Friday, March 4, 2011

Final Class with Fr. John Fuellenbach

This morning, we participated in the final class with Fr. John Fuellenbach, SVD.

Hebegan the session with a brief re-cap of his prior sessions speaking about the universal nature of salvation. Our religion is not a private religion; it is always pointing to the communion on earth and our communion in eternity. I am saved in order to bring the message, the good news, to the world. The theologian Karl Rahner believed that we must place in our center INCARNATIONAL theology. That is the mystery that separates us from other faiths and world views. No one has an understanding that God has entered into our human history end embraced the reality of the human person. Rahner wrote, "Because of the incarnation, God must look through the Son to see all creation."

Christ is the bearer of the Spirit to the whole world. Jesus is for everyone. Jesus came for all; christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindu, all philosophies. Fr. John stressed that the Vatican II taught that in all people of good will, the Spirit is there too. The Spirit is in all communities of people that attempt to live honorable, decent, and just lives. That is one of our great petitions on Good Friday. The Church is the means by which the Kingdom is preached, it is not identifiable with the Kingdom. Kingdom in meant for the whole world, universe. An individualistic view of salvation is not tenable.

The Church has a 3 part mission:
  • To proclaim in Word and Sacrament both the arrival and the presence of the Kingdom.
  • Must create communities in which the KIngdom is made manifest. We are a "test-case" for the Kingdom present in the world. In others words, as the church community, we must stand as witnesses of what it means that the kingdom is both present and coming. Church is both the reality of the Kingdom present and the anticipation of Christ's Kingdom to come. However, while we are in the world, that witness is always in a broken way. A spirit of reconciliation is part of the witness we give to the world. Christ is the "icon" of the Trinity and as God sees us through the eyes of Jesus Christ, so we see GOd through the eyes, and heart, and spirit of Jesus Christ.
  • Dialogue with the world in three ways: With Culture - with the reality of peoples lives where they are - cultures of nation, of life-style, of race, of gender, of language, of tradition, of generations, of politics, of economics,  of social status. All these are the ways in which the church must enter into dialogue with culture. Second: With the world at large - social justice. We have a message of joy for all people in the here and now, hearing all people yearning for freedom in the grace of God. And third - with other religious traditions. We must respect and find the spirit of awe in how God works through other religions and spiritualities. We can still say that we have the fullness of truth. Either Christ came for all or he came for no one. Every human being is gift from God.
Father John shared a story: When he visited the Catholic Cathedral in Samoa, he saw a painting that is on the wall of the cathedral. The picture shows a ship approaching the island with a bishop standing in the prow with mitre and crosier holding the book of the gospels. Behind him in the ship are Franciscan friars. Ahead of them, gathered on the beach are a community of people, with people of all ages, the old, the young, dogs, cats, sheep, goats, birds. They are cooking, fishing, building huts, caring for babies, and in their midst is a figure of Christ waving to the Bishop as if to say, "It's about time you got here." The artist wants to say that even before the missionaries arrived, Christ was in their midst because they are a good people. Its a message of warning to religious people not to assume that the spirit is not present because they may have not heard the gospel.

Reflections on the Lord's Prayer

In this prayer is the summary of the whole of salvation and Kingdom message. All the big themes of Jesus' mission given to the disciples are found here.

Here is another tib-bit for the catechumens and candidates to be recievd on Holy Saturday.
(And its not a bad thing for the rest of us to know either.)
In the early church, the Lord's Prayer was reserved to just days before the reception of the Easter Sacraments. The Lord's Prayer would be taught to the "elect" only days before they would be baptized. This was a prayer that was not spoken outside of the church. It was secret. (Remember, this could be because the gospels were not written immediately, and even after they were written, they were not widely diseminated. The gospel was still transmitted by word of mouth to a culture where reading was rare.) It was only the baptized who could call God "Abba". This practice is still found as a part of the R.C.I.A. with the presentation of the Lord's Prayer in these final days of preparation for our catechumens.

In the ancient times, spiritual leaders would offer a prayer that would summarize the teacher's ideas and vision. This is why the disciples of Jesus asked to teach them to pray as John the Baptist had taught his disciples to pray. And so in the Lord's Prayer, all the ideas are found somewhere in the Old Testament, especially Matthew's version - who's gospel presents Jesus as the fulfillment of the Covenant. Jesus is the fulfillment of the God's covenant with his people and is the final revelation of God's truth to us. And so, if we pray seriously the Lord's Prayer, we are declaring, by the very act of reciting the prayer, WE ARE DISCIPLES OF JESUS CHRIST.

