Sunday, June 05, 2005

Flesh and Blood

At some point, I want to write about sacramentalism, but I don't think I'm quite there yet. For now, here's a look at what B16 has said on the subject of the eucharist. Grasping this as true is a real mind blower:
On Sunday, May 29, in his homily for the mass of Corpus Domini in Bari, Benedict XVI commented on the words of Jesus in Jn 6:53: "Truly, truly I say to you: unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." They were words that had disturbed some of his disciples. The pope said: "In the face of the murmur of protest, Jesus might have fallen back on reassuring words: 'Friends,' he could have said, 'do not worry! I spoke of flesh but it is only a symbol. What I mean is only a deep communion of sentiments.' But no, Jesus did not have recourse to such soothing words. He stuck to his assertion, to all his realism, even when he saw many of his disciples breaking away (cf. Jn 6: 66). Indeed, he showed his readiness to accept even desertion by his apostles, while not in any way changing the substance of his discourse: 'Do you want to leave me too?' (Jn 6: 67), he asked. Thanks be to God, Peter's response was one that even we can make our own today with full awareness: 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life' (Jn 6: 68)." As for the Sermon on the Mount, in a book first published in 1989, "Guardare Cristo. Esercizi di fede, speranza e carità [Gazing Upon Christ: Exercises in Faith, Hope, and Charity]," Ratzinger writes: "In order to grasp the true profundity of the Beatitudes, we must shine the light upon an aspect that is rarely considered in modern exegesis, but which in my judgment is decisive for a realistic interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount as a whole. I mean the Christological dimension of this text. [...] The hidden subject of the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount is not an exaggerated and unreal moralism, which would lose any concrete relation to our life and seem impracticable on the whole. Neither is it - as the opposite hypothesis maintains - simply a mirror in which one sees that all are and remain sinners in everything, and that they can attain salvation only by unconditional grace. With this opposition of moralism and the pure theory of grace, one does not enter within the text; one rather removes it farther from oneself. Christ is the center uniting these two things, and it is only the discovery of Christ in the text that opens it up for us and makes it become a word of hope. If we explore the Beatitudes to their depths, we find Jesus everywhere as the hidden subject. He is the one who shows what it means to 'be poor in the Holy Spirit.' He is the afflicted one, the meek, the one who hungers and thirsts for justice, the merciful one. He is pure of heart, it is he who brings peace, the one persecuted for the sake of justice. All the words of the Sermon on the Mount are flesh and blood in him. The Sermon on the Mount is a call to the imitation of Jesus Christ. Only he is 'perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect' (Mt 5:48). We cannot by ourselves be 'perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect,' but we must be so in order to correspond to the demands of our nature. We cannot do this, but we can follow Jesus, cling to him, 'become his own.' If we belong to him as his members, we become by participation what he is; his goodness becomes our own. The words of the Father in the parable of the prodigal son are realized in us: all that is mine is yours (Lk 15:31). The moralism of the sermon, which is too difficult for us, is gathered up and transformed in communion with Jesus, in being disciples of Jesus, in his friendship and trust."

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