Sunday, August 21, 2011

Why Was There Very Little Mentioned About The Resurrection At WYD.

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 freedombecame 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 ChristologyMaybe 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.


  1. I think there's a tendency to want to believe that love and compassion are painful sacrifices. Maybe it's a way to avoid thinking that your good works of love and charity are rooted in a selfish desire for gratification. Whatever it is, I think it makes people afraid to be loving and compassionate, because it's perceived as something painful.

  2. Macha, I think you are on to something here. Love is all too often presented in terms of sacrifice and pain. Sort of a net loss scenario.

    The truth is exactly the opposite. Love creates abundance, if not necessarily in the material wealth sense, it certainly does in the joyful hopeful healthy emotional/spiritual sense. I guess the trick is convincing your ego it's worth the risk. It's that pesky ego that fears the potential loss and pain, and the ego is a master at making it's illusive fears our actual experience of lived reality.

    By this I mean that one of the tools of the brain's left hemisphere is it's ability to generate worse case scenarios in it's fantasy ruminations. The problem with this skill is that the rest of the brain doesn't know the left hemisphere's mind game isn't real and other systems will react as if all this worse case scenario is real.

    So it's not just that this kind of love/pain association the Church like to teach is unhealthy, it's that it really is unhealthy.

  3. Why so much stress on pain & suffering & linking this to love & compassion? Maybe it's a control issue: a way to manipulate thinking. In a dysfunctional relationship the abuser spends time & energy convincing the victim that abuse is normal. The pattern is estAblished of abuse, forgiveness, receiving gifts. Then it stArts all over.
    The victim sees this pattern as normal & associates unconsciously abuse with love.

    Jesus is the victim & rescuer. He breaks this pAttern. He never abuses. All his gifts are free; his resurrection is his most free & loving gift to us. We do nothing but accept his love.

    Just some thoughts:)

  4. I was just going to read...then I was just going to comment. Blah. This is your fault. :)

  5. Good thoughts Searcher. I'm hoping rdp will comment on your observations about the abuse cycle. He's really wise with the ins and outs of that particular cycle.

    You are right about this abuse dynamic and I found myself reflecting on the same thing the more of Benedict's addresses I read. What sort of God does this whole notion of sacrifice and the redemptive notion of pain and suffering actually describe?

  6. But love does require sacrifice, after a fashion. To have compassion, one must abandon the safe haven of self-absorption and come down from the mountain fortress of privilege to meet those who may not be 'worthy'. You must recognize that others have lives and value which are independent of your own and even accept the possibility that you have erred and harmed others.

    Pain and sacrifice indeed for a people who base their own self-worth on inerrancy and moral superiority.

  7. Tim, I have a teacher who says what you're describing is not really sacrifice it's growing wise to the silly notions of what our egos have been taught to value. That's why death is the best teacher--at least in the sense of fully getting you can't take your ipod collection with you. Or however that goes.

  8. Perhaps you're not drawing on a wide enough range of his work.
    'God is Near Us' is affordable and worthwhile and refers very much to the resurrection and its significance. It's by Pope Benedict XVI when he was just Cardinal Ratzinger, and it's very good.

  9. Searcher,

    When I read your presentation, I thought a lot about painful perversions. How they may or not seem to feel good but the end result is supposed to be the exhilaration of pleasurable orgasm. This is of course is sadism and is ever present in our world. Then to have pain would be normal and it causes a pleasant exhilaration to know that the celebrant of the mass is indeed representing the torture of Jesus. We then come out of the celebration after all the "Latin hymns of Alleluia., and we feel good and exhilarated that we are somehow good people. Yet what have we done that is good. This is simply an unconscious representation of sadism. It hurts so good! Do it to me again make it rougher hurt me and I will be exhilarated. I will feel the pleasure of what must be "love."

