Anne Lastman A Reflection “Peter,” The Holy Father, Pope Francis, without breaking the line of…
The New Testament describes how things happened and how the Spirit led the Church and reflected on the events which occurred (Dei Verbum 12). We believe that the writings of the New Testament are inspired and a true witness to the life, teachings, death and Resurrection of Jesus the Christ, born in Nazareth just over 2000 years ago.
The governance of the Church He founded is ensured by Jesus who promised at His departure that the Spirit would be sent and He would teach and confirm all that He (Jesus) had said, and the Spirit would protect the Church from error so that the “gates of Hell would not prevail against it.”
Jesus indeed prepared his group of disheartened and even traumatised disciples by sharing a final meal with them. A meal in which He announced a “New Covenant’ (Jn 13:34) and they were to continue this memorial meal till the end of time, that is, His return. “After giving thanks, he broke the bread and said: ‘This means my body which is given in your behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor:11:24) A means of remembrance. An anamnesis. An anamnesis which means a past event, made present, real and continuous. It’s “Type” being the Passover of the Hebrew people, the longest continuous celebration in history.
The Eucharistic celebration for the believers in Jesus was/is to be the event celebrated through time which brings the “meal” in its authenticity to each person and at each celebration in each time, society and century. So that every time this Eucharistic or thanksgiving meal is celebrated He is again present in their midst, his word “this is by Body this is my Blood, do this in memorial to me” crosses space and time and makes Jesus present to the person receiving it in any age, or being part of this Eucharistic celebration just as present if he/she was present at that final meal with Him and his apostles. He is still breaking bread throughout time with us.
Why did Jesus tie breaking of bread and eating for salvation? because it was in the eating “but of the tree of knowledge of good evil you are not to eat; for, on the day you eat, you will die)” (Gn2:17) that sin of disobedience and “eating which was forbidden in that moment” entered into the human being, and Jesus in His incarnation came to reverse all that which had and has followed. Now Jesus the God/Man reverses this curse using the same medium as that which caused the sin, that is, eating, a universal necessity. “unless you eat of my flesh and drink of my blood you have no life in you” or “whoever eats of my flesh and drinks of my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day” (Jn 6:54) Jesus leaves for all time the mandate to eat of His Flesh and drink of His blood in order to have eternal Life with Him where before eternal life had been lost. Further, he reverses the curse of Genesis 9 “But you shall not eat flesh with its life its blood” (Gen9:4) “For the life of the flesh is in the blood…for it is the blood that makes atonement. The sacrifice of shedding his blood made reparation for the sin of death by having “life in you” Seen even in the story of the death of Abel (whose blood cried out to God) for reparation. (Gen4:11-12)
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, (Gn 9:4-7) and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood which makes atonement by the life. Jesus left behind both flesh and blood as atonement for all sins of generations. Flesh and blood died thus leading to death of body and spirit, now flesh and blood lead to life. And through flesh and blood he left behind for atonement a renewed friendship with God. The sin was so great that only God (Gen.chapter 15) could repair the damage done. Through His son this was done.
Yet it would appear that Jesus was asking the disciples to do something that they were forbidden by their Jewish faith to do. “Eat flesh with blood”. Here he is telling them to do the thing they believed they were not to do and on that day many of his followers walked sadly away (Jn 6:30, Jn 6:66, Jn 6:59-71).It was one of those sayings that could not be understood. A dark saying.
The answer to the eating of flesh and drinking of His blood was the way to reverse the sin of the first man and woman who did eat unto themselves and all the future generations, death, even after having been warned that this would happen. In the eating of his flesh and drinking of his blood Jesus begins a new creation. (The first born Col. 1:15) Not destroying the first creation but finding a way to renew them in a universal manner (eating) and the restoration of the relationship between man and his creator.
Why eat and drink? Because Jesus is able through the Spirit to transform a universal action, eating, into life giving and saving nourishment. Different nourishment than daily food for bodily sustenance, but a nourishment for the soul which had been wounded and disfigured by the eating of what should not have been eaten. (Gn2:17). Eucharist or soul nourishment is as life-giving as was the ruach after the creation of man (breath) and now a renewal nourishment leading to reconciliation and eternity.
