All posts tagged: Jesus Christ

Modern Biology’s Contribution to Our Understanding of Christ’s Sufferings

It is common to come across internet articles, television documentaries, or advertisements for books in the days and weeks preceding Easter detailing scientifically the nature and extent of the sufferings experienced by Christ during his Passion. From these you graduate from a notional apprehension of the sufferings of Christ understood abstractly and instead begin to grasp his Passion more realistically and painfully. For example, one might read of the tremendous suffering that Christ endured while his hands and feet were nailed to the Cross, which would have pierced a number of major nerves, sending waves of excruciating pain up and down his limbs. Each and every breath on the Cross would have become more and more difficult and agonizing, since to breathe while nailed to the Cross entailed using the nails in his wrists as leverage against which to lift his body to inhale and exhale. Or, to use another example, some scientists estimate that Christ would have lost anywhere from a quarter to a third of his blood supply by being scourged at the …

Work: A Four-Letter Word?

There is a certain ambiguity in Scripture about the meaning and value of labor, and I am aware of no clear and positive statement on the subject by the Church. Rerum novarum and Quadragesima anno just don’t really approach the subject, and especially not from a more modern scriptural viewpoint. What I have to suggest on this topic hardly constitutes an exhaustive treatment of what the idea of work might be for a Catholic, but I do think it might open up some avenues for thought. Genesis has God laboring for six days and then resting (Gen 2:1–4), although this does not seem to mean that labor is tiring even for God; it seems rather to show him as a model for our freedom on the Sabbath day, a gift God gives us by his example. Genesis 3:17–19, on the other hand, takes the position that labor is indeed a curse, at least in the way that Adam and Eve would have to do it after the Fall. Job takes a very negative view of …

A Prayer for the Rich?

David Bentley Hart has done us a great service by sharing his expertise as a biblical scholar in his informative background essay on debt structures in human and biblical history, “A Prayer for the Poor.” In it he establishes a context that Christ’s original hearers would have been steeped in, but which, as he points out, is too easily missed by over-spiritualized readings of the Gospels. Expounding on the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, which he persuasively argues are rooted in remarkably concrete needs, Hart lambastes common interpretations that would cushion the conscience by reducing this most famous Christian prayer to a set of “vague, ethereal, painless pieties.” Something is indeed wrong if one can recite such a prayer while perpetuating injustice against the needy with no sense of discomfort or disconnect. Much as we need such a reminder against spiritualizing away the prayer’s meaning, a problem arises when Hart at times veers into the opposite reductionism toward the purely material. Perhaps this material reduction is based on translation principles that assume a singular, static …

Dissecting Jesus

The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ . . . and the Mystical Body of Christ is the Church. I cannot remember the number of times I had to explain this to my ecclesiology classes: “The Church is . . . ?” (Without alacrity) “. . . the Mystical Body of Christ.” While this was our hymn in ecclesiology, I hoped that my students would find themselves saying this as they did their homework, prayed, or most especially, when they had the opportunity to evangelize. But an oft-repeated statement reared its proverbial ugly head every month or so: “I don’t need the Church to be close to Jesus.” (On one occasion I quipped, “You don’t need a parachute to jump out of an airplane, but it helps.”) In our globalized society, we are used to a brisk work or school environment, fast food, and virtually unbridled capitalism. In our free market of ideas, we have the option to pick and choose what appeals to us. Especially in a post-modern context, the unchangeable Truth which …

Fatherhood and the Eucharist

Father’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of fatherhood. Rather than becoming enmeshed in secular images of fatherhood, our notion of fatherhood as Christians should be derived from God the Father. Likewise, the archetype of gift within the child-father relationship is revealed in the Eucharistic sacrifice. On this holiday, we give cards, special meals, our time, a new toolbox, or other gifts to show gratitude and love. Like most holidays, Father’s Day can easily be overcome by consumerism and a superficial image of fatherhood. Consumerism and superficiality can morph the idea of gift into something entirely disconnected from the I-thou relationship. A gift is intimately connected to the I-thou relationship because a gift is something both offered and received by persons. It becomes the expression of the gratuitous love that one has for one’s father. I would like to suggest that our concept of gift can be seen anew in light of the Eucharist. Because gift implies offering, we can turn to Christ’s sacrificial self-offering on the Cross as the perfect gift. …

