Thursday, April 2, 2015

Holy Thursday, Serving others & "Cracker Jesus"

"When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 'You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.'" 
-John 13:12-16

Today is Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday. We recall how Christ celebrated the Seder meal or Passover which commemorates the events in Egypt during the Exodus (Exodus 12). During this ritual, Christ added something.  He washed the feet of his Disciples.  Here we have the Son of God and the second person of the Blessed Trinity washing the feet of creatures He created who constantly offend Him with sin. This shows the humility of God that He would serve the servant giving us all an example to follow (Philippians 2, Matthew 11:29). Holy Thursday should remind us of serving others and being merciful (1 Peter 4:10, Galatians 5:13-14).  Jesus even commanded that we serve others and wash one another's feet (John 13:12-14). Notice that He did not place any conditions on this service. I mention this in light of recent laws being passed that some believe discriminate against the LGBT community. These laws can be interpreted as allowing religious businesses to pick and choose who they want to serve, according to opponents. During Holy Thursday morning prayer, I reflected on this news and today's Liturgy as I studied the rubrics. I thought to myself: "yes catering to LGBT events does in a way show support for it." The Church does teach in the catechism that we can be an accessory to the sins of others.  The catechism states:

Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:
- by participating directly and voluntarily in them;
- by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
- by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
- by protecting evil-doers.
CCC 1868


An older text from 1888 goes into more detail:

"Nine Ways of being Accessory to another's Sin.
By Counsel
By Command
By Consent
By Provocation
By Praise or Flattery
By Concealment
By partaking
By Silence
By defense of the Ill Done
A MANUAL OF PRAYERS for the use of the Catholic Laity (copyright 1888)

After reading this, we can see why Catholics and Protestants are concerned when they are approached by homosexual persons seeking services for their same-sex weddings. How do we get around this? Well, I thought of the lesser of two evils model which posits that we choose what is least damaging. Only God is our judge and can read our hearts (James 4:12, Psalm 75:7, Psalm 139:23-24). If we are business owners and are asked to cater to a same-sex event, then we can pray to God making it clear that we are not endorsing the event, but are serving the "least of our brethren," so to speak (Matthew 25:40). This is one way of getting out of the dilemma of being an accessory to the sin of another. We can also admonish the sinner with mercy and compassion (2 Thessalonians 3:15). There are ways of telling people that what they are doing offends God in a way that does not come across as judgmental or demanding. I believe this ties into today's Holy Thursday ritual.

We are called by Christ to "wash another's feet."  Remember, He never specified whom to wash, but said, just go do it!  God is the only one who can change minds and hearts (Ezekiel 36:26). By refusing service to members of the LGBT, we are just creating hostility and putting up a wall that might prevent these people from reflecting on their sins and making any effort to live according to God's will. The parable of the Good Samaritan comes to mind in this situation as well (Luke 10:25-37). In this story, Jesus is questioned by a laywer who asks Jesus, "teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life," Jesus replies asking this man, "What is written in the law?"  The lawyer begins to cite from Leviticus 19:9-18 & Deuteronomy 6:5 which states to love God and neighbor. Jesus tells him that he is correct, but the lawyer then asks Jesus, "and who is my neighbor" to which Jesus replies with the parable,


"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion,  and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.'"  

Jesus then asks the lawyer who does he think was the one who was neighborly to the victim of robbery to which the lawyer replies, “The one who showed mercy on him.” After hearing this answer, Jesus tells the lawyer to do the same.

Here in this parable we see a man who is a victim of robbery. A priest or "man of God" saw the man there laying beaten and humiliated and moved to the other side, completely avoiding this victim of a crime. Next, a Levite passed by and did the same. A Levite had a special religious status in the tribe of Levi.  Despite this role, the Levite passed by the injured victim of robbery.  However, a Samaritan comes by and stops to help him and even pays an innkeeper and requests that this innkeeper cares for him and even offers to pay any additional expenses the victim of the robbery may incur. The Samaritans were a rival group of the Jews at the time of Jesus. They were not expected to help their counterparts.  This is why this Samaritan is described as the "Good Samaritan."  Jesus used a Samaritan to tell His story to show that we must break past our differences and focus on the person by serving him or her.

In the washing of the feet, we see this transcendency of two "rival" entities: God (Jesus) representing holiness and perfection and the disciples representing sin and imperfection. The uniting force is love. As Catholics, we are called to love others, even those who hate us and want to oppress us (Matthew 5:44). We are not called to be enemies of the LGBT, Atheists, Muslims or anyone else who thinks and acts differently. In fact, we are called to serve them (Galatians 5:13).

Lastly, during this night Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist. He did not abolish the old ritual of the Passover but fulfilled it (Matthew 5:17). The Holy Eucharist just like the Passover meal provided protection from death (Exodus 12:23). This is because we are given the bread of life who is Jesus, that allows us to live forever (John 6:35).  Recently, renowned Agnostic astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson made some comments conflating the Holy Eucharist and Scientology as "crazy." He said in the interview,


"So, you have people who are certain that a man in a robe transforms a cracker into the literal body of Jesus saying that what goes on in Scientology is crazy?" - http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/03/31/neil-degrasse-tyson-defends-scientology-and-the-bush-administration-s-science-record.html

Here we see his ignorance regarding Catholicism. First, I know of no one in the Catholic Church who calls Scientology or any other differing view "crazy."  The Catechism has this to say regarding other faiths, not in union with the Church:

"818 "However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers . . . . All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church."272 
819 "Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth"273 are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: "the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements."274 Christ's Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him,275 and are in themselves calls to "Catholic unity."276) 
- http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p123a9p3.htm

Moreover, as a former atheist I can state with sincerity that the idea of the Holy Eucharist is "crazy." I say this with all respect, of course.  Let me explain why:  God is known to do things foolishly, illogically and completely contrary to how we think things should be done and this foolishness of God in reality is wiser than anything man can formulate (1 Corinthians 1:25). The Holy Eucharist is one of these "foolish" ideas which really is wise and shows God's genius. During the Last Supper, Our Lord took bread and wine, blessed it and distributed among the Apostles saying that they were His Body and Blood.  He instructed them to do this in His memory.  (Luke 22:7-20)  In other words, this meal was not a one time thing.  It has to continue.

