Jesus


“Lest too great a variety of religious orders leads to grave confusion in God’s church, we strictly forbid anyone henceforth to found a new religious order. Whoever wants to become a religious should enter one of the already approved orders. Likewise, whoever wishes to found a new religious house should take the rule and institutes from already approved religious orders.”

 – Lateran IV (1215)

“…the disgrace into which the Society of Jesus had fallen made Catholics hesitant to embrace doctrines with which the Jesuits had been identified. One such doctrine was that for those who were inculpably ignorant of the Christian message, or of its truth, explicit Christian faith was not strictly necessary for salvation. Jesuits had taught that such people could be saved, as those who lived before the coming of Christ could be, by a faith in Christ, or a desire of such faith, that would be implicit in their faith in God. As we have seen, this was a departure from the teaching of St Thomas and the whole mediaeval tradition, which had required explicit Christian faith for the salvation of everyone in the Christian era. After the suppression of the Jesuit order, hardly any Catholic theologians dared to question the traditional teaching on this point.”

– Francis Sullivan S.J.

I confess that all men from Adam, even to the consummation of the world, having been born and having died with Adam himself and his wife, who were not born of other parents, but were created, the one from the earth, the other, however, from the rib of the man [cf. Gen 2:7], will then rise again and stand before the Judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he has done, whether it be good or bad [Rom 14:10, 2Cor 5:10]; and indeed by the very bountiful grace of God he will present the just, as vessels of mercy prepared beforehand for glory [Rom 9:23], with the rewards of eternal life; namely, they will live without end in the society of the angels without any fear now of their own fall; the wicked, however, remaining by choice of their own with vessels of wrath fit for destruction [Rom 9:22], who either did not know the way of the Lord, or knowing it left it when seized by various transgressions, He will give over by a very just judgment to the punishment of eternal and inextinguishable fire, that they may burn without end. This, then, is my faith and hope, which is in me by the gift of the mercy of God, in defence of which blessed Peter taught [cf. 1 Peter 3:15] that we ought to be especially ready to answer everyone who asks us for an accounting. 

– Pope Pelagius I, Humani Generis, 557 [D228a/DH443]

XIR197899

How many episodes?

Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10 and John 4:46-54 are an enigma. They all seem to refer to the same incident (Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 certainly) and yet they appear to contradict each other. Scripture is inerrant so they do not contradict each other. Consequently, either the contradiction is merely apparent or they do not in fact refer to the same incident. A further mystery is John 4:54 “This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.” It is widely held (with a good deal of plausibility) that there are seven ‘signs’ (σημεῖα) in the Gospel of John which are miracles of a particular allegorical significance illuminating the true identity of Jesus and the nature of His mission. There are also seven ‘I am’ (Ἐγώ εἰμι) sayings which perform a similar function and seem to correspond with the seven miraculous signs. The miracle recounted in John 4:46-54 is expressly refered to not only as a ‘sign’ but as the ‘second sign’ (δεύτερον σημεῖον). The only other sign to be numbered in this way is the transformation of the water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana (Jn 2:11).

The odd thing is that the miracle in John 4:46-54 is rather humdrum. The other six signs in John’s Gospel are rich in symbolic elements which reinforce the impression that the ‘signs’ are intended to constitute a special form of revelation central to the understanding of the Gospel. The straightforwardness of the miracle in John 4:46-54 rather shakes this impression at the same time as the enumeration in verse 54 seems to strengthen it.

As we shall see there are significant apparent differences between the episode as recounted in Matthew and Luke. We might suppose that it would simplify matters if we set the account in John 4 aside as referring to another incident altogether. However, I suspect that only by resolving the seeming disparities between Matthew, Luke and John shall we discover the true significance and symbolic meaning of the ‘second sign’. Besides, St Irenaeus of Lyons treats the Johannine and Synoptic accounts as referring to the same episode  (Adversus Haereses 2,22,3) and that is good enough for me.

The Apparent Conflicts

So, let us look first at the differences between the account in John and the Synoptic version. In the Synoptics the protagonist is a Centurion in John it is a royal official (βασιλικὸς). This is not a serious problem. Galilee was not under direct imperial rule so the Synoptic centurion would have been functioning under the auspices of the tetrarch anyway (who no doubt wanted to be thought of as a king and is referred to as such in Mark 6:1).