Nourishing the Imaginations of the Young Church

In seeking to capacitate young people for mature lives of faith, Notre Dame Vision offers an opportunity for young people and the adults who minister to them to encounter the fullness of Jesus Christ revealed in the Scriptures, the sacramental life, and in communion with the Body of Christ—the Church. Keynote speakers, small group discussions, prayer experiences, and personal reflection cultivate a vision of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, who captivates their imaginations and calls them to respond with the witness of their lives. In the opening session of the week the high school students and adults who serve them gather together to hear Jesus, the Word, ask us: “Are you listening?” In the high school Vision program, the high school students and their college-age Mentors-in-Faith build communities focused on listening to the Word of God, to each other, and to ourselves. Meanwhile, the adult campus and youth ministers form community that fosters a disposition of receptivity to the Word, attentiveness to the workings of grace in our lives, and commitment to a renewal …

May Crowning: Honoring Our Queen and Our Mother

A long-standing tradition in the Church has been to adorn a statue or image of the Blessed Virgin Mary with flowers at the beginning of May, a month dedicated to her honor. I have vivid memories of the May Crowning at my grade school, when all of the students were invited to bring flowers from home that would then be put into vases and carried in procession to the front of the church, where a large statue of Our Lady was prominently placed. If you were lucky, you were the one chosen to carry the vase in the procession as your class representative. If you were super lucky, you were the one chosen to carry the circlet of flowers and crown Mary at the culmination of the service. Here at Our Lady’s University, the McGrath Institute for Church Life brought back the tradition of the Marian Procession and May Crowning last year, an event that will take place once again this year on Sunday, May 7 at 1pm, beginning at the Grotto of Our Lady …

Meditations for Good Friday, 2016

Editorial Note: The following piece was written when the feast of the Annunciation and Good Friday fell on March 25, 2016. Since this will not happen again until 2157 (when the Internet will be replaced by telepathy) we’re publishing it this year since the themes of the essay are essential to Passiontide.  Today is Good Friday, March 25, 2016. It is also the feast of the Annunciation, the Conception of Our Lord Jesus Christ—celebrated on 25 March because that date is precisely nine months before the Feast of the Nativity on December 25. Good Friday also fell on March 25th four hundred and eight years ago, in the year 1608. Not surprisingly, John Donne wrote a poem to commemorate the paradox of the day’s liturgical significance. And thanks to my friends Kirsten Stirling and Greg Kneidel of the John Donne Society, who reminded the rest of us via email, I was not allowed to forget! Here is Donne’s poem: Vppon the Annunciation, when Good-friday fell vppon the same daye [1608] Tamely fraile body, abstaine to …

Beauty from the Brokenness

As the flickering candles and dim lights fought off the dark Texan night pouring in from outside, the chapel danced between silence and sound. The silence was palpable—as thick as the bonds of the seventy young men huddled attentively as they leaned forward to listen to their fellow senior standing behind the ambo. He began to break open his life, allowing others to listen to the symphony of his rugged voice: crescendos of moments we never expected, slurred words in between tears fought back, staccatos of the surprising levity, and pauses to gather his soul to spoken notes—his young life sung to the tune of the Paschal Mystery. I remember my astonished gaze ascending upwards from the student’s face, aglow with fire light in the dark, towards the gnarled figure of Christ on the suspended crucifix. . . Crucifixion—Why? I found myself in the chapel before the whirlwind events of yet another retreat, drawn to the silent gaze of that same crucifix. Memories flooded the silence and past retreat experiences reverberated into this crossroad in …

The Cruciform Shape of the Family

Embarking on the journey of marriage and family life is filled with many joyful moments but also with moments of suffering. This suffering is inherently relational, meaning that by entering into commitments such as marriage and parenthood, we open ourselves up to the possibility of being wounded by such commitment. For example, think of the newlyweds who ache with overwhelming love for one another, a mother who labors to meet her child, the infertile couple who longs to conceive, the parents who suffer with and for a sick child, or the elderly man who sits at his dying wife’s bedside after a lifetime shared together. As we can see, suffering takes a unique, relational shape in the context of marriage and family life. This shape reflects Christ’s suffering in the sense that he entered into relationship with mankind, therefore opening himself up to such relational wounds—wounds of love. When we gaze upon Christ crucified, we see not only the horrific suffering of his Passion but also a sign of hope in his Resurrection. However, it …