|This is not a shot from the Barcelona Olympics. It's from the final Mass at WYD in Madrid.|
I more or less decided to take a break from posting during this week and focused instead on some other things happening in life. And no, that did not involve traveling to Aberdeen, Scotland for those of you who got an email to that effect. The irony of having my email hacked is I had just upgraded to a supposedly more secure Yahoo edition. So much for that notion. In any event, this morning I decided to catch up on what happened at World Youth Day and have spent the last couple hours reviewing many of Pope Benedict's speeches. I came away from this exercise utterly convinced Jesus suffered and died, and that was it. After further scrutiny I found that Benedict mentions the Resurrection hardly at all. He did mention it once as a sort of standard add on in a sermon to seminarians.
"Fix your eyes upon him who through his incarnation is the supreme revelation of God to the world and who through his resurrection faithfully fulfills his promise. Give thanks to him for this sign of favour in which he holds each one of you."
Virtually every address Benedict gave was fulsome it's praise for the pain, suffering, and death endured by Jesus. The paragraphs directly following the above in his address to seminarians is a perfect example:
"The first reading which we heard shows us Christ as the new and eternal priest who made of himself a perfect offering. The response to the psalm may be aptly applied to him since, at his coming into the world, he said to the Father, “Here I am to do your will” (cf. Ps 39:8). He tried to please him in all things: in his words and actions, along the way or welcoming sinners. His life was one of service and his longing was a constant prayer, placing himself in the name of all before the Father as the first-born son of many brothers and sisters. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews states that, by a single offering, he brought to perfection for all time those of us who are called to share his sonship (cf. Heb 10:14).
The Eucharist, whose institution is mentioned in the Gospel just proclaimed (cf. Lk 22:14-20), is the real expression of that unconditional offering of Jesus for all, even for those who betrayed him. It was the offering of his body and blood for the life of mankind and for the forgiveness of sins. His blood, a sign of life, was given to us by God as a covenant, so that we might apply the force of his life wherever death reigns due to our sins, and thus destroy it.
Christ’s body broken and his blood outpoured – the surrender of his freedom – became through these Eucharistic signs the new source of mankind’s redeemed freedom. In Christ, we have the promise of definitive redemption and the certain hope of future blessings...."
I've never understood this lack of enthusiasm for the Resurrection. For me personally, it's been the biggest reason I have remained connected to the Church. I sometimes wonder if this lack of enthusiasm is rooted in disbelief. It's much easier to believe in the crucified Christ than it is the resurrected Christ. We all die, only one has risen from death and lived to tell about it.
I can't for the life of me imagine how Christianity would have gotten off the ground unless it's original believers actually experienced the resurrected Christ. Other wise Jesus was just another dead prophet, of which the Hebrews had a plethora at that particular time. I am really at a loss as to the reason for this lack of enthusiasm for the Resurrection. Is it because no other human, much less Christian believer, has managed to accomplish it?
Pope Benedict did give a number of other homilies stressing the need for love and compassion as the markers of the true Christian Way. His address to young educators was especially well done. And yet, he also had a consistent need to link love and compassion with pain and suffering-- as a healing antidote which redeemed our common experience of pain and suffering. Love and compassion are much more than that however, they are the bedrock of creation. They are what marks us as truly created in the image and likeness of God.
I'm not unaware of why Benedict might continually link love and compassion with pain and suffering. It's part of a traditional Christology which views the Eucharistic celebration as a re enactment of Jesus's suffering and death on the cross. It is about sacrifice and the need for priests to stand 'in persona christi' as they offer this sacrifice on our behalf. Priests such as himself. It's not surprising then that Benedict would continuously remind Catholics that they must affirm the idea of Jesus as both redemptive suffering sacrifice and God's High Priest. That notion asks the People of God to continue to affirm our need for the clerical priesthood to offer such sacrifice on our behalf. The idea of resurrection does not particularly fit well in this Christology. Maybe that's because the idea of resurrection transcends all the notions about sacrificial misery and suffering. The crucifixion was the last stop on the road to resurrection, the last big test before the real never ending end of the full story.
Catholics will continue to get homily after homily from this Pope about the redemptive quality of suffering and paid and how love and compassion ennoble them. We will continue to hear a lot about Jesus's passion and death and very little about His resurrection. It's my belief the resurrection was the whole point of the story. It was that act that empowered Christian spirituality, that got people's early attention, that fueled what the first Apostles were able to do both as individuals and as authors of the Christian spiritual tradition. They believed in the divinity of Jesus precisely because they experienced the reality of Jesus's resurrection. Those experiences probably had a great deal to do with the fact the first Apostles were sure Jesus was literally coming back in their lifetime. It's an easy to understand reaction, but it was flat wrong. So much for the infallibility of Peter.
All in all World Youth Day was about what I've come to expect. It's a great ecclesiastical show pretty much in the same way the Olympics are a great secular show. It's fun if you get to be there, but not so riveting if you can't get there. Two weeks from now pretty much everyone will have forgotten all about it, but twenty years from now, like Woodstock, one hundred million or so people will claim to have been there. In the meantime very few people will have been truly converted and the vast majority will be trying to survive in cultures where just getting one's daily bread will get to be a harder and harder task to accomplish.
The real question might be if in twenty years there will be much of a Roman Catholic Church left in the West. It may be that it is this question which is fueling all the babble about pain and suffering and the need for the younger generation of Catholics to affirm their need for the clerical priesthood. I would much prefer it if those same younger Catholics would wrestle with what Jesus did and how He did it and why He said we too could do it and why His Way, His understanding of love, is crucial to doing what He did.
Try this link for a rousing opening address on, well, a lot of things. It's the homily of Madrid's Cardinal Antonio Maria Ruoco Varela from the Opening Mass of WYD. It's quite a pep talk. And he mentions the Risen Christ twice. Imagine that.