    Of course sadism has nothing to do with love. At best it causes the exhilaration that we get from ridding a roller coaster. We might say that the sexual act between lovers causes this same exhilaration but my answer to that is sometimes! Sadism wants exhilaration of the orgasm "all the time," and a sadistic person does not care who or how much he or she hurts others to achieve this phenomena of pleasure.
    This is the unconscious root that Church leaders are taking when they do not freely and often recognize the new beginnings we get by the experience of resurrection. The ability for personal growth and development comes from the actions of new beginnings -- taking another approach. An infallible mindset has very little use for new understandings because they destroy the powerful delusions that mistakes in understanding are not made in every generation. When one paints oneself in the corner of infallibility, it is very hard to understand that the Spirit approaches man with new understandings each and every day.

    Clerics may unconsciously have some understanding that sadism causes harm, so they may falsely attribute it to most new ideas because there is a misguided belief that we all are as constantly under the influence of sadism as they are. So the new thoughts of Astronomers, or embryologists, particularly those that are in disagreement from past “infallible” belief become evil and sadistic. This displacement may well be a psychological projection of a clerical mindset that forgets about the hopefulness of the Resurrection. There can be no new understanding, the Holy Spirit is only here to explain any problem understanding the old infallible thoughts to the Episcopacy. dennis


  11. Tim,

    As some one suffering from Chronic disease, pain and sacrifice does happen to all of us, but this experience may well allow growth and personal resurrection depending on how we use these very real hurts and feelings to help others so that they may go on either with or without you. I remember being very ill and my wife complained that I had become grouchy. It was true and sometimes unavoidable, but she was giving me a clue that I could do better and show more liveliness in my body that was close to dying. Her comments gave me hope that generated more energy to try harder not to burden others.

    Yes, Colleen, in death we can not take any of our acquired toys with us. When we are near death, we wonder why we spent so much time acquiring so many things. Experience, however, has always been my best teacher. How to move on and make the best of a situation. This is living Resurrection. My wife now tells me that I have the lives of a cat. I hope that I can only have the liveliness that I need to love my family and friends and attempt to help them understand more about themselves and life so that indeed, I can continue to learn and understand more of what makes liveliness tick!

  12. Invictus,

    I mostly remember a very fearful Cardinal Ratzinger that wanted to censor so much new thought and new beginnings of theologians and scientists. Indeed, to so many of us the ideas of Benedict seem deadened and narrow minded.

    That brings to mind “Star Wars “ when Yoda did not want to train the young Anican as a jet eye knight because he was too fearful. Fearfulness- the dark side it leads!

  13. Invictus, I was limiting my observation to Benedict's addresses for this year's World Youth Day. In his distant past, before his conversion to channelized traditionalism, he wrote some truly thought provoking stuff. Of his latest efforts, Caritas Inveritate has been by far his most thought provoking encyclical.

    Dennis, the sado/masochistic dynamic is very traditional in Catholicism as we both know. Mel Gibson certainly got that tradition in spades. Passion of the Christ bordered on sado porn as did the Mayan flick he did later==whose title escapes me at the moment.

  14. @invictus

    Retract your last comment to rpd46 and apologize.

    Dennis is right. The RC church has long promoted mortification of the flesh. In recent times the practice is most associated with Opus Dei. It has been widely reported that JP2 was a flagellant and would often sleep on the floor. ( ) It cannot be denied that whipping, beating, and cutting are RC practices. Denial of the body includes more mainstream ascetic practices such as fasting, denying sexual pleasure, and other forms of sacrifice and/or penance.

    I once entered a "Catholic" church in Florida and was surprised to see there were no kneelers. (Perhaps because of the age of the parishioners, all retired people, there was no kneeling.) More than that I was surprised by the protestant practice of providing cushions on seats. We pre-Vatican 2 children were trained to kneel for extended periods of time on hard floors and admonished to "offer up" the "discomfort" or pain.

    A few years ago Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" provoked some considerable discussion about this very issue. Here's a link to several articles about the movie relevant to today's discussion here:

    (Note the prominence of the Opus Dei and Legionaries of Christ.)

    I am no expert on the psycho-social aspects of BDSM (Defined variously as Bondage & Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism) Many of their practices are related to the RC practices of the mortification of the flesh. (Here's a link to a Canadian supplier of whips to both the BDSM and religious communities: ) You can read what they say about the two. (Incidentally I wonder what that Venn diagram looks like.)

