Friday, May 28, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Today, the first reading that the Church gives to us in the Mass is Acts 11:1-18. In it, Peter has been consorting with Gentiles (non-Jews)--something taboo for pious Jews at the time because the ritual purity laws forbid it. He explains that a vision was given him, showing him all sorts of unclean animals and a voice from heaven telling him to kill and eat the animals. Peter replied like any faithful Jew would have, refusing to eat what was unclean. The voice replied: “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.”
What goes unmentioned here is the fact that the animals were considered unclean for the sake of ritual purity--primarily for the sake of purely offering the sacrifices in the Temple. Some have even argued that the clean animals were the same as the animals that neighboring pagans had worshipped as gods and that the slaughter of the clean animals was the slaughter of the pagan gods as a way of keeping Israel pure from the worship of false gods. Dr. Hahn treats this well in his book A Father Who Keeps His Promises:
The Israelites had to fight a protracted war against idolatry, which they were commanded now to wage by daily animal sacrifice, among other things. Within the Father's remedial program lay a subtle strategy. On the one hand, Israel couldn't slaughter—or eat—the animals that the Egyptians sacrificed to their gods; they were declared unclean. On the other hand, Israel had to slaughter and eat the animals that the Egyptians venerated but never sacrificed; they were clean. 
The entire book of the Acts of the Apostles, however, takes place after Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus’ sacrifice, beginning in the upper room and consummating on the cross, had already been performed. That for which the Temple sacrifices were called has been fulfilled by the one true sacrifice. The Jewish Temple has become sacrificially useless--signified by the tearing of the veil from the top down (Matthew 25:51, Mark 15:38) commonly understood as the tear coming from God, not man and the tear representing the fact that the Temple holy of holies is no longer useful. The veil used to cover it because its holiness was only to be seen by the high priest on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Full Atonement had been made by Jesus’ sacrifice. There was no more need for the Jewish Temple because its sacrificial system had been fulfilled by the new definitive sacrifice.
With the replacement of the old sacrificial system (in fact, the entire Old Law, save what is contained in the Natural Law) by Jesus’ new sacrifice, the ritual purity laws were also fulfilled and replaced. Jesus’ sacrifice established a new covenant, with a new sacrifice and a new priesthood. God has made all the animals clean and He has opened membership among those people He calls His own to the Gentiles. This is particularly relevant for me and bacon. I don’t come from Jewish descent, so only by Jesus’ opening up to the Gentiles am I able to participate as a member of the people of God during this life--and only by His fulfillment of the Old Law has He made bacon (and all previously unclean foods) clean again, so, enjoy your bacon and thank God for revealing to us (through St. Luke's recollection of our first pope's explanation) that these foods are no longer off limits. Thank God even more (those of you not from Jewish descent) that we are able to be a part of the Catholic Church and receive, from her, the graces to be drawn into an ever-deepening union with God.
Monday, April 26, 2010
The Gift of the Priesthood
Why does a man choose to become a priest? Because he has fallen in love and has been called.
Pope John Paul II answered this question well:
I am often asked, especially by young people, why I became a priest. Maybe some of you would like to ask the same question. Let me try briefly to reply. I must begin by saying that it is impossible to explain entirely. For it remains a mystery, even to myself. How does one explain the ways of God? Yet, I know that, at a certain point in my life, I became convinced that Christ was saying to me what he had said to thousands before me: 'Come, follow me!' There was a clear sense that what I heard in my heart was no human voice, nor was it just an idea of my own. Christ was calling me to serve him as a priest.
This call that he felt was a call to love that many have heard: "'Simon, son of John, do you love me?' He said to him, 'Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.' He said to him, 'Tend my sheep'" (Jn. 21:16). So, the priest is not his own, but is Christ's. The priest is priest only because he has been configured to Christ, i.e. made like him, through the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
The priest is thus called to live his life as a response to Jesus' love, so that His love might continue to be tangible in the world. This is principally the case in the Sacraments where Jesus touches us and we are able to touch Him. The Sacraments are the powers that come forth from His Body and heal us (cf. Luke 5:17; CCC 1116).
The Eucharistic Sacrifice is the principle way in which Christ regularly gives Himself to us bodily and calls forth a response of love from us. Indeed, "This sacrifice is so decisive for the salvation of the human race that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father only after he had left us a means of sharing in it as if we had been present there" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia 11). So it is that "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (Jn. 6:53).
Fr. Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire, O.P. described this call of God in practical terms:
To live in the midst of the world with no desire for its pleasures; to be a member of every family, yet belonging to none; to share all sufferings; to penetrate all secrets, to heal all wounds; to daily go from men to God to offer Him their homage and petitions; to return from God to men to bring them His pardon and hope; to have a heart of fire for charity and a heart of bronze for chastity; to bless and to be blest forever. O God, what a life, and it is yours, O Priest of Jesus Christ.
