or even likely, the ways used by God to call us to certain paths in life.

2. "Imagine yourself at the point of death." Which alternative would you seriously regret not choosing?

3. "Imagine yourself at the Last Judgment." Remember the famous saying by another Spanish saint, St. John of the Cross, to the effect, that at the end of our lives, we will be judged by love--not by material possessions or prestige or popularity or our hedonistic exploitation of life or business success. Which alternative is the more loving alternative--in the Christian sense of non-selfish love for the other (agape)?

4. "Imagine what your best self would do." This particular suggestion stems from Fr. Martin himself, not directly from Ignatius. But you can see how it dovetails with the Ignatian method--looking at our current decision-making from a more objective, definitive perspective (often from a future perspective) in order to expose the less important or compelling alternatives.

Another important but simple Ignatian suggestion for this method and the other approaches described in the book is the practice of indifference, in the special Christian sense, of not being biased ahead of time in favor of one alternative or another, of entering the discerning process with as much neutrality as possible except for favoring whatever choice leads us more to God (which, by the way, would be the choice that leads to our authentic flourishing as human beings, as St. Irenaeus famously reminded us centuries ago). The prerequisite of initial indifference to the alternatives enables us to apply the suggestions listed above in a productive and effective way.

Another overriding principle in all these Ignatian approaches is the willingness to reevaluate past decisions in the light of new data. In the Ignatian approach, changing one's mind in response to reality is not a mark of failure but rather something to be expected. In addition, no method guarantees perfect decisions because all paths incorporate drawbacks and imperfections. That's just reality, and the Ignatian approach is supremely realistic.

There are many more insights in the book. The ones above are those that made it to the top of my list. Come up with your own list.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Profound Influence of the Gospel

[Emphasis added]

VATICAN CITY, 18 JUN 2010 (VIS) - On 16 June Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States, attended the opening of the tenth Cuban Catholic Social Week, during which he delivered a speech entitled: "Certain considerations concerning the secularism of the State".

  "Although the term 'secularism', both in the past and in the present, refers first and foremost to the reality of the State and not infrequently assumes forms that run counter to the Church and Christianity", the archbishop noted, "it would not exist at all were it not for Christianity".

  "In fact, without the Gospel of Christ the history of humankind would not have known the fundamental distinction between what man owes to God and what he owes to Caesar; in other words, to civil society. ... The word 'secularism' itself ... has its origins in the ecclesiastical sphere. ... A lay person is ... one who is not of the clergy. ... This is the original, completely intra-ecclesial, definition of the word", he said.

  In the Middle Ages, the archbishop went on, "sovereigns who sought to avoid being subject to the Pope did not for this reason consider themselves as being outside the Church. At most they wanted to play a role in controlling and organising the Church, but they had no desire to separate themselves from her or exclude her from society. It was with the Enlightenment, and in a particularly dramatic way during the French revolution, that the term 'secularism' came to designate quite the opposite: complete alterity, a net opposition between civil life, and religious and ecclesial life".

  "Although secularism today is not infrequently invoked and used to hinder the life and activity of the Church", said the secretary for Relations with States, "in its profound and positive sense it would never even have existed without Christianity. The same is true for other values which today are considered as typical of modernity and often invoked to criticise the Church, or religion in general, such as respect for the dignity of the person, the right to freedom, equality, etc. These are to a large extent the fruit of the profound influence of the Gospel in various cultures, though later they were separated and even set in conflict with their Christian origins".

  "Much State legislation", he observed, "affirms that secularism is a fundamental principle; above all, as concerns the State's relationship with the religious dimension of man. ... In this context we cannot overlook the fact that, in the name of this concept, decisions are sometimes taken and norms published with objectively affect the individual and collective practice of the fundamental right to religious freedom".

  "If secularism is not made logically and ontologically subordinate to full respect for religious freedom this can represent a real threat to that freedom. ... In such a case the State, paradoxically, becomes a confessional state, no longer truly secular, because it would make secularism a supreme value, a dominant ideology, a kind of religion with its own civil rites and liturgies".