It’s a loving act/gift and promise he has given and left behind in time to nourish those who would walk through all ages until his return. His presence always and every moment amongst the human being created in His own image and likeness (Gen 1:27) until his return. Again walking, talking and sitting in fellowship with him.
St Paul and the authors of the early testaments wrote and discerned that this is the food for the journey, for those starving, for those who cannot heal because of the lack of nourishment.
The Eucharist is the food of the very “presence” of the Lord amongst the brethren. His way of being in their mist. The visible face of the Father. Those broken, those marginalised, those outside of the “righteous ones’ who appear to have no need of this food for they already consider themselves holy (Lord I’m better than this poor man, Lk 18:9-14). But for those who are and have been starved, and have need for the food He offers. They are already fed (by the word) but those who have been starved have a need of this particular nourishment for recovery of soul health.
Jesus’ table fellowship with outcasts and sinners is well documented and it is also documented that some of his friends and enemies were outraged and horrified that he would associate with, and share table with, such known sinners (tax collectors, prostitutes, sinners, adulterers) and this by a supposed teacher and supposed Holy man (Mk2:16-17) Matt:11:19, Lk 15:1-2, 19:18). Jesus sat at table both with the righteous ones and sinners alike. His presence was for all.
Why this preamble?
Because I am greatly disturbed and saddened by the behaviours of certain Catholics who have in recent times almost caused a schism in the Church, and their total humiliating disrespect for the Holy Father, Pope Francis, and total disrespect for the “Chair of Peter.” Disrespect for the “holder of the keys of the Kingdom” (Mt 16:19).Disrespect for the office of the Papacy. There has been an all-out vendetta against the Pope forgetting that “where Peter is there is the Church” ostensibly because of the so-called “Chapter 8” and one footnote (351) in Amoris Laetitia a document 355 pages long, in which he is accused of changing church doctrine. He even says in the beginning of this exhortation (p 12) that it should not be read “in a rushed reading of the text” and suggests that each chapter be read “patiently and carefully” This beautiful exhortation has been changed into a “chapter 8” furore instead of a very beautiful document on love and family, and indeed his Holiness says that chapter 8 should make readers feel challenged.
Chapter 8 speaks of looking at a huge vineyard (divorced and remarried) where these couples are encouraged to understand why and how the sacrament of marriage can enrich their new marriage or new vows of love and, that they can be, much more sustained by the grace of Christ in their marriage by the possibility of “participating fully in the life of the church” (AL p 240.). His attempt to streamline the annulment process is not an attempt to change church doctrine but to encourage those who would wish to reconcile with the Church to seek the necessary helps to achieve this.
Further, he states ‘those who think that this is equivalent to a catholic divorce are mistaken. Marriage is indissoluble when it is a sacrament. And this the Church cannot change. It is doctrine. “It is an indissoluble sacrament” (AL p 68). Further, “a lukewarm attitude, and kind of relativism or undue reticence in proposing the ideal (my italics) would be a lack of fidelity to the Gospel. To show understanding in the face of exceptional situations never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to human beings” (P 240.) The ideal is always to be understood, announced and preached.
This Pope invites Pastors to become involved with these abandoned individuals and lost to the church because of a difficult situation, and indeed who are not “living the ideal” and to help them to slowly understand and desire to come to the ideal. “Jesus wants a church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching always does what good she can even if in the process her shoes get soiled.” (Chap. 8 AL) He is saying to Pastors get involved, see how you can help this wounded vineyard. Help them reach the understanding of the full ideal (Sacrament of marriage) always bearing in mind that pain exists and to be mindful of the pain. Be merciful as God is merciful.
It’s important to remember that no one divorces because they have nothing better to do. There are always painful reasons including, serious domestic violence, emotional and physical abuse, and other painful experiences which lead to divorce. And Mother Church is hurting for these wounded ones. And these critics not caring or thinking about the emotional disenfranchisement they are committing against these wounded ones. And so these “experts” and their collection of followers continue to divide the Church and wound more deeply those already wounded.