Parts of the prayer:

1. Address: Our Father
Who is God for you? When you call God, Father, what are you saying to God? what are you saying about yourself? What are you saying to the world?
When the Jews began to pray, they would recite the "shema" Deuteronomy 6:4 - Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One. This was how the Jews remind themselves of their relationship with their God. For Christians, our "shema" is not about what God did for  us; it is rather who God is for us. And so if we claim God as father, "abba", and God is father, "abba" for ALL, then we are all brothers and sisters. If we sincerely mean what we pray when we say "Our Father", then all discrimination must be condemned forever.

2.  Thou petitions:

Name: Your name is holy and make it known:
   To me
   To all human beings
   Until the day comes when everyone knows your name.

Thy kingdom come: The new world is already in the old. God's saving work began at the first moment of creation.

Thy will be done: This is the Matthew addition. For the Jews it meant let that which reigns in heaven come to earth. We Christians believe that this has happened in Jesus Christ. NOtice in scripture that whenever Jesus must confront the will of his Father, he is distress. When Jesus is in the sight of the cross at Gethsemene, he asks, "Take this cross from me, but not my will but your's be done." Christian tradition does not go looking for martyrs. We have not been taught to commit suicide for Christ. It is more important for saints to remain on earth to fulfill the mission of Christ. But if one is caught in a situation, and is not given a choice, then martyrdom is is the crown of heaven. Jesus does not say if they don't accept the message, blow them up. He says shake the dust off your feet and move on to the next town.

3. We petitions:

Give us today our daily bread.

Fr. John says this is not about give me a sandwich. It is one of the great themes in Jesus' ministry. St. Jerome, in his early commentary of the Scripture read bread as "Mahar", in Hebrew it means the bread of tomorrow. In other words, the glory yet to be revealed. Give us this future bread today so we may live in your glory now. But bread is also important as the opportunity to share table fellowship together. This is a prefiguring of Eucharist, and a prefiguring of the eternal banquet of heaven. In Scripture, bread fills physical hunger and social hunger. Dining together is not a profane thing , but binding community together. And it is important to note that is says, "give us", not "give me".

Forgive us our trespasses...

It is said sometimes, (and I will take 3 mea culpas for this one) we are asking God to forgive us in the same we are forgiving others. Fr. John says this is wrong. Three times he said it for emphasis. We must never forget that God's initiative is always first in the scripture. It is not because I forgive that God must then forgive me. Rather, Because God has fogiven me, (God's action is prior) than I find it within myself to forgive. (My action is the consequence).

Fr. John's personal experience of someone who comes up to him to say, "Father, I can't forgive." His reply is, "Who do you think you are? God?" Only God can forgive absolutely and unconditionally. The world has to work at it. But why would we want to forgive? It's like when someone was generous to me, I feel the urge to be generous in return. If not, I am ingrate. I can forgive because I have experienced the forgiveness of God first.  And if I am unable to forgive it is because I have not yet become aware of God's forgiveness in my life.
God cannot forgive if I am unwilling to forgive. If I refuse to forgive, then God cannot forgive because God will not impose himself upon us.

Temptation: The great temptation of the early church was apostasy, the formal denial and recanting of the faith. This is not really a catch-all for every sin in my life.

Well there you have it. All the notes of this week. I need to review these later and fill them out. That will happen in my future preaching and teaching. Stay tuned.

Speaking of tune - There are posters of a piano recital at the Church of St. Agnes in Ecstasy in the Piazza Navona tonight at 6:30. I have just enough time right now to dress up for a recital, walk the 30 minutes and listen to Mozart, Chopin, and Geshwin. I was out this afternoon to get a haircut and I stepped into the Church for the Germans in Rome. Santa Maria de Anima. Its a beautiful baroque church near Piazza Navonn. There are two chapels important to me:  one with a beautiful painting with the Holy Family and St. Anne. I have never seen that image before The proud grandmother looking on. I will be looking for a print of that somewhere. And second, a chapel to St. John Nepomuk. Why is he important? John Neumann was named after him. Our patron's name is actually John Nepomuk Neumann.

Not sure what time I'm coming in tonight. This may be it for the day.

Ciao a tutti.