  "The full concept of the right to religious freedom must be reaffirmed. Because respecting this right does not just mean avoiding coercion and allowing personal and interior adherence to the faith. Although respect for the individual act of faith is fundamental, the State's stance towards the religious dimension does not end there, because this dimension ... must find expression in the world and be lived, not only individually but also in the community".

  Referring finally to the mission of lay people themselves, Archbishop Mamberti highlighted how "the role of the Magisterium is different from that of the laity, for while pastors of the Church must illuminate minds with their teaching, 'the direct duty to work for a just ordering of society', as Benedict XVI says in his Encyclical on charity, 'is proper to the lay faithful', who achieve this by 'co-operating with other citizens.'"

Blogger Comment:

If we forget or denigrate the origin of so much that we value in our Western cultures, we may end up losing what those origins gave us in the first place. I am fond of a quote from the famous economist John Maynard Keynes (who was not religious at all, as I recall from his biography) bemoaning the fact that so many of his time (and also today) are living off the moral capital built up by previous Christian generations. But if this "fund" is not replenished by later generations, sooner or later, the West will be morally and culturally bankrupt like a degenerate, spoiled brat living off an inheritance or trust fund exclusively built up by previously self-sacrificing generations. May this prophetic critique not come true.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Excerpt from Recommended Book

Look at the previous blog post, and you will see a recently published book that I highly recommend. Here is an excerpt:

One pitfall for those on the path of belief is an inability to understand people on other paths and a temptation to judge them for their doubt or disbelief. Certainty prevents some believers from being compassionate, sympathetic, or even tolerant of others who are not as certain in their faith. Their arrogance turns them into the "frozen chosen," consciously or unconsciously excluding others from their cozy, believing world. This is the crabbed, joyless, and ungenerous religiosity that Jesus spoke against: spiritual blindness.

Fr. James Martin, S.J., The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything (Kindle location 526).

Surely, such a crabbed religiosity is not going to change the hearts and minds of non-Christians, whether they are atheists or Muslims or just indifferent or people recovering from various forms and shades of religious or secular fundamentalisms.

The ultimate goal of Christian relations with others is not to compare favorably with others--the ultimate goal is to win over others or, more accurately, to contribute in some way, however small or meager, to creating conditions in which the Holy Spirit can win them over for Himself. It is a grand mystery and undeserved privilege that God uses us in some way to create such favorable conditions for others to freely choose faith in Jesus. Such contributions on our part may include giving a book, speaking freely and respectfully of our own beliefs, just listening, or--a dimension that cannot be neglected--actually helping meet the legitimate, practical needs of others, material and otherwise.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Highly Recommended

I am about 80% through this book (my Kindle device gives me the percentage) and can highly recommend it (the book was published in March 2010). Fr. Martin has a way of being honest and balanced. He provides seasoned, mature Ignatian insight into the discernment needed for our decision-making and life choices. Anyone from high school age to 99 will find the book useful.

Friday, June 11, 2010


[Emphasis added]

VATICAN CITY, 11 JUN 2010 (VIS) - Today, Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Holy Father presided at a Eucharistic concelebration in St. Peter's Square to mark the close of the Year for Priests which was called to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney, the holy "Cure of Ars".

  The Eucharist was concelebrated by cardinals and bishops of the Roman Curia, as well as by more than fifteen thousand priests from all over the world. The Holy Father consecrated the wine in the same chalice as that used by St. John Mary Vianney, which is conserved in Ars.

  In his homily the Pope noted how the Year for Priests was celebrated to ensure "a renewed appreciation of the grandeur and beauty of the priestly ministry. The priest is not a mere office-holder. ... Rather, he does something which no human being can do of his own power: in Christ's name he speaks the words which absolve us of our sins and in this way he changes, starting with God, our entire life. Over the offerings of bread and wine he speaks Christ's words of thanksgiving, ... which open the world to God and unite it to Him. The priesthood, then, is not simply 'office' but Sacrament".