Let us give thanks for the gift of the priesthood and pray that God will send us more holy priests!
Posted by Jeremy Priest at 11:35 AM
Friday, April 2, 2010
Call: He is Risen! Response: He is Risen, Indeed!
So goes the old Greek dialogue between Christians during the Easter season.
As we sang at the Easter Vigil, "This is the night…" when Jesus conquered sin and death through his victorious resurrection from the dead!
This is our passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.
This is the night
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.
This is the night
when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!
This is the night
when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.
This is the night
when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.
It is we who are witnesses to this night of glory, this Easter Day, "the first day of the week" (John 20:1), when Our Lord passed from death to life, rising bodily from the dead. Ever since this Day, "the culmination of history is anticipated 'as a foretaste,' and the kingdom of God enters into our time" (CCC 1168).
The New Creation has begun in Jesus' bodily resurrection. This is why "the readings of the Easter Vigil, the celebration of the new creation in Christ, begin with the creation account" (CCC 281). Because "sin when it is full-grown brings forth death" (James 1:15), Christ's victory isn't merely over some ethereal sin out there someplace, but over sin as it manifests itself bodily, physically, concretely in our world.
So it is that when the Son of God took flesh the blind began to see, lepers were cleansed, the dead rose from their graves. Jesus is "the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Cor. 15:20).
"Therefore Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the 'Feast of feasts,' the 'Solemnity of solemnities,' just as the Eucharist is the 'Sacrament of sacraments' (the Great Sacrament). St. Athanasius calls Easter 'the Great Sunday' and the Eastern Churches call Holy Week 'the Great Week.' The mystery of the Resurrection, in which Christ crushed death, permeates with its powerful energy our old time, until all is subjected to him" (CCC 1169).
This New Creation, this "imperishable" seed (cf. 1 Peter 1:23), has taken root in us through our baptism into Christ's death and resurrection. We might begin our joy in this Easter season by asking the Lord where His New Creation needs to grow in our lives, in our families, in our communities. A blessed Easter to you all!
Call: He is Risen!
Posted by Jeremy Priest at 1:45 PM
Friday, February 12, 2010
What Are You "Giving Up" For Lent?
Let's go beyond the basics here and go straight to the heart: what do I need to let go of in order to grow closer to God?
In his Lenten Message Pope Benedict writes, "Since all of us are weighed down by sin and its consequences, fasting is proposed to us as an instrument to restore friendship with God."
Indeed, fasting has been a part of human life from the very beginning when God told Adam, "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die" (Gen. 2:16-17). So it was, writes St. Basil, that "'fasting was ordained in Paradise'…'You shall not eat is a law of fasting and abstinence'" (Benedict XVI, Lenten Message).
"True fasting" is oriented toward doing "the will of the Heavenly Father, who 'sees in secret, and will reward you' (Mt. 6:18)…The true fast is thus directed to eating the 'true food,' which is to do the Father's will (cf. Jn. 4:34). If, therefore, Adam disobeyed the Lord's command 'of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat,' the believer, through fasting, intends to submit himself humbly to God, trusting in His goodness and mercy."
"That We Might No Live NO Longer for Ourselves but for Him"
"Denying material food, which nourishes our body, nurtures an interior disposition to listen to Christ and be fed by His saving word. Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God."
Fasting for Others
Benedict tells us that "Voluntary fasting enables us to grown in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, who bends low and goes to the help of this suffering brother…By freely embracing an act of self-denial for the sake of another, we make a statement that our brother or sister in need is not a stranger. It is precisely to keep alive this welcoming and attentive attitude towards our brother and sisters that I encourage the parishes and every other community to intensify in Lent the custom of private and communal fasts, joined to the reading of the Word of God, prayer and almsgiving." Benedict quotes St. Peter Chrysologogus: "Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy' if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to other, you open God's ear to yourself."
How can I fast? Again we turn to the question we began with: what do I need to let go of in order to grow closer to God? If it's wasting time on television or the internet or some such amusement, then give some of that time up every day to prayer, to reading the Bible or a spiritual book, to spending time with someone who needs you. If inviting God into the sphere of my bodily health is lacking, let go of something in order to give time to God in exercise. When we give these things up we discover that we never lose anything except that which we never really needed in the first place.
Lastly, pick a day per week and cut out some of the food you usually eat. Have a plan for Lent.
Posted by Jeremy Priest at 12:41 PM
Thursday, February 11, 2010
I'm studying the Book of Revelation these days and am enjoying it greatly. I found some great introductory stuff for how to read the Bible from Peter Kreeft's, You can Understand the Bible: A Practical and Illuminating Guide to Each Book of the Bible, and N.T. Wright's Simply Christian.
Posted by Jeremy Priest at 3:30 PM