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Friday, 17 June 2016 00:10

(A theology of "sainthood" made simple)


by. Bishop Ambo David


For the life of me, I have yet to understand how the reputation of the great teacher, preacher, and theologian, St Anthony of Padua, had been reduced to that of an intercessor for the finding lost objects. Honestly, even as a Catholic bishop, I sometimes get scandalized by the way we have allowed the cult of saints in many instances to be relegated to the realm of the magical and the superstitious. In one parish where I celebrated a fiesta Mass years ago, I was shocked to note, as I began the Prayer of the Faithful, that the response after each petition was, "St. Anthony, hear our prayer." I hope it was not the parish priest himself who took the liberties of replacing the heavenly Father with the patron saint. I could still understand if it was an overzealous devotee who did so, and the parish priest just didn't bother to go through the "home-made" prayer of the faithful. On another instance, I was also shocked to hear a special novena song asking the patroness "to save and redeem us". It could only mean that we have been amiss in catechizing even our most devout parishioners (or perhaps even some of our priests?), about Christ as our primary Savior, Redeemer and Intercessor, when we address our prayers to the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. (Note how all our prayers at Mass are formulated in a Trinitarian way.) Even the Blessed Mother is never put on an equal footing with our Lord Jesus Christ in our liturgies, even if she had borne Him in her immaculate womb. Does not the Blessed Mother refer to herself in the Magnificat, merely as "the maidservant of the Lord"? She works for our salvation only by leading us to her Son Jesus. No wonder she often leads visionaries to a Spring... so that they will discover in Jesus her Son the fountain of lifegiving waters.No doubt, for us Roman Catholic Christians, it is not an act of idolatry to venerate our saints and martyrs, our holy men and women. There is nothing in them that we, as members of the Church, honor, except the Christ whom they have so vividly reflected in their holy and heroic lives. That is after all what being a Christian means to us. It is, to borrow from St Paul, "to live in Christ". It is to live in such a way that it is Christ who lives in us. It is to surrender our lives completely to him. It is to say with Paul, "I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and has given up his life for me." (Gal 2)For this to happen, for Christ to live in and through us, we have to be part of his body, the Church, the community of disciples who are consciously bonded together by faith, by the same Spirit that they have received at baptism, by a coming together in the name of Jesus. It is through Jesus that we get to unite ourselves with the "divine community", the "Holy Family" of the Triune God, which extends itself into the human family through Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and later into the human family of the Church, the community of Christ's disciples and apostles.There is no way we can become "Christians" alone; an individualistic Christian is a contradiction in terms. We become our true selves, by becoming part of Christ, in whom divinity and humanity have become one. Christ is the fulfillment of God's purpose for all humankind--creatures in his image and likeness. In us, the invisible God desires to become visible. But the deification of humankind is not possible except through the humanification of God in Jesus. Jesus fulfills his mission as Christ only when, through his kenosis, his self-emptying in incarnation, in his life of mercy and compassion, in his suffering, death, and resurrection, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in us is made possible. In essence therefore, after Pentecost "Christ" is no longer to be excusively equated with the individual person of Jesus of Nazareth. Christ becomes the corporate reality of the coming together of people in his name, living in the same Spirit, now empowered to speak and act in the person of Jesus, the Son of God.Our Christ is not a figure of the past. He is not just the historical Jesus of Nazareth. He is alive; he carries on with his mission to bring about the Good News of "hallowing God's Name", "establishing God's Kingdom", and "fulfilling God's will on earth as in heaven". We are all called to be citizens of heaven; but that citizenship must begin already on earth. We are to live our lives in such a way that Christ's salvific act, which is a work in progress, is sustained.The incarnation of God was not a one-time affair. Christmas happens anew at each time a "Christian" is born, each time a new person is "incorporated" into Christ. In the Church, in the coming together of two or three in the name of the Son of God, a new cell as it were is added to the living body of Christ, bearing the same spiritual DNA of Christ. Old cells die but new cells are born, allowing for the constant regeneration of Christ in history until the coming of the fullness of God's kingdom.People in this world continue to seek God and the fullness of life that He promises to those who find Him. Here's the Good news: the God who once was thought to be distant has become near. He has made his presence felt in our midst as "Immanuel", God with us. He has assumed a human face in Jesus Christ, and continues to do so in everyone who becomes part of Christ, the Son of God, so that Christ lives on "yesterday, today, and forever."Our icons of wood and stone are nothing compared to the living icon of Christ that every disciple is called to be.As members of Christ, our discipleship is completed only in apostleship, only in participation in mission of Christ. Our mission on earth is to live for Christ, to live in Christ, to allow Christ to live in us. Our mission is, to borrow again from St Paul, "to reconcile all things in Christ, both in heaven on earth, things visible and invisible." (Col 1)Christ is the fulfillment of the covenant, the connection between God and the world, between God and humankind. The law that kept Israel bonded with God and with each other was a mere foreshadowing of the more perfect bond, which is the very person of Jesus Christ, in whom divinity and humanity have become one. The ladder Jacob had seen in his dream was no other than Christ! Between God and humankind is a great chasm brought about by sin, that state of delusion caused by an evil spell we brought on ourselves the moment we insisted on our will, the moment we learned to "play God", the moment we tried to be" like God" in the wrong sense of it. Here's the good news--that chasm is no longer unbridgeable as we thought it was. In Christ we have found the "bridge over troubled waters" who lays himself down to allow us all to cross over to the Great Beyond. Thus he does not say "I will show you the way", or "I will lead you to the Truth", or "I will guide you to life". No. John had reason to make him say, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." (Jn 14)So why did Anthony establish a reputation of being a patron of the lost? Because he became a follower and representative of the Good Shepherd who is ready to "descend into hell" in order to seek out the last, the least, and the lost. This great preacher and teacher, Anthony, became most eloquent when he died to his ego so that Christ could speak and act through him. No wonder he was not only declared a saint just one year after his death; he was also declared as a "Doctor of the Church".Lately, I asked our brother Franciscans if, aside from pious novenas, the teachings of Anthony of Padua are being promoted in the Church. I was told they are not; largely because they are written in medieval Italian that is not easy to translate. How sad, I said to myself. How come the writings of other great doctors of the Church like Augustine who lived much earlier continue to inspire a lot of people? How come the great Carmelite "Doctors of the Church" like Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross and Therèse of Lisieux continue to be read in many languages?Should we be surprised then why, this great Franciscan, through whose saintly life and teachings, many "lost souls" found their way back to God, has been reduced into a lucky charm for retrieving lost objects?


Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist

Tuesday, 14 June 2016 10:40

By: Atty. Aurora A. Santiago

The institution of the Eucharist started during the Last Supper. It was on the night when our Lord Jesus Christ shared one last meal with his disciples, the night before he was humiliated to suffer on the Cross. It was also during this meal that Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Orders to perpetuate this sacrifice of his Body and Blood; to keep alive the Paschal Mystery - sacrifice of the Cross, his death and resurrection. The institution of the Eucharist, the First Mass, is the 5th in the Luminous Mystery of the Holy Rosary.

As the Gospel of Matthew tells us, Jesus eagerly desired to eat this Passover before he suffers: “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” (Matthew 26:26-28).

When the Eucharist is celebrated, Christ is truly present body, blood, soul, and divinity, under the appearances of bread and wine. In the act of consecration during the Eucharist, the bread and wine are changed into Body and Blood of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. The change is called "transubstantiation." According to our Catholic faith, we can speak of “the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist because transubstantiation has occurred.”

For Jesus said: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” (John 6:54-56). This is what the Church means when she speaks of the "Real Presence" of Christ in the Eucharist. The risen Christ is present to his Church in many ways, but most especially through the sacrament of his Body and Blood.

Some of the bread consecrated and were not consumed during the Mass are kept in the tabernacle, which is usually placed in a conspicuous place inside the Church, particularly the Altar or beside it. Called the Blessed Sacrament, it is used for distribution to the dying, the sick, and those who legitimately cannot be present for the celebration of the Eucharist. It may also be exposed in the Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction, carried in Eucharistic processions, or when it is simply placed in the tabernacle; the people pray privately before it since Christ himself is present under the appearance of bread.

As Catholics are doing, one should genuflect in the presence of the tabernacle containing the reserved sacrament; to make the sign of the cross and to bow with adoration, reverence and respect. It is not appropriate to speak in loud or boisterous tones in the Church because of the presence of Christ in the tabernacle. As a sign of reverence, it is required to fast at least one hour before receiving the Body and Blood of Christ (unless illness prevents one from doing so).

“The Eucharist is a sacrifice for it is offered. The Eucharist is a sacrament for it is received. In the Mass we offer ourselves to God, and God gives himself to us. The Mass will be fruitful in the measure of our surrender to the Father.”

As food nourishes the body, the Eucharistic food nourishes the spirit. Jesus gives himself to us in the Eucharist as spiritual nourishment because he loves us. God's whole plan for our salvation is directed to our participation in the life of the Trinity, the communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The sharing of an ordinary meal, especially by all the members of the family, creates a union and solidarity among them who share together the foods. Similarly, in the Eucharist, the People of God share a meal that brings them into communio not only with each other but more so with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Before we receive the Holy Communion, we must be in a in a state of grace, free of all mortal sin, mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, an act of sorrow for sins accompanied by the firm intention of making a sacramental confession as soon as possible.

During the celebration of the Eucharist, Christ is in Real Presence not only in the Blessed Sacrament but also in the person of the priest who presides in the Mass. Christ is present in his Word "since it is he himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church." He is also present in the people who prays and sing, "for he has promised ‘where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them'". He is also present in other sacraments: baptism, in the celebration of the Eucharist, confirmation. This presence is called ‘real' because it is substantial and through it Christ becomes present as God and man.

[Author has a column Duc in Altum at CBCP Monitor; the article was printed in the CBCP Monitor Special Editions during the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC), January 2016, Cebu City).


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