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August 12, 1994     The Message
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August 12, 1994

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12, 1994 The Message- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 9 Commentary -- The final interpretation: Flesh and blood to eat and drink Gospel commentary for Au- 1994, Twentieth Sun- Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 6:51-58. The discourse or sermon of continues in the sixth chap- Gospel of John. As men- in a previous article, we are the theology of the author this gospel and his and his interpreta- words. This is how Christian revelation comes to First we have the words of then the words of Jesus and adaptation given them the first generation of Christians. Finally we the interpretation and adaptation of Jesus' and deeds given to them by the authors of our By FATHER DON DILGER COLUMNIST John's sixth chapter began with the multiplica- of loaves and fish. John's interpretation of this he calls it was a comparison of Jesus feed- the multitude with Moses feeding the Israelites Y means of manna. The authors of the Book of in the sixth century B.C. had already reted the manna in a spiritual sense, that the was a "sign" or symbol of the word of God, that was handed down by Moses. recasts that ancient interpretation and claims not Moses but Jesus who brings the TRUE )d, the ultimate revelation. Not only, ae- to John, does Jesus bring the true revelation himself is the ultimate revelation. He brings not only the words of God but he is the WORD of God made flesh, i.e. in a human being. Those who believe this are said to have attained life eternal now and a promise of resurrection in the fu- ture. Today John takes the final step. He speaks not only of faith in Jesus' teachings and in Jesus him- self as Word Incarnate but a step beyond such faith. Not only do be- lievers ingest eternal life by faith, but they are asked to ingest the very body and blood of Jesus: "Un- less you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you .... My flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink in- deed. THIS is the bread which came down from " heaven, not like the ancestors ate and died. Those who eat this bread will live forever." Next week's gospel and commentary will show that the difficulty of this statement was already a division between followers of Jesus in the first cen- tury as it is today. But John is so insistent on the reality of the flesh and blood of Jesus that we must look for a meaning beyond the meaning of the ear- lier parts of this discourse where the true bread from heaven undoubtedly meant the words of reve- lation that Jesus brought. The step between that first interpretation and the final interpretation as flesh and blood of Jesus was that not only arethe words of Jesus God's revelation but Jesus himself is God' Word or revelation. We know that early Christians were accused of cannibalism. It is almost certain that such an ac- cusation was based on the statement about eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking his blood. Even in the sixteenth century during the Council of Trent there were great theologians of the Catholic Church who still gave the same interpretation to eating and drinking the flesh and blood of Jesus as they gave to the earlier parts of Jesus' (John's) sermon, i.e. that the eating and drinking meant acceptance of the revelation that Jesus brought and is. It can be that, but Catholic belief goes beyond that. The same Council of Trent defined that the whole substance of bread and wine is by the words of consecration changed into the substance of the body and blood of Jesus. Such further interpretation is based not only on the practice of the Christian Church until the Re- formation but also the graphic words used by John, his insistence by a triple repetition, and his refusal to compromise with those who refused to accept such a teaching. What can we do but affirm this teaching proposed by John and taught by our Church as "words of eternal tife?" It is appropriate to add a note about the cup. In our time the right of the faithful to not only eat the flesh of the Lord but to drink the blood of the Lord, to communicate from the cup, has been reaffirmed. For those who rightly have qualms about doing so and abstain from the cup for reasons of hygiene, Jesus also said: "The bread which I give for the life of the world is my flesh," and, "Those who eat me will live because of me," and, "Those who eat this bread will live forever." So be it. Readings: Proverbs 9:1-6; Ephesians 5.'15. 