  "This audacity of God Who entrusts Himself to human beings (Who, conscious of our weaknesses, nonetheless considers men capable of acting and being present in His stead) this audacity of God is the true grandeur concealed in the word 'priesthood'. ...This is what we wanted to reflect upon and appreciate anew over the course of the past year. We wanted to reawaken our joy at how close God is to us, ... we also wanted to demonstrate once again to young people that this vocation, this fellowship of service for God and with God, does exist".

  "It was to be expected that this new radiance of the priesthood would not be pleasing to the 'enemy'; he would have rather preferred to see it disappear, so that God would ultimately be driven out of the world. And so it happened that, in this very year of joy for the Sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light - particularly the abuse of the little ones. ... We too insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again; and that in admitting men to priestly ministry and in their formation we will do everything we can to weigh the authenticity of their vocation and make every effort to accompany priests along their journey".

  "Had the Year for Priests been a glorification of our individual human performance, it would have been ruined by these events. But for us what happened was precisely the opposite: we grew in gratitude for God's gift, a gift concealed in 'earthen vessels' which ever anew, even amid human weakness, makes His love concretely present in this world. So let us look upon all that happened as a summons to purification, as a task which we bring to the future and which makes us acknowledge and love all the more the great gift we have received from God. In this way, His gift becomes a commitment to respond to God's courage and humility by our own courage and our own humility".

  The Pope continued his homily by commenting on Psalm 23 - "The Lord is my shepherd" - which forms part of today's liturgy. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want", said Benedict XVI. "God personally looks after me, after us, after all mankind. I am not abandoned, adrift in the universe and in a society which leaves me ever more lost and bewildered. ... The world's religions, as far as we can see, have always known that in the end there is only one God. But this God was distant. ... There was still a recognition that the world presupposes a Creator. Yet this God, after making the world, had evidently withdrawn from it. The world itself had a certain set of laws by which it ran, and God did not, could not, intervene in them". However, "wherever God's loving concern is perceived as getting in the way, human beings go awry. ... God wants us, as priests, in one tiny moment of history, to share His concern about people. As priests, we want to be persons who share His concern for men and women, who take care of them and provide them with a concrete experience of God's concern".

  "We should strive to 'know' men and women as God does and for God's sake; we should strive to walk with them along the path of friendship with God. ... The shepherd points out the right path to those entrusted to him. He goes before them and leads them. Let us put it differently: the Lord shows us the right way to be human. He teaches us the art of being a person. What must I do in order not to fall, not to squander my life in meaninglessness? This is precisely the question which every man and woman must ask, and one which remains valid at every moment of one's life. How much darkness surrounds this question in our own day! We are constantly reminded of the words of Jesus, Who felt compassion for the crowds because they were like a flock without a shepherd".

  "The people of Israel continue to be grateful to God because in the Commandments He pointed out the way of life. ... God has shown us the way and how to walk aright. The message of the Commandments was synthesised in the life of Jesus and became a living model. Thus we understand that these rules from God are not chains, but the way which He is pointing out to us. ... By walking with Christ, we experience the joy of Revelation, and as priests we need to communicate to others our own joy at the fact that we have been shown the right way".

  Explaining the Psalm's reference to the "darkest valley", Benedict XVI pointed out that this can refer to death where, however, the Lord will not abandon us. Yet, "when speaking of the darkest valley, we can also think of the dark valleys of temptation, discouragement and trial through which everyone has to pass. Even in these dark valleys of life He is there. ... Help us priests, so that we can remain beside the persons entrusted to us in these dark nights. So that we can show them your own light", he said.

  "'Your rod and your staff - they comfort me': the shepherd needs the rod as protection against savage beasts ready to pounce on the flock; against robbers looking for prey. Along with the rod there is the staff which gives support and helps to make difficult crossings. ... The Church too must use the shepherd's rod, the rod with which she protects the faith against those who falsify it, against currents which lead the flock astray. The use of the rod can actually be a service of love. Today we can see that it has nothing to do with love when conduct unworthy of the priestly life is tolerated. Nor is it love if heresy is allowed to spread and the faith twisted and chipped away, as if it were something that we ourselves had invented. As if it were no longer God's gift, the precious pearl which we cannot let be taken from us. Even so, the rod must always become once again the shepherd's staff - a staff which helps men and women to tread difficult paths and to follow the Lord".

