Jesus


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.

Yesterday I re-read Bl. John Henry Newman’s brutal analysis of Protestants as non-believers. Today it was rather startling to be reminded that so many of them do not even believe in God. I remember once reading a Protestant writer’s analysis of whether Mormons are Christian. I was stunned to read him approach the question through the doctrine of justification. “Do Mormons truly trust in Jesus for their salvation?”. He never even raised the fact that they do not even believe in God! He never considered that, as atheists, Mormons cannot possibly believe in God Incarnate and thus whatever it is to which they attach the name ‘Jesus’ it will not save them from their sins. Listening to Craig’s words above I cannot help but wonder how common this kind of paganism is among the children of the Reformation. See: Feser’s (extremely courteous) response and Hart’s slightly more aggressive (he calls Craig a ‘mono-polytheist’) Greek Orthodox analysis of Craig’s position.

May the most holy, most sacred, most adorable,
most incomprehensible and ineffable Name of God
be forever praised, blessed, loved, adored
and glorified in Heaven, on earth,
and under the earth,
by all the creatures of God,
and by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
Amen.

good-shepherd

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep. But the hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and flieth: and the wolf catcheth, and scattereth the sheep: And the hireling flieth, because he is a hireling: and he hath no care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know mine, and mine know me. As the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father: and I lay down my life for my sheep. And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.

I realised this Sunday that the Good Shepherd discourse of John 10 is addressed to the Pharisees. One does not, I suppose, generally notice this because of the chapter division. The context is provided in 9:39-41 “And Jesus said: For judgment I am come into this world; that they who see not, may see; and they who see, may become blind. And some of the Pharisees, who were with him, heard: and they said unto him: Are we also blind? Jesus said to them: If you were blind, you should not have sin: but now you say: We see. Your sin remaineth.” The text then moves straight into the Good Shepherd discourse. One imagines this is a new incident but in fact there is no reason for this other than the chapter division which is not original. This vital context is obscured by the Novus Ordo lectionary which prefaces the reading beginning at 10:11 with “Jesus said…”. In the traditional Roman Rite however, the reading is introduced with the words “At that time Jesus said to the Pharisees…”. On 24th April 2005, at the Mass of his inauguration as Pope, Pope Benedict said:

One of the basic characteristics of a shepherd must be to love the people entrusted to him, even as he loves Christ whom he serves. “Feed my sheep”, says Christ to Peter, and now, at this moment, he says it to me as well. Feeding means loving, and loving also means being ready to suffer. Loving means giving the sheep what is truly good, the nourishment of God’s truth, of God’s word, the nourishment of his presence, which he gives us in the Blessed Sacrament. My dear friends – at this moment I can only say: pray for me, that I may learn to love the Lord more and more. Pray for me, that I may learn to love his flock more and more – in other words, you, the holy Church, each one of you and all of you together. Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves. Let us pray for one another, that the Lord will carry us and that we will learn to carry one another.

Of course the great mystery of our time is why Pope Benedict did in the end (as it seems and most certainly feels) abandon us. I fear that, on the most fundamental level, his recent interview on the (non)necessity of faith tells us why. In Matthew 23:15 Our Lord says “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you go round about the sea and the land to make one proselyte; and when he is made, you make him the child of hell twofold more than yourselves.” At first glance this seems rather in contrast to the Pharisee of John 10 who is a hireling who “seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and flieth”. Can we really imagine such a one going “round about the sea and the land to make one proselyte”? We all know that Pope Francis holds that “proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense.” But then Pope Francis has also taught (in his last non-magisterial exhortation) that “Non-Christians, by God’s gracious initiative, when they are faithful to their own consciences, can live justified by the grace of God, and thus be associated to the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ”. So it makes sense that he would think the preaching of the Gospel to be solemn nonsense.

In his recent interview Benedict XVI declared with refreshing honesty,

[T]he great missionaries of the 16th century were still convinced that those who are not baptized are forever lost — and this explains their missionary commitment — in the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council that conviction was finally abandoned. From this came a deep double crisis. On the one hand this seems to remove any motivation for a future missionary commitment. Why should one try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can be saved even without it? But also for Christians an issue emerged: the obligatory nature of the faith and its way of life began to seem uncertain and problematic. If there are those who can save themselves in other ways, it is not clear, in the final analysis, why the Christian himself is bound by the requirements of the Christian faith and its morals. If faith and salvation are no longer interdependent, faith itself become unmotivated. Lately several attempts have been formulated in order to reconcile the universal necessity of the Christian faith with the opportunity to save oneself without it.

Benedict XVI seems to favour De Lubac’s explanation of how one might “save oneself” without the Christian faith but he does not seem to doubt that God simply cannot “let go to perdition all the unbaptized”. No matter, it seems, that the vast multitude of the damned in comparison with the elect is a truth taught in scripture and taken for granted by St Augustine, St Thomas, St Francis Xavier, Bl. John Henry Newman and the Fatima visionaries. The discovery of the Americas, so often cited by Implicitists, seemed to have no impact on these ‘Infernalists’ (as Balthasar called Augustine, Thomas and Newman). Before and after 1492 Catholic thinkers took it as a simple truth that “wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat” while “narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it”.

For most of Christian history the idea that one might “save oneself” apart from the Gospel has been taken as the very antithesis of the Catholic faith. In fact it is the credo of Christ’s enemies the Pharisees – justification by works. But why would someone who believed in justification by works traverse land and sea to make a single proselyte and yet flee for fear of the wolves, and why would he make his converts twice as much a child of hell as himself? For the Implicitist divine revelation is not an absolutely necessary means of salvation. What saves us is moral effort (for the willingness to believe whatever God might reveal is not itself faith but a work). Consequently, what evangelisation proclaims is not grace but law. The Implicitist proselytiser reveals a law to the pagan that he did not need to be saved and which he finds unsupportable “they bind heavy and insupportable burdens, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but with a finger of their own they will not move them.” Of course these burdens are insupportable because in the real world there is no hope for those who trust in their own works “they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they, not knowing the justice of God, and seeking to establish their own, have not submitted themselves to the justice of God.”

For such Pharisees ‘evangelisation’ profits not the convert but themselves. They accumulate works and impose burdens upon their victims. The Gospel is replaced with a pyramid scam. I think they call it the ‘new evangelisation’. No wonder such hired men flee when the wolf appears. Such Pelagianism by devastating the Lord’s vineyard invites the wolf. As Benedict XVI admits,

…this seems to remove any motivation for a future missionary commitment. Why should one try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can be saved even without it? But also for Christians an issue emerged: the obligatory nature of the faith and its way of life began to seem uncertain and problematic. If there are those who can save themselves in other ways, it is not clear, in the final analysis, why the Christian himself is bound by the requirements of the Christian faith and its morals.

It is not uncommon to hear the victims of modernist catechesis wistfully lament that they were not left invincibly ignorant of the Gospel and free to work out their own salvation with the glorious liberty of a pagan. God have mercy upon them and upon their afflicters. To be fair, Pope Benedict feels there must be some explanation for why we should preach the Gospel he just can’t think what it could be (but he has top theologians working on it). Pope Francis just thinks the whole thing is solemn nonsense. I fear Pope Francis has logic on his side.

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