Lectio

Hell

If there were such a thing as a loneliness that could no longer be penetrated and transformed by the word of another…

[This excerpt should be read after this one.]

If there were such a thing as a loneliness that could no longer be penetrated and transformed by the word of another; if a state of abandonment were to arise that was so deep that no “You” could reach into it anymore, then we should have real, total loneliness and dreadfulness, what theology calls “hell”. It denotes a loneliness that the word love can no longer penetrate and that therefore indicates the exposed nature of existence in itself.

In truth—one thing is certain: there exists a night into whose solitude no voice reaches; there is a door into which we can only walk alone—the door of death. In the last analysis all the fear in the world is fear of this loneliness. From this point of view, it is possible to understand why the Old Testament has only one word for hell and death, the word sheol; it regards them as ultimately identical. Death is absolute loneliness. But the loneliness into which love can no longer advance is—hell.

Christ strode through the gate of our final loneliness; in his passion he went down into the abyss of our abandonment. Where no voice can reach us any longer, there is he. Hell is thereby overcome or, to be more accurate, death, which was previously hell, is hell no longer. Neither is the same any longer because there is life in the midst of death, because love dwells in it. Now only deliberate self-enclosure is hell or, as the Bible calls it, the second death.

The door of death stands open since life—love—has dwelt in death.

— Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, II.II.3

The fear peculiar to man

It cannot be overcome by reason, but only by the presence of someone who loves him.

Loneliness is the region of fear, which is rooted in the exposure of a being that must exist but is pushed out into a situation with which it is impossible for him to deal.

A concrete example may help to make this clearer. When a child has to walk through the woods in the dark, he feels frightened, however convincingly he has been shown that there is no reason at all to be frightened. As soon as he is alone in the darkness, and thus has the experience of utter loneliness, fear arises, the fear peculiar to man, which is not fear of anything in particular but fear in itself.

Fear of a particular thing is basically harmless; it can be removed by taking away the thing concerned. For example, Continue reading “The fear peculiar to man”

Fear no one

Not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.

Occasion: Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time

You can find the full readings here. This Lectio is based on the Gospel reading, Matthew 10:26–33.

Reading

Jesus said to the Twelve:
“Fear no one.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
But whoever denies me before others,
I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

Stand-out words

fear no one, revealed, proclaim on the housetops, acknowledge, deny

Reflection

Jesus reminds us that nothing is hidden from God. He knows what good we do for each other, and the harm we may cause. The Twelve are being told that as they proclaim the Kingdom of God, there will be those who ignore and even attack them for this. Jesus reminded them to be strong and to continue to spread the Good News. They may be hurt or killed, but their souls will live on with him.

This message is for us as well. It can be difficult to do what we know is right, especially if we are ridiculed for it. This can be as simple as friends chiding us for getting up in the morning for church instead of sleeping in. It can be as vital as speaking up for someone at work who may be falsely accused of wrongdoing. It might be easier to hold our breath and wait for the situation to blow over, but God sees everything. He sees us when we share His Kingdom; He sees others when others ridicule us for it; and He sees us if we hide it under a bushel.

It is easy to think how we might acknowledge Jesus; through acts of love and charity, through prayer and receiving the sacraments. How might we deny Jesus? Of course, it could be through acts of hate and spite. Also, by not doing what we should. If we ignore those less fortunate than us, or show no concern for the needs of others, might we then be denying Jesus?

The living bread from heaven

Just as a vine uses its own sap to nourish and grow its branches, even those branches grafted onto it, so does the vine of Christ use the sap of his own flesh and blood to nourish the branches that constitute his visible body.

Occasion: Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

You can find the full readings here. This Lectio is based on the Gospel reading, John 6:51-58.

Reading

Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.”

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Standout Words and Phrases

living bread, true food, true drink, the living Father, life

Reflection

Do you want to live? Then you must eat. This law applies to every living being, from the humblest bacterium to the grandest whale.

All your creatures look to you
to give them food in due season.
You give it, they gather it up;
you open your hand, they have their fill.
— Psalm 104

For human beings things are a little different. Not only do our bodies need material food, our souls also need spiritual food, lest they wither and die. For this, our Lord has provided a most unusual food: himself. There are many ways to receive this food; one of them is through faith. But our Lord also provides a more direct way. Continue reading “The living bread from heaven”

The cosmic Nothing is the true “All”

A man whose life had been a failure…

First there is the Earth, a mere nothing in the cosmos, which was to be the point of the divine activity in the cosmos. Then comes Israel, a cipher among the powers, which was to be the point of his appearance in the world. Then comes Nazareth, again a cipher within Israel, which was to be the point of his definitive arrival. Then again there is the Cross, on which a man was to hang, a man whose life had been a failure; yet this was to be the point at which one can actually touch God. …Thus what is small by a cosmic or even worldly scale represents the real sign of God….

— Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, II.Excursus.3

St. Bonaventure on the intellectual life

It is not enough to read without reflection…

Or, with a slightly different translation,

It is not enough 
to read without reflection, 
to speculate without devotion, 
to research without wonder. 

Industry needs piety; 
skepticism needs joy; 
knowledge needs charity. 

Couple insight with humility, 
study with grace, 
reflection with wisdom. 

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“Jesus the Christ” vs. “Jesus Christ”

With him, this differentiation simply becomes inapplicable. The person is the office; the office is the person.

The words “Kaiser” and “Wilhelm” go so closely together that the title “Kaiser” had itself already become almost a part of the name; yet everyone was still aware that the word was not just a name but denoted a function. The phrase “Jesus Christ” is an exactly similar case… [W]ith him, this differentiation simply becomes inapplicable. The person is the office; the office is the person.… Here there is no private area reserved for an “I” that remains in the background behind the deeds and actions and thus at some time or another can be “off duty”; here there is no “I” separate from the work; the “I” is the work, and the work is the “I”.

— Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, II.B.2