  The Psalm closes with a reference to the "table set", to "dwelling in the house of the Lord". In these words, said the Holy Father, "we see a kind of prophetic foreshadowing of the mystery of the Eucharist, in which God Himself makes us His guests and offers Himself to us as food - as that bread and fine wine which alone can definitively sate man's hunger and thirst. How can we not rejoice that one day we will be guests at the very table of God? ... How can we not rejoice that He has enabled us to set God's table for men and women, to give them His Body and His Blood, to offer them the precious gift of His very presence".

  Finally, the Pope commented on the two communion antiphons which recount the lance thrust in Jesus' side which caused blood and water to come out. This, the Pope explained, recalls "the two fundamental Sacraments by which the Church lives: Baptism and the Eucharist. From the Lord's pierced side, from His open heart, there springs the living fountain which continues to well up over the centuries and which makes the Church. The open heart is the source of a new stream of life".

  "Every Christian and every priest should become, starting from Christ, a wellspring which gives life to others. We ought to be offering life-giving water to a parched and thirsty world. Lord", the Holy Father concluded, "we thank you because for our sake you opened your heart; because in your death and in your resurrection you became the source of life. Give us life, make us live from you as our source, and grant that we too may be sources, wellsprings capable of bestowing the water of life in our time. We thank you for the grace of the priestly ministry. Lord bless us, and bless all those who in our time are thirsty and continue to seek".

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Revisiting Hubris

We have all heard the biblical proverb: "Pride cometh before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18). Recently, while studying Attic Greek (that's the ancient Greek of the golden age of Greek culture in and around the 5th century B.C., not Greek suitable only for a certain part of your house), I heard the professor comment offhand on the various meanings of the Greek word hubris: something utterly unacceptable, beyond the limits of toleration, something horrible to see or hear about (I paraphrase).

Many of us can recollect not a few instances of hubris, both on our part and on the part of others. As I recall, Greek tragedy depicts the consequences of hubris. Revisit the concept of hubris and apply it to so much that has gone on in the last forty or so years in the United States and other nations. We have stretched and broken so many cultural limits in our society and families: so many babies coming at the "wrong" time are legally "terminated," instead of being embraced and welcomed with celebration; the standard for marriageability is your actual or potential income or the degrees you have accumulated or your looks, not your honor and character as demonstrated by practice and experience in chaste (that is, authentic) love; vulgarity and obscenity are viewed as inevitable and essential in all forms of media--everything is fair game for all eyes and ears; I see women in public who dress as if they were sauntering around in their bedroom at night (I think some may actually cover themselves up more in the bedroom!); substance abuse has become acceptable and expected by many. Tolerance for the previously taboo is viewed as "sophisticated" (another interesting Greek connection to that word; think of the sophists).Sane, rational, common sense limits are stretched and surpassed. Recently, I read about an increase in the suicide rate among the "baby boomers"; yet, in a further manifestation of willful hubris, the experts interviewed in the article refuse to connect the dots and view the recent upsurge as puzzling. It is not puzzling to me.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Religious Freedom and Human Rights: The Necessary Framework for the Flourishing of the Middle East

Here are excerpts from the synod on the Middle East recently presided over by the Pope in Cyprus:

Catholics are called to promote the concept of "positive secularism" of the State to "eliminate the theocratic character of government" and allow "greater equality among citizens of different religions, thereby fostering the promotion of a sound democracy, positively secular in nature, which fully acknowledges the role of religion, also in public life, while completely respecting the distinction between the religious and civil orders". ...
           . . .
"In the Middle East, freedom of religion customarily means freedom of worship and not freedom of conscience, that is, the freedom to believe or not believe, to practice openly one's religion, privately or publicly, or to change one's religion for another. Generally speaking, religion in the Middle East is a social and even a national choice, not an individual one. To change one's religion is perceived as a betrayal of the society, culture and nation, which are founded, for the most part, on a religious tradition". For this reason "conversion to Christianity is perceived to be from self-interest and not authentic religious conviction. Oftentimes, the conversion of Muslims is forbidden by State law". ... In the meantime, Islamic extremism continues to grow in the entire area creating "a threat to everyone, Christians and Muslims alike".
          . . .
"Often relations between Christians and Muslims are difficult, because Muslims make no distinction between religion and politics - the document states - thereby relegating Christians to the precarious position of being considered non-citizens, despite the fact that they were citizens of their countries long before the rise of Islam. The key to harmonious living between Christians and Muslims is to recognise religious freedom and human rights". 

