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Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Platitudes or Blood, Water and the Spirit (revised)

Since we have not posted anything yet this month, and I have some posts in the works but not complete, I am re-posting an earlier reflection.  But we have exciting news:  Look for a new contributor to our blog to be posting this weekend.  Larry T. has recently joined us and we are blessed to have him!

Beloved:  Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God, and everyone who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by him.  In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments.  For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments and his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.  And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.  Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 
This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ, not by water alone, but by water and blood.  The Spirit is the one that testifies, and the Spirit is truth. 1 John 5:1-6

Pope Benedict XVI in his book Jesus of Nazareth explains verses 6-8, the verses about water and blood and Spirit this way:

  "Here John very obviously gives the motif (of blood and water) a polemical turn against a form of Christianity that acknowledges Jesus' Baptism as a saving event but does not acknowledge his death on the Cross in the same way.  He is responding to a form of Christianity that, so to speak wants only the word, but not the flesh and blood.  Jesus' body and his death ultimately play no role.  So all that is left of Christianity is mere "water"-without Jesus' bodiliness the word loses its power.  Christianity becomes mere doctrine, mere moralism, and intellectual affair, but lacks any flesh and blood."

Saint John is speaking about Christians who want to be saved, but not by the flesh and blood offering of Jesus in His redemptive death on the cross, but by baptism alone. They wanted the water, but not the blood. And without the water and blood, both, in our daily lives and in Church we are reduced to mere moralists.  In our current day, because we are fast loosing our belief in objective morality (the Commandments) we are often the most tyrannical of moralist:  moralists with no moral grounding!

This brings me to a Facebook debate, and a particularly unpleasant one at that. Most of the participants claim to be Catholic, however one side, which was the side claiming to be for Christian love and tolerance, was defending a rather vile post which featured a picture of a bishop with the word bigot scrawled across it, the other (the side I was "liking") was asking for justification for this slanderous and unkind post. We received no justification, only over-generalized reasons for disdain of the Catholic hierarchy and Catholic moral teachings and, of course, the standard Jesus platitudes were stated and restated. Calling a bishop a bigot was rationalized and defending him (which we were doing) was: "casting stones".  Defending church teaching called for an angry tirade about how we should "remove the beam from our own eyes!"  We "were not loving our neighbor as ourselves", so on and so on....My Facebook encounter left me sad because I saw abstracted faith, that was highly moralistic but not at all grounded in authentic love or objective morality.  Anyone who rejected this was treated to a barrage of words; quotes from Jesus thrown at them like the stones.  I was sad because the Jesus they were quoting was so weak, so hollow, so lacking in power and majesty.  He was a one dimensional preacher, not the Incarnate Word.

 How can anything that the Alpha-Omega, Eternal Son of the Living God, Victor over the Universe and all powers of darkness be so banal and lifeless?  The answer:  When you remove Him from the deep and profound immutable Truths that the Lord God revealed to the Children of Israel and her prophets. Then, the summation of the law:  Love God above all and love your neighbor as yourself, becomes so malleable that they essentially mean whatever the follower wants it to mean.  Or, as in our debate, only the love of neighbor was acknowledged, not the love of God with your whole heart, mind and soul, not to mention the fact that you love them both by following the Commandments.

You can see that the biggest problem with the Jesus platitudes that were being used against us is that they are removed from the flesh and blood Jesus, and the whole of divine revelation, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelations. Therefore they reduce His power to mere ideas; concepts of morality.  With the Word made Flesh thus abstracted,  these words are trivialized and relativized.  Water without flesh and blood.

In the reading above, Saint John reaches far beyond platitudes in calling us to love, he calls us to a living relationship with Jesus who was crucified for us.  He first speaks of belief in Jesus, the Christ, and then of obedience to the commandments. This obedience is empowered by His love in us, which we receive in faith and which we nourish through our reception of the sacraments.  He conquers our worldliness through our daily acts of faith and love. The last passage grounds our relationship with Jesus in His flesh and blood, not merely abstract words and platitudes. We are united by our baptism with the One who loved us so passionately that He poured out His blood from His pierced heart for each one of us, and in turn we are drawn into this great love and pour out our flesh and blood for Him and for others in the Spirit of Truth.

This is not an abstract concept of truth or morality, but a struggle - an epic struggle to submit our fleshly desires, which we are all too willing to separate out from our spirituality, to the Spirit of Truth.  Because our desires ought to orient us to union with Christ. When we continue to separate our flesh and blood desires from the Spirit of Truth we are blinded from discovering the One are hearts most ardently desire.  And with such inborn passion for Him, we cannot simply seek Him in concept, but in His flesh and blood, crucified and resurrected.  This takes daily prayer, and  reading of Scripture and listening for His voice.  It takes sacrifice and sacraments.  It takes a willingness to love and be loved by Christ, not that one dimensional spiritual teacher but the Beloved, the Eternal Flame which burns but never consumes, the Pillar of Fire, the Still Small Voice, the Thundering Theophany carving His law into stone and then on Calvary pouring out his Spirit to place it in our hearts. He is the Divine lover, and in Him all things are fulfilled.  And to the extent we can allow the Spirit to testify to these truths through us, we will be able to love our neighbor with His love, and not with our platitudes.

Peace and Grace

1 comment:

  1. Just as powerful and as beautiful as it was last April, Heidi! Thank you.
    -Dcn Paul.


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