Was Jesus joking around when He said that bread and wine were His Body and Blood?  
The answer is no.  In John 6:22-69 Jesus gave a long talk about the "Bread of Life."  He goes on to say that the bread Moses gave was not the "True Bread."  The people asked Him for this "Bread of Life" and He then makes the radical statement that HE is the "Bread of Life" and the "True Bread from Heaven." The people began to murmur among themselves because they knew Jesus was the son of Joseph, and not to mention that His words were a bit strange and in today's world would be seen as psychotic.

However, it gets "stranger..."  Jesus continues saying that one has to eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have eternal life.  This is when the people really had enough.  Many walked out on Him thinking He was a lunatic.  Jesus then turns to His disciples and asks them if they will leave as well. Peter replies saying that they can't go anywhere else because Jesus had the words of eternal life. Peter is always the first to speak up or to lead, this shows why the Pope is the first bishop among all bishops of the world - but that is another blog post .

Moreover, something interesting happens here in regards to how serious Jesus was about eating His flesh and drinking His blood.  Many of our separated brethren believe the Holy Eucharist is a symbol and not literally Christ's Body Blood Soul and Divinity.  However, when people started abandoning Jesus for saying that one has to eat His flesh and drink His blood, Jesus did not run in front of them and say "hey, wait a minute, I was joking." Instead, Jesus let them go.  This shows that He was very serious about His flesh and blood being actual things that someone has to consume.  In 1 Cor 10:16 St. Paul reminds the people that the bread and wine are the Lord's Body and Blood.

Why bread and wine?
In Genesis 14:18 we read about Melchizedek - priest of God and king of Salem- giving Abram bread and wine.  He then blesses Abram.  Jesus uses bread and wine to make the connection to the Old covenant and to show that He is the True Priest who offers the True Sacrifice - Himself.  Bread is a food that is delicious that can be served with literally every food on Earth.  It has a lot of carbohydrates which in turn gives a lot of energy to the body.  It is a food that is easy to make, but does a lot to appease hunger and give nutrients.  Then there is wine.  It is used to party with.  It was even used as medicine and a disinfectant agent for wounds. Jesus as Bread and Wine does exactly that to our souls.  He appeases the hunger for God and nourishes the soul.  He brings our souls to jubilation by uniting with it when one receives Holy Communion.  He heals the soul from the harm sin has caused.

Transubstantiation
One may ask:  at Mass the Bread and Wine still look, taste, smell, feel like Bread and Wine, so how can it be the Body and Blood of Christ?  Well, God knows us well.  God designed the human body and mind.  He knows that human beings would cringe at the sight of eating raw meat and drinking blood.  How many times have we ourselves have gotten disgusted at looking at our own wounds?  It is not easy seeing blood and flesh in a traumatic form.

A few years ago, there was a big buzz in social media regarding the "Zombie" in Miami.  A man who was high on "salt" - a drug - attacked a homeless man and literally ate his face. People were disgusted at the news and the reality of how a human can even succumb to this evil cannibalistic act.  That being said,  God would not give us human flesh and blood to eat and drink in the material sense. Rather, He would use matter that we are all familiar with and that we enjoy: food and drink.

At consecration, the Bread and Wine do not turn into a piece of meat and human blood with DNA, platlets, red/white cells etc - unless a Eucharistic Miracle has taken place which some times does occur.  The outside, or the accidents of the bread and wine remain the same, but what it is, or the essence changes.  Think of it this way:  We see leaves on trees.  During spring and summer they are green.  However, during fall they begin to change colors.  They turn red, orange, yellow and brown.  Now let's think:  which one is the REAL leaf?  At one point it was green, then red, then orange, then yellow and then brown.  The leaf changed colors, so is it the same leaf when it was green?  The answer is yes.  The outside or accidents of the leaf changed, but the essence or what it is remains the same.  The same with the Bread and Wine at Mass but in an opposite manner.  The outside remains the same (bread/wine) but the inside or what it is changes and becomes the Body Blood Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Similarly, we ourselves go through many changes.  Our bodies grow and change as we age; however, our temperament remains the same.

Silly Neil, what's the deal?

So we can see how "God's foolishness" and "craziness" is wisdom for us. God uses bread and wine because He understands us. He understands that no one is going to literally eat human flesh and blood.  As God, He can transform bread and wine into the literal body, blood, soul and divinity without making it into a disgusting cannibalistic rite.  This is because with God nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37). Moreover, Neil Degrasse Tyson is the one who is crazy for thinking that tachyon particles or hypothetical particles believed to travel faster than the speed of light (186,282 miles per second) exist and can cause Cherenkov radiation, which is another hypothetical scenario where light creates a "sonic boom" effect if something forces it to go faster than it normally does, breaking its barrier.

So in closing, we must serve one another despite our differences, even if they hate us. Our Lord gave us Himself in the blessed Sacrament and we should make every effort to visit Him and communicate (receive Communion) with Him while in the state of grace; and yes Tyson, the Holy Eucharist is "crazy" but this craziness reflects the wisdom of God which trumps the nonsense we human beings posit via materialistic philosopies and scientific ideas based on overactive imaginations.

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