Source link.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Suggestion from a Reader (Guest Blog)

Your readers might be interested in the more recent issue of CHRISTVS REGNAT the journal of St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association in Ireland.

We'd be very grateful if you would post about our journal and link to and blogroll our blog.

God bless you! 

"Doc Hannon"

Read and Ponder for Yourself

I vaguely recall from law school a visit (I think he gave a talk) by now Harvard Law Professor Mark Tushnet; I also vaguely recall editing his talk for publication in our law review. Well, his daughter is now in the news at this N.Y. Times link. She is a new Catholic. Read and ponder for yourself the linked article. Sometimes it is good not to give a knee-jerk, immediate blog reaction to an article, but to let readers absorb it first. Your comments, as usual, are welcome.

Update: Prof. Mark Tushnet gave the Second Annual Brendan Brown Lecture on March 13, 1987, at my law school. He was then a professor at Georgetown. The lecture title was "Religion and Theories of Constitutional Interpretation." It was printed in the Loyola Law Review (New Orleans), Vol. 33, No. 2, Summer 1987, pp. 221-40. So there was a Catholic connection of sorts at least as far back as 23 years ago, if not earlier. I quote his conclusion:

This discussion completes my survey of interpretive approaches to the religion clauses. The conclusion should be clear, and disquieting. None of the available interpretive approaches yields satisfactory results. They all license and prohibit too much interaction between religion and government. It would be nice if I could conclude by offering my own interpretive approach to resolve all these difficulties, but I cannot. As I have argued elsewhere, religion cannot comfortably fit into our constitutional scheme because it is a form of life whose essential characteristics cannot be reduced to the rationalist premises of our legal system. One could of course respond to this that religion should therefore be read out of the Constitution. Alternatively--and on this note I conclude--one could respond that the Constitution's rationalism ought to be questioned.

Tushnet, Loyola Law Review, Vol. 33, at 240 (1987)(emphasis added).

Friday, June 4, 2010

Prophetic, Not Ritualistic, Priest

That is how the Pope describes the priesthood of Christ from which derive both the ordained Catholic male priesthood and the common priesthood of all baptized Catholics, whether male or female or children. These papal remarks resonate strongly with my own reflections on the priesthood in my M.A. thesis entitled "Paul as Priest" available at this link. These remarks also underline, in my opinion, the mistaken view of the Catholic ordained priesthood as primarily ritualistic, a misleading view overemphasized by too many who describe themselves as "traditionalists." As usual, the best guide to understanding the most fundamental realities of the Catholic faith is the inspired Word of God, the Scriptures. Hence, the Pope's remarks that follow are very biblical in nature. Enjoy the insights of the successor of Peter, the first Bishop of Rome (see link for the biblical basis for Peter's status as first bishop of Rome).

[Emphasis added]

VATICAN CITY, 3 JUN 2010 (VIS) - At 7 p.m. today, Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in the Roman basilica of St. John Lateran. The celebration was followed by Eucharistic adoration in the same basilica, while the traditional Eucharistic procession to the basilica of St. Mary Major was suspended due to the inclement weather.

  In his homily the Pope invited the faithful to "meditate upon the relationship between the Eucharist and the priesthood of Christ", in the light of Sacred Scripture.

  "The first thing we must always bear in mind is that Jesus was not a priest after the Jewish tradition", said Benedict XVI. "He did not belong to the line of Aaron but to that of Judah, and thus the path of priesthood was legally closed to Him. The person and activity of Jesus of Nazareth did not follow in the wake of the ancient priests, but in that of the prophets. Thus Jesus distanced Himself from a ritualistic conception of religion, criticising the approach that attributed value to human precepts associated with ritual purity rather than to the observance of God's commandments; that is, to love for God and for neighbour, which 'is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices'. ... Even His death, which we Christians rightly call 'sacrifice', was completely unlike the ancient sacrifices, it was quite the opposite: the execution of a death sentence of the most humiliating kind: crucifixion outside the walls of Jerusalem.