    Searcher's remarks and rpd46's reply ring true to me.


  15. I think that ignoring the resurrection is ignoring hope. And hope is all about the good that is not yet present but is longed for. So the Pope seems to be in darkness, lost in his pain, mistaking it for some universal manifestation of the truth of Christ---

  16. Dear rdp & all,

    I just think it is hard for folks to accept God's free gift bec in
    some way & to varying degrees we are each
    trapped in the abuse cycle.

    I have thought for a long time that the good news of the
    gospel is that we can choose to move along the way of not being part of the abuse cycle. That Jesus took this
    cycle & broke it once & for all. It is just that we r not there yet, that is free from this evil cycle.

  17. Searcher, Jesus pointed The Way, but we as humanity can only attempt to approach it. It is a standard that is very difficult. One only lies to him or herself when we do not understand that no one is good enough to not need more daily understanding from the Spirit.

  18. Rdp,

    Yes, we are all on The Way; that is why we are a pilgrim people.



  19. Colkoch,
    Well, so long as it's very clear that you're taking a narrow reading, rather than claiming to represent Pope Benedict's overall view on things.

  20. Perhaps its the Pope's Augustinian theological heritage.

    Eastern Orthodoxy has never quite understood why Western Christianity has had so much emphasis on the "sacrifice on the cross" and so little on the Resurrection.

  21. I'd have to refer you, Anon, to:

  22. "Colkoch,
    Well, so long as it's very clear that you're taking a narrow reading, rather than claiming to represent Pope Benedict's overall view on things."

    It seems that as Pope Benedict and Cardinal Ratzinger, this man like the Egyptian God, Seth, went through a very narrowing metamorphosis to a more deadened idea of humanity and The God spirit.

    I would love to hear more of the ideas of the young Father Ratzinger, but it seems the fear in his heart as deadened them. dennis

  23. rdp,

    A dead heart is a cynical one. Be careful, rdp, that in criticising the Holy Father in those terms you're not - in fact - murmuring into a mirror.

    Read his work, it's neither dead nor fearful.

  24. Dear Invictus,

    Even Ratzinger’s own brother was quoted as believing him too fearful to be pope. All of the sanctioned theologians and his own inability to converse with those that practice embryology point to fear. If not why all the sanctions? Why not sit and discuss theology with the major theologians of day and discuss with scientists what the embryologists are finding. All he can do is condemn others ideas. Seems very fearful to me. I think those that defend this man are also enablers of his inability to get a handle on his own sense of tyrannical action as manifested by the many church scandals. He says he listens to the opinions of others yet he seems way too fearful to engage them. And this comment is from a man that has had to be on life saving drugs and pain medications for a few years.

    So yes we also should look in the mirror and not be to frightened to engage in what we see. That includes Benedict, me and you, Invictus. It seems easier to some to make simple accusations rather than to engage. Is that true of you Invictus? Sometimes on this board you have engaged other times you come up with simple accusations.

    There are many who see Benedict as a very frail tyrant who believes in his sense of deluded grandiosity makes him powerful or infallible. It is not just me that see him that way. It is many in the secular and Catholic academic communities. This sense of grandiosity it is also manifested by the his poor Episcopal appointments. It is he more than any other person alive today that is causing the implosion in the leadership in the Roman Catholic Church. You might try asking the Irish about it!!

  25. I think Benedict is content being a sort of fatherly figurehead pope. I think someone or someone elses are actually running the show. I am still trying to figure out why no one in the Vatican curia ever gets fired and no one is allowed to criticize the curia.

    Something is just down right rotten about the whole thing, and it has been for a very very long time.

  26. Certainly Ratzinger ran the show during the last ten years of JP II. I am sure there are other powerful and fearful figures in the curia. John XXIII tried hard to run his own show but have seen that there were too many fearful curial figures to control.

  27. I was not intending to write more but I see that the verifacation word is seeth!! It is interesting how we get some very interesting words here.