Jesus sat at table with prostitutes. Jesus allowed himself to be touched by prostitutes. A woman freed of seven devils was on her way to touch him and anoint him in death. Jesus also sat with those righteous who would not wash his feet, (but a great sinner washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. (Lk 7:44)
This Holy Father, Pope Francis, has gone after a massive vineyard abandoned and lost to the Church, by laws, and the righteous, and he is being hounded and humiliated by dissenters fuelled by some so called “true catholic” with a Facebook page read by millions and a Cardinal (Judas who was concerned over waste of money Jn 12:4) and some theologians who haven’t heard the sound of their voices for a long time. These are damaging the church and flock almost beyond repair, and “Peter” is publically rebuked. Indeed so much so that his Council of 9 and head of CDF His eminence Cardinal Müller had to come out publically to say that they support the Pope and that the his post synodal exhortation Amoris Letitia does not contravene or change church doctrine.
I want to suggest something else to these “defenders of the faith” including the Facebook instigator and his followers who daily trolls the net to find negative stories about Pope Francis “what happens to those priests, nuns, religious who have left the Catholic Church, were laicized and married and brought up families? Are they banned from the Eucharist also? Remembering that their first covenant, their first love was with the church and with the Lord as spouse.
We are told that Bishops and priests should love the church like Christ loves the Church, as a husband loves his wife. For the priest his covenant of Holy Orders leaves an indelible sacramental mark on the soul (like Baptism) but even so he may not exercise his priestly ministry after laicisation except in extreme circumstances e.g. dying person, he is still “married” to his church though daily he may not exercise his priestly duties.
How does the priest love his Church? Just like Christ loves his bride and is willing to die for her. St Paul who is mentioned and used as precedent also says the same of marriage: the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church and be ready to sacrifice himself for her. So a priest or religious who is no longer a “sacramental bride/groom” may also not remarry another or it is also adultery.
This is the mystery of love that it is meant to be a union for life for husband and wife and priest and his own spiritual bride. For the man and woman it is a physical union for the priest/religious it is a spiritual eternal union. Both the human and the priestly vocation is a ministry of love and both are covenants of marriage. When a marriage fails it’s sad, when a religious ministry fails (priest, nuns, brothers, celibate ministries) it’s sad, but why is it that a former priest, religious can remarry in the physical union and receive Eucharist but when a human being finds happiness after usually much suffering and ill treatment, emotional torment and sometimes torture and violence, they are banned from the table of the of Lord?
God is a communion of three who live in harmony and love, and ideally this is what both human and spiritual marriage is meant to be. One flesh. One union, harmonious. This is the ideal. However this is not always the situation. The priest when he becomes a priest, at consecration, also becomes one flesh with the Lord (at consecration, this is my body) and “marries” the Church, His bride. But at times this union also fails. Just as when human marriages are entered into with good intentions but at times impediments make them eventually unworkable.
St Paul who is quoted ad nauseam by those who are determined to harm “Peter” says that the great mystery is reflected in Christian spouses: the relationship established by Christ with the Church who is His bride.(Eph 5:21-33) This is their relationship. Bride and groom. United in marriage. Never to separate and if this does happen, our learned commentators say that these cannot be part of the body of Christ or sit at His table? He who sat mostly with sinners and outcasts and the anawim and chose to be with them. He the Lord of the Eucharist is told that those who are broken cannot sit with him. No attempt made to be brought into the fold?
To those who would destroy the church,( LifeSiteNews Mar 18 Canon Lawyers and theologians to hold conference on deposing the Pope) spend time reflecting upon this other “broken marriage” (laicised priests and religious) and the ramifications of the priest returning the cross to Jesus because it became too heavy, surely they should be excluded too? If not why not?
And above all please stop trying to destroy the Church the body of Christ and Peter who is guided by the Holy Spirit and this is the promise made to “Peter” by Jesus Himself.
“Therefore we said, “Let us now build an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice, but to be a witness between us and you, and between the generations after us, that we do perform the service of the lord in His presence with our burnt offerings and sacrifices and offerings of wellbeing: so that your children may never say to our children in time to come, “you have no portion in the Lord.” (Jos. 22:26-28).