20. IL hildren's needs biggest family challenge Catholic News Service family and within the church, theU.S, bishops' family life di- rector advised a Dayton sym- posium in late July. "The most critical and urgent problem in family life today is the well-being, the welfare and Ohio (CNS) -- needs and the pres- face represent fami- challenges, re- efforts both within the AUTO TOPS SEAT COVERS BOAT COVERS STEREO SALES & INSTALLATIONS 254-3943 HWY 50 EAST, BEHIND UPS CENTER EUGENE WELP, OWNER JASPER I 482-1200 - LINCOLN - MERCURY DUBOIS COUNTY BANK MEMBER OLD NATIONAL B/LNCORP Member FDIC R FIVE STAR SERVICE BANK [i-Tech Sheet Metal Inc. Industrial & Commercial Heating & Cooling Installation Sales & Service 422-9242 ] Michael and Patricia Koch 15 S. Third Avenue, Evansville MILLER & MILLER "A family name you can trust" 424-9274 the nurture of children and youth," Dolores Leckey, execu- tive directoroof the Marriage and Family Life Secretariat at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in Washing- ton, told the "Families and Communities in Partnership" conference. She and other speakers sug- gested that solutions to family crises lie within families them- selves, and in the church and secular communities. The July 28-30 meeting, held at the University of Dayton and hosted by the university's Center for the Study of Family Development, drew 200-300 participants. It was heldin conjunction with the annual conference of the National As- sociation of Catholic Family Life Ministers. Paul Leingang, Message ed- itor, and his wife Jane at- tended the conference; they are members of the Christian Family Movement. "Children are under enor- mous stress, emanating from external and internal sources," Ms. Leckey said. External sources of stress stem from public policy while internal sources are rooted within the dynamics of family relation- ships, she said. Over the last three decades, internal problems have in- creased, she explained. "The dis- integration of the well-function- ing, two-parent family poses a threat" to the nation and the church, she said, citing as exam- ples of problems the increase in INSURANCE SERVICE Auto! Home! Fire.& Life! Your Personal Serwce Agent L. Will Ins. Agency Inc. !W. Franklin Street births to single mothers, teenagers and poor women, and the reality of fathers who are be- coming "shadows" in the lives of their families. "But the major reason for this disintegration is the high divorce rate," Ms. Leckey said, adding that "poverty of women and children usually increase dramatically in the wake of divorce." She called on pastoral family ministers and church leaders to bring more "creative, sus- tained attention to (this) cen- tral problem," and to help those marriages that have sim- ply "run out of steam." "There is a spiritual crisis in these marriages," she said, challenging the family life leaders to be more involved in marriage preparation and sup- port to the newly married. Discussing what she called the "redemption of time," Ms. Leckey also said that rituals, traditions and growth in love as a couple and family require "time to nurture within families." Those in ministry also need to address single parents, do- mestic violence, definition of new roles of men and women within families, and interreli- gious marriage, while the faith community can help parents balance needs of family with those of individual develop. ment, she added. Another speaker, Marianist Brother Raymond L. Fitz, Uni- versity of Dayton president, urged conference participants to promote Catholic involvement in developing public policy, "A greater proportion of the fragile families in our commu. nities are experiencing a down- ward spiral of school failure, unemployment, inadequate health care and substance abuse," he said. "Communities. are realizing that problems af- fecting families and children are multiple and interdepen- dent, and are not lending themselves to the traditional solutions." Efforts to tackle such prob- lems through collaborative coali- tions of local government, non- profit agencies and community groups are becoming more com- mon, Brother Fitz said. How- ever, he said, his own inquiries revealed that Catholics are "often on the margin of these ef- forts to form collaboratives." Thus, if Catholics are "to participate in the redesign and rebuilding of our communities, then we must be skillful in the public discourse involved in the formation and implementa- tion of public policy," he added. "The first barrier" to such in- volvement "is that many of us in the Catholic community keep our faith private," he said. In addition, "Catholic in- fighting" presents a barrier, as differences between Catholic "progressives" and "conserva- tives  prevent the Catholic community from developing a common ground and delivering a common message, Brother Fitz said. He suggested Catholics need to link word and worship to is. sues of families and children. "Our task is to take scrip- tural values and apply them in our own lives," said John L. Carr, secretary of the U.S. Catholic Conference Depart. ment of Social Development and World Peace. Catholics' mission in helping to bring about change is clear, he said. "What brings us to* gether is not some political agenda or some ideological affinity," he said.