In John’s account Jesus’s help is requested in Cana whereas in the Synoptics the request is made in Capharnaum (Luke 7:1, Matthew 8:5). The only solution to this would have to be that Jesus’s help is requested in Cana and then when he reaches Capharnaum the centurion asks him to perform the miracle at a distance and Jesus agrees. This actually fits well with Luke 7:3 & 7:6 which describe two different requests one made further away (so, one assumes, in Cana) by the Jewish Elders (on account of the centurion’s goodness to them) and one made nearer (in Capharnaum itself) by friends of the centurion. This would also explain the difference in the condition of the object of the miracle. When Jesus is in Cana the sick man is mortally (Luke 7:2, John 4:47) ‘ill’ (κακῶς or ἠσθένει) whereas in Matthew (by the time Jesus reaches Capharnaum) he is paralysed.

This brings us to the really knotty problem. In John it is clear that the βασιλικὸς is personally present at the interview in Cana. In Matthew the centurion likewise makes his request in person in Capharnaum. In Luke, in contrast, the implication is that on both occasions the centurion is represented by proxies (the Jewish Elders and then his friends).

The reaction of Jesus to the Cana request and the terms of the request are very different to the Lord’s reaction to and the terms of the Capharnaum request. In Cana (so John) Jesus responds to the request with a rebuke “Unless you [plural] see signs and wonders you [plural] will not believe” and the βασιλικὸς is insistent that Jesus come to Capharnaum “Sir, come down before my child dies.” In Capharnaum the centurion insists that Jesus should not come to his house “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed” and Jesus praises his faith “with no one in Israel have I found such faith”. The extremity of the contrast here is actually reassuring that we are talking about the same incident because it seems programmatic and symbolic.

Furthermore, who is the object of the miracle? Matthew uses a term (παῖς) that could mean either ‘servant’ or ‘boy’. Luke uses a term (δοῦλος) which can only mean ‘slave’. John, in contrast, is clear that it is the official’s son (υἱὸς).

So we have three mysteries:

  1. Is the sick man a slave or the son of the centurion?
  2. Does the centurion make the two requests in person?
  3. Why does the centurion change his mind about Jesus coming to the house?

The Resolution

  1. This is the key to the mystery and to the ‘sign’ value of the entire episode. The sick man is both the son of the centurion and a slave. The boy has been begotten (outside of Roman law approved wedlock) by the centurion upon a slave woman. Thus legally he is a slave and he is not the centurion’s son. The centurion’s grief and desperation is shameful and unseemly. This is why he sends the elders and then his friends to make the request.
  2. He does indeed make the requests in person. That is, he accompanies both the Jewish elders and his friends but he does so in disguise so that his unseemly desperation should not be made public. The rebuke is addressed not principally to the centurion but to the Jewish Elders who Jesus perceives (beatifically) to be inspired partly by curiosity rather than faith. However, it may also be that the centurion is trying anything in his desperation rather than truly believing at this stage.
  3. By the time Jesus reaches Capharnaum and the delegation of friends comes to meet Him the centurion believes (perhaps because Jesus saw through his disguise in Cana or just from the effect of meeting the Lord) and he is now concerned (as a gentile God-fearer) that he is asking Jesus to enter a ritually defiling gentile dwelling. Confident in his belief that Jesus has the power to save his son he therefore says “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

John has read the Synoptics. He knows what his readers already know about this episode. Like the Synoptics he wishes to spare the centurion’s blushes but he supplies the information missing from their accounts in order to supply the key to the mysterious riddle of the second sign.

The Sign

What then is the meaning of the sign? Jesus is the true son and heir of God but He has taken the form of a slave (John 8:35-6, Philippians 2) in order to to fulfil the command given to Him by His Father (John 10:18) to liberate the human race from slavery and death and make them adopted sons and co-heirs with Him. Not only is He the son and heir of God but He is Himself God. Furthermore, Jesus is, at this point in his ministry concealing these very truths from the Jews and the demons because the Jews are not ready to believe and if the demons understood the mystery of the Incarnation they would not walk into the trap Jesus has prepared for them (1 Corinthians 2:8).

It is thus a supreme irony that the centurion should go in disguise as his own messenger to solicit the salvation of his slave who is really his son. For it is the Son of God Who is True God from True God under the form of a slave from whom the centurion seeks salvation for his son. The first encounter parallels the Old Testament where mankind approaches the Saviour through the Jewish people, too addicted to signs and wonders and led on by temporal rewards and punishments.  The second encounter parallels the New Testament where mankind approaches the Saviour through His friends the Apostles (John 15:15) to hear whom is to hear the Saviour Himself (Luke 10:16, Matthew 10:6). When the law was given man was sick unto death. By the time the Saviour appears the knowledge of his own sin has reduced man to total moral paralysis (see: John 5). This mystery is what the centurion ultimately realises and why the marvel (Matthew 8:10, Luke 7:9) of his faith is the second of the great signs by which Jesus manifested the true nature of His identity and mission to His disciples.

charlemagneparis

The Ecumenical Councils of Trent and Vatican I and the Creed of Pius IV all require us to:

…accept the Holy Scripture according to that sense which holy mother the Church hath held, and doth hold, and to whom it belongeth to judge the true sense and interpretations of the Scriptures [and] never take and interpret them otherwise than according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.

