Sunday, August 23, 2015

Pope Provides Protestant Explanation of John 6

During his angelus message today, Pope Francis explained today's Gospel in a way that avoids Catholic content and is completely compatible with Protestantism.

To refresh your memories, Jesus had performed the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, but then explains that he is the Bread of Life. Jesus shockingly states that His flesh is real food and His blood is real drink. When everybody starts to walk away, Jesus does not soften the claim by saying He is only speaking in symbolic terms. Because He isn't. He's willing to watch them go. This is a strong scriptural argument for the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.

Today Pope Francis managed to explain today's Gospel reading without a single reference to transubstantiation. In fact, he went one better. He said that what Jesus meant by that flesh and blood talk was the "sacrifice of his very life." That's right. It was not that bread and wine would actually become His Precious Body and Blood. Forget that. Our Lord was merely challenging people with the fact of his coming death, His "failure" as Messiah.

The reason everyone except Peter and the other apostles were willing to walk away was not because they were scandalized by the idea of consuming Jesus' flesh and blood, but because they were looking for "a winner."

Pope Francis does violence to the text, because he ignores where Jesus says: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him." John 6:56. How does one reconcile this with the claim that Jesus is merely referring to his death on the cross? Immediately after Jesus says this, John records the following in v. 60: "Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, 'This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?'"

Pope Francis goes on to talk about walking, "always on a journey," in some nice but not particularly Catholic language. You will be glad to know you are not "chained" to Jesus, but "profoundly free."

At this point Peter makes his confession of faith in the name of the other Apostles: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (v. 68). He does not say “where shall we go?” but “to whom shall we go?” The fundamental problem is not leaving and abandoning the work that has been undertaken, but rather “to whom” to go. From that question of Peter, we understand that faithfulness to God is a question of faithfulness to a person, with whom we are joined in order to walk together along the same road. All that we have in the world does not satisfy our hunger for the infinite. We need Jesus, to remain with Him, to nourish ourselves at His table, on His words of eternal life! To believe in Jesus means making Him the centre, the meaning of our life. Christ is not an accessory element: He is the “living bread,” the indispensable nourishment. Attaching ourselves to Him, in a true relationship of faith and love, does not mean being chained, but [rather] profoundly free, always on a journey.

Pope Francis says we must "nourish ourselves at His table, on His words of eternal life!" Christ is "not an accessory element: He is the 'living bread,' the indispensable nourishment." We accompany Him "always on a journey."

In the context, it is impossible to say Pope Francis is saying we literally nourish ourselves on Christ's precious Flesh and Blood. The "living bread," is "the indispensable nourishment," but the Pope avoids preaching what exactly that is. The nourishment of our daily walk with Jesus? Are we nourished "on His words of eternal life" in the same way we are nourished "at His table?"

At the end he invited members of the audience to ask themselves, "Who is Jesus to me?"

Did he deny transubstantiation and the traditional Catholic interpretation of this passage? No. But when he took it upon himself to preach from it, he didn't affirm it, either. A Lutheran or an Anglican or a United Church of Christ member or a Presbyterian could have heard this without a single objection. Perhaps that's the point.

11 comments:

  1. Might want to rephrase in the 3rd paragraph. The bread and wine become the actual body and blood, not the other way around.

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    1. Ironically enough, PF has himself actually said it the wrong way around. I can't provide a link at the moment.

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  2. Of course, thank you for catching my confused typing.

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  3. On the way to Mass today, I tried to explain transubstantiation to my four-year old daughter. At the end of my lame attempt, I asked her, "does that make sense or is it weird?" She said, "it's weird." She then looked very thoughtful and said, "I have a lot of blood inside me, Daddy." I think my catechesis needs work.

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  4. I have heard countless homilies that did not go all the way to the full explanation of Our Lord's Real Presence in the Eucharist. Even in parishes with Adoration, it seems the priest almost always stops short for some reason. That our modernist pope would do so is no surprise...

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  5. In attempting to go deeper into the meaning of the Mass I have come to appreciate more and more the English translation of the old LatinMass. It clearly states at the beginning in psalms of the difference in the spirit which we are fighting with Jesus to overcome sin in our lives. As the Mass draws near it's heart, which is the Consecration, the rite presents us to pray from our heart Jesus perfect prayer, the Our Father. These shouldn't be rote words But spoken in sincerety. Our hearts should then be purified and ready to receive His heartsblood, the very body and blood of God made flesh in Holy Communion. We then plead that this not bring us condemnation but health of mind and body. It is a completely perfect way of having reverence for this most sacred exchange of hearts. To understand it in this way is to realize that we are not worthy to have Him come under our roof, but will He only say the word and our soul shall be healed.

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  6. Pope Francis seldom likes to put too fine a point when speaking of our Catholic doctrine. His ambiguity: confirms his lack of belief?; his desire to broaden his appeal to non-Catholics?; carelessness of explanation? My guess is all three apply. Pope Francis appears uncomfortable in his Catholic beliefs.

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    1. Out of curiosity, I looked at the notes to the English Standard Version study Bible, a Protestant Bible. They said the same thing as the Pope did. In 50 or 100 years, I wonder if the Real Presence will still be taught, if it it will quietly be allowed to go to the graveyard of forgotten doctrines along with extra ecclesiam nulla salus. It is very inconvenient. The Real Presence is what keeps homosexuals, divorced and remarried, and Protestants from receiving communion, after all. John 6 is one of the most Catholic chapters in the Bible. If a pope is willing to castrate it in public, it does not bode well for the Church.

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    2. Reminds me of the movie "Catholics" (1973)

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    3. Yesterday at Mass our priest did not speak on the Eucharist at all. Instead he based his interminable talk on St Paul epistle about husbands and wives--the short version leaving out the business of wives being subject their husbands. The substance of the talk was the need to respect and get along with one another. I don't think he upset many with these "insights".

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  7. I remember at my first Communion when I was 8 years old, my dad said that it looks like bread, it feels like bread, and it tastes like bread, but it is not bread. It is Jesus. Right then, I immediately understood and accepted.

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