  "In what sense, then, is Jesus a priest?" the Pope asked. In this context he explained how the Letter to the Hebrews presents Christ's passion "as a prayer and an offering. Jesus meets the 'hour' which leads Him to death on the cross immersed in deep prayer, a prayer which consists in uniting His will to that of the Father. This dual yet single will is a will of love. Lived in the context of this prayer, the tragic trial Jesus has to face is transformed into an offering, a living sacrifice".

  Jesus, "having obeyed to the extent of dying on the cross, became a 'cause of salvation' for everyone who obeys Him. In other words, he became the High Priest for having taken upon Himself all the sin of the world as the 'Lamb of God'. It is the Father Who conferred this priesthood at the very moment in which Jesus passed through His death and resurrection, This is not a priesthood after the order of Mosaic Law, but 'after the order of Melchizedek', after a prophetic order, dependent only on His unique relationship with God".

  "The priesthood of Christ involves suffering. Jesus truly suffered and He did so for us. He was the Son and had no need to learn obedience, but we do, we needed it and we will always need it. Thus the Son assumed our humanity and, for us, allowed Himself to be 'educated' in the crucible of suffering, he allowed himself to be transformed by suffering, like the seed which to bring forth fruit must die in the earth. Through this process Jesus was 'made perfect', He underwent 'teleiotheis', ... a term which in the Greek version of the Pentateuch ... is always used to indicate the consecration of the ancient priests. This is a very important discovery, because it tells us that, for Jesus, the passion was like a priestly consecration".

  And so, the Pope continued his explanation, in the Eucharist "Jesus anticipated His sacrifice; not a ritual but a personal sacrifice. At the Last Supper His acts were moved by that 'eternal spirit' with which He would subsequently give Himself up to the cross. Giving thanks and blessing, Jesus transformed the bread and wine. It is divine love that transforms: the love with which Jesus accepted in advance to give Himself for us. This love is the Holy Spirit, the Sprit of the Father and of the Son, which consecrates the bread and wine and alters their substance into the Body and Blood of the Lord, making present in the Sacrament the sacrifice which would be cruelly realised on the cross".

  "It is divine power, the same power that created the incarnation of the Word, that transforms extreme violence and extreme injustice into a supreme act of love and justice", the Pope concluded. "This is the work of the priesthood of Christ, which the Church has inherited and extends through history, in the dual form of the common priesthood of the baptised and the ordained priesthood of ministers, so as to transform the world with the love of God".

Squeezing Out the Subversive Dimension

Reread the Gospels and the picture that emerges does not match what many, both believers and non-believers, conventionally assume about Christianity and Catholicism. We tend to assume, unconsciously, that our religion is fundamentally "boring" and bourgeois--and then we are foolish enough to wonder why people, both young and older, drift away. But the Man in the Gospels is certainly not that at all: itinerant, not tied to property, ironic, satirical, defiant, even, at times, angry and "fed up." The Man is the anti-bourgeois opposite of conventional assumptions because the Man is truly free and truly powerful.

So, how do we get so many Christians and Catholics who present a picture of dull conformity to what is socially acceptable? (That conformity can take a "conservative" guise among the self-described "orthodox" wing and also a "liberal" guise among the self-described "progressive" wing. But really what is so "orthodox" about people hostile to any vigorous, unseemly manifestations of the Holy Spirit and to issues of social justice? What really is so "progressive" about people who simply ratify or excuse the modern values of our consumerist, materialistic, narcissistic, and sexually chaotic culture?) The subversive dimension is essential to Christianity. To squeeze it out is to falsify it. The solution is not to read this or any other blogger's musings, but to go back to the Gospels and read them as if for the very first time and to find the real orthodoxy that is eternally progressive because always challenging to the shibboleths of the times and to our bourgeois mentality, whether "orthodox" or "progressive."