If is often said that the Church has, in fact, only very rarely defined the precise meaning of a biblical passage. Whether or not that is true one clear instance of such a definition is the Bull Unam Sanctam which has very precise teaching concerning Luke 22:35-38 and John 18:11. In ordering the disciples to buy a sword if they had not one already, and in telling them that two swords are enough, and in ordering Peter to sheath his sword Our Lord laid out the precise nature of the jurisdiction of the sacramental hierarchy and  the Supreme Pontiff over the temporal power.

Both the temporal and the spiritual power are intrinsic to the Church. The spiritual sword is to be exercised for the specific ends for which the Church was instituted and by the members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. In contrast, the temporal sword must be exercised by members of the Church but cannot be wielded by the members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy (although they may confiscate it if it is misused and assign it to another) because it is not a means by which the specific ends of the Church may be advanced.

What rarely seems to attract much notice is the reason Our Lord gave for this arrangement:

And he said to them: When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, did you want anything? But they said: Nothing. Then said he unto them: But now he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise a scrip; and he that hath not, let him sell his coat, and buy a sword. For I say to you, that this that is written must yet be fulfilled in me: And with the wicked was he reckoned. For the things concerning me have an end. But they said: Lord, behold here are two swords. And he said to them, It is enough.

The apostles are told to obtain a sword because Christ will be treated as a criminal. As Our Lord also said at the Last Supper “the servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you: if they have kept my word, they will keep yours also.” The opposition between the Church and the world is such that the Apostles (and their successors) need to have the protection of force in order to function. Yet, a short time later when Peter uses his sword to try to defend the Lord he is rebuked. “Put up thy sword into thy scabbard”. The Apostles have two swords but they are permitted to wield only one. The word of God is in the power of the clergy the state is to be in the power of the laity.

How does this fit with the prohibition on coercive conversion? The temporal sword of Christendom is essentially defensive. It is not ‘for’ the Church as Boniface VIII insists, it is wielded ‘by’ the Church (the lay faithful). The essential purposes of the Church cannot be advanced by violence but the non-ordained members of the Church can use the temporal sword to defend the Church from external persecution. Once the state is no longer in the hands of the Church this is not possible. So long as the state is non-Christian the Church’s business lies in buying the sword (bringing the temporal order by consent into the possession of the Church). Once it is purchased the sword may be drawn – but only by the laity – to stave off temporal impediments to the operation of the spiritual sword. We do not live by the sword. The life of Christendom is established and maintained by the peaceful spreading of the Gospel. However, once that life has reached the highest temporal level of social organisation the temporal sword can and should be drawn in its defence.

As St Cyril of Alexandria teaches:

He says sell his cloak, and buy a sword: for henceforth the question with all those who continue in the land will not be whether they possess anything or not, but whether they can exist and preserve their lives. For war shall befall them with such unendurable impetuosity, that nothing shall be able to stand against it.

At the beginning of the Song of Roland Charlemagne (in deference to his council) seeks to negotiate a temporal peace with Islam. He seeks to keep his cloak instead of buying a sword. He forgets the truth that he remembers later in the midst of battle with the Emir of Babylon: “Never to Paynims may I show love or peace.” The Lord tells us “the things concerning me have an end” there is no new revelation to dispense us from the unremitting opposition of the world. As Leo XIII teaches “Christians are born for combat”. The faithful must sell their cloaks and buy a sword because the state cannot simply be left in the hands of the pagans if the Church is to survive. This is why the Song ends with a weary Emperor roused from his bed by St Gabriel to carry on the war. He sought not first the Kingdom of God and His justice and so earthly peace is taken from him until he learns his lesson.

immaculate-heart-of-mary

Could the great sign in the heavens of Revelation 12 be imminent? Certainly, the mood in the air seems to speak of great things (for good and ill) hitherto unknown to history. The centenary of the Miracle of the Sun approaches.

stcatherine

“Among those who blamed the extraordinary life of Catharine, the most remarkable was Father Lazarini, of the Order of Friar Minors, who was then professing Philosophy with eclat, in his convent of Sienna. Not content with openly attacking the reputation of the Blessed, he resolved to come and see her, so as to find in her words and actions, materials for condemning her further: on the eve of [the Feast of] St, Catharine [of Alexandria] Virgin and Martyr he repaired to her house at the hour of Vespers. He had requested me to accompany him and I [Friar Bartholomew of Sienna] had consented to it, because I believed that he would repent of his conduct towards her. We entered her pious cell; Lazarini seated himself on a chest, and Catharine on the floor at his feet; I remained standing. After a few moments of silence, Friar Lazarini began to speak : ‘I have heard’ said he ‘many speaking of your sanctity, and of the understanding God has given you of the Holy Scriptures, and I have been eager to visit you hoping to hear something edifying and consoling to my soul.’ — Catharine replied: ‘And I, rejoice at your arrival, because I think that the Lord sent you to allow me an opportunity of profiting by that learning, with which you daily instruct your numerous disciples. I hoped that charity would induce you to comfort my poor soul, and I entreat you to do so through love of Our Lord.’ The conversation continued some time in this tone, and as the night was approaching Friar Lazarini finished by saying: ‘I see that it is late, and that I must retire, but I will return at a more suitable hour’. He arose to depart; Catharine knelt, crossed her arms, and asked his blessing When she had received it, she commended herself to his prayers, and Friar Lazarini, more through politeness than from devotion, asked her also to pray for him which she cheerfully promised to do. He went away, thinking that Catharine might be a good person, but that she was far from meriting her great reputation.

The night following, on rising to study the lesson that he was to explain to his pupils the next day, Friar Lazarini began to shed tears involuntarily. The more he wiped them, the more copiously they flowed, and he could not discover the cause In the morning, they came to call him at the hour of Class; but it was impossible for him to speak to his pupils: he wept without intermission. Returning to his cell, he continued weeping, and was indignant towards himself. ‘What ails me,’ said he; ‘what do I want: is my mother dead suddenly, or has my brother fallen on the battle-field; what can this mean?’ The entire day passed in this state, and when evening came on, he slept a few moments, being overcome with fatigue and wearisomeness; but he soon awoke, and his tears began to flow afresh, without his being able to restrain them. He therefore reflected whether he might not have committed some grave fault, and invoked the divine Mercy to recall it to him: whilst he was examining his conscience, he heard an interior voice that exclaimed to him: ‘Do you forget so quickly that yesterday, you judged my faithful servant Catharine in a spirit of pride, and requested her to pray for you through politeness?’

As soon as Friar Lazarini had received this advertisement and discerned his fault, his tears subsided and his heart became inflamed with a desire of again conversing with Catharine. At the first glimmering of day, he hastened to knock at the door of her cell. The Blessed, who was aware of what her Spouse had done, opened the door to Friar Lazarini, who prostrated himself at her feet, Catharine also prostrated, and implored him to rise, after which they had a lengthy interview, and the Religious conjured her to condescend to direct him in the way of salvation. Catharine, overcome by his instances answered him: ‘The way of salvation for you is, to despise the vanities of the world and its smiles, to become humble, poor, and destitute in imitation of Jesus Christ and your holy Father, Saint Francis.’ At these words the Religious saw that Catharine read his soul; he shed tears profusely and promised to do whatever she might command him. He accomplished his promise, distributed his money, and useless furniture, and even his books. He merely reserved a few notes, which were necessary aids to him when preaching, and became truly poor, and a veritable follower of our Blessed Redeemer.”

– ‘Deposition of Friar Bartholomew of Sienna’ in Bl. Raymond of Capua, Life of Saint Catharine of Sienna (Philadelphia, 1860), 354-356.

CLEMENT XI 1700-1721

Concerning Truths which Necessarily Must be Explicitly Believed

[Response of the Sacred Office to the Bishop of Quebec, Jan. 25, 1703]

1349a Whether a minister is bound, before baptism is conferred on an adult, to explain to him all the mysteries of our faith, especially if he is at the point of death, because this might disturb his mind. Or, whether it is sufficient, if the one at the point of death will promise that when he recovers from the illness, he will take care to be instructed, so that he may put into practice what has been commanded him.

Resp. A promise is not sufficient, but a missionary is bound to explain to an adult, even a dying one who is not entirely incapacitated, the mysteries of faith which are necessary by a necessity of means, as are especially the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation.

[Response of the Sacred Office, May 10, 1703]

1349b Whether it is possible for a crude and uneducated adult, as it might be with a barbarian, to be baptized, if there were given to him only an understanding of God and some of His attributes, especially His justice in rewarding and in punishing, according to this remark of the Apostle “He that cometh to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder’; [Heb . 11:23], from which it is inferred that a barbarian adult, in a certain case of urgent necessity, can be baptized although he does not believe explicitly in Jesus Christ.

Resp. A missionary should not baptize one who does not believe explicitly in the Lord Jesus Christ, but is bound to instruct him about all those matters which are necessary, by a necessity of means, in accordance with the capacity of the one to be baptized.

Next Page »