Friday, April 10, 2009

Personal Asides: Roeper the Bottom Feeder…Christ’s Passion Lecture in Theology Circa 1948 at the Old Saint John’s.



The liberal line on why the Church should not object to Barack Obama’s commencement speech at Notre Dame started with Catholic Carol Marin, filtered down through Catholic Mary Anne Ahern and ended up with the ultimate bottom-feeder recycler, Catholic Richard Roeper…the argument that since the Church didn’t handle pedophiles very well, it has no right to object to ultra-pro-abort Obama speaking at ND. It took about 10 days to trickle down to Roeper…par for the course when you’re waiting for him to comment on an issue.

Old Saint John’s, April 4 1948—Excerpts of the Passion Gospels.

I know I promised the class notes on Abraham’s willingness to offer up Isaac…but this is Passion Week and I’ll skip ahead. The assignment has been to read all four gospels on the Passion for discussion in Theology, with Fr. Gerald McMahon OSB (one of the very few Irishmen in the largely Germanic monastery).

Fr. McMahon: Take your seats, Mr. Hesch this means you. I know it’s a Spring day which we thought would never come but it will be waiting for you out there when you finish here. And Mr. Bede Hall I wouldn’t crack that window open if I were you. It hasn’t been cracked since I took theology here in 1932 and has been sealed shut. Let’s begin.

It was my assignment for you to read all the gospels of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ…Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I will spare you the exact citation but will rely on your reference to the exact Gospel.

Now an easy one. What happened at the Last Supper, Mr. Becker? Three things. You can only think of one? What is it? Yes, you’re right: the institution of the Eucharist and the inculcation of Jesus’ Real Presence in it. Why can’t you think of the additional two things, Mr. Becker? Stunningly disappointing, may I say. Mr. Cascalinda, the other two things. You say, what? Correct—the institution of the Catholic priesthood and now the last. What is it? Yes, perfect: the formation of the Mass. In an unbloody manner He brought forth His passion and death which has been reenacted ever since.

Now, if you performed this assignment, you have found some things you didn’t know…as for example the only time in the gospels when Our Lord sang…when He sang. Can you tell me when and where this was, Mr. Augustine…being that you bear the surname of a great theologian, I am sure you will respond correctly. When did Our Lord Jesus Christ sing, Mr. Augustine? When? That’s right! And where is it recorded…no, not the record company: the gospel citation [laughter]. Right again! You are well-named, sir. The occasion was after the Last Supper when Our Lord went out to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and to ultimately meet His captives. “After singing the Pascal Hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives”—Mark 14:26.

Was it the first time they had gathered there, Mr. Roeser? No. And how do you know it wasn’t the first time? Right! In John. “Jesus had often met there with His disciples” John 18:2. Remembering that Judas had already gone to the city on his foul business of betrayal, how many apostles were left with Jesus? Mr. Arth. No, sorry: that’s wrong. Not eleven. Mr. Baron has the answer. Three: Peter, James and John. Eight of them were left near the entrance to Gethsemane. What other significant event happened before Peter, James and John? Let’s see…Mr….Mr. Ramier. Correct: Peter, James and John were His companions…no, wait on the follow-through you’re wrong! You said they were his companions at the Ascension. Not so, Mr. Ramier: read it again. They were His companions when He raised the daughter of Jarius and also when…more help: Mr. Burnett. Yes, exactly, at the Transfiguration not Ascension where His face is described interestingly…Mr. Etzell…how is His face described? Correct! When His face shone as the sun: Matthew.

All the while Judas was contracting with those who would apprehend Him. Here’s an easy one, Mr. Brusseau. The deal was consummated for 30 pieces of silver. Why that figure? You don’t know? Thirty shekels or pieces of silver was the usual price for selling a slave—so it is interesting that the price of a slave was the same price that Judas put on his Master.

When He went forth to pray, he told the three Apostles “My heart is ready to break with grief. Stop here and stay awake with me.” The proper gospel citation, Mr. Borgerding. Matthew. Why was His heart breaking? Nothing had happened to Him yet. Who has the answer. This is a test of your scholarly acuity. Who can help me? Mr. Weishar. No. Let’s see, Mr. Gavin. Yes. Isaiah had prophesied the plot—that there would be the confrontation so He was ready for it. In His fulfillment of that prophecy He tasted death for all of us and all of mankind to come, taking on the world’s guilt as if it were His own.

So in the Garden what did He do, Mr. Dooley? An Irishman like you I am counting on to help us, Mr. Dooley. What did He do? Yes, He prayed and what words did He use? Report to us as if you had been there, Mr. Dooley. His words were—what? Exactly: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Yet not as I will but as thou wilt.” Now remain standing, Mr. Dooley: I am not finished with you yet. Where do these words appear? Yes, Matthew…Matthew 26-39 to be exact. No-no, remain standing, Mr. Dooley I am still not through with you [murmured laughter in the class]. Notice His words. Not the words He used in the Our Father: “Our Father who art in heaven…” Now He says, “My Father.” What’s the difference? You say—what? Perfect…now you may finally sit down, Mr. Dooley. His two natures…Divine and human…were both involved in this prayer, thus He and the Father were unified. In the Divine nature He was superbly aware of His Father’s love. But His human nature recoiled from death as a penalty to sin—and rightly so since He was free of sin.

It is engrossing to see how the two natures of Christ interacted with this. His mental sufferings were far different than ours because He had Divine intelligence…just as our sufferings are more acute than an animal’s because we have human, rational intelligence. The smarter you are the more you appreciate what you have to go through.

It is quite likely that the Agony in the Garden caused Him more pain than even the crucifixion. Why, Mr. Steuber? Yes. Correct. Those of you who were in the war…raise your hands. [A forest of raised hands]. I am told my veterans who survived these encounters that the anticipation of likely danger is far worse than when you’re actually involved in the danger. Is that so? [Murmuring of assent]. Now you will remember that Jesus Christ had as a human nature an organism that was as nearly perfect as any organism created—therefore more sensitive to pain. Add to that the Divine nature. It is not unlike the distinction we can make between how humans manage pain and animals.

Many sentimental people believe animals suffer pain as we human do. Not so. They don’t suffer as we do because they don’t have a rational intellect. When a human suffers pain, he reaches back through his rationality. Take a cancer patient: he knows he has suffered several weeks and asks how many more will I have to endure? But he compares to the sufferings he has had and has heard about, and he’s traumatized. The animal does not do that. The animal does know enough to dread how much longer the suffering will be…that’s the problem of the rational intellect. Ergo: the animal suffers less than do we. Then with Our Divine Lord you have the Divine nature as well as a perfect human one…the suffering of which would be exquisite if I can use that word.

What Christ contemplated was this: not just the excruciating pain of the nails in his hands and feet but in addition, the fact that the world was about to spurn Him and the generosity of His father. And as those who suffer review the past and look to the future, He looked to the past and to all the sins that had ever been committed…all the way back to Adam who lost the heritage of God’s grace.

Some skipping of material here. Now we go to…

The Trial Before Pilate.

Here we contemplate the crooked nature of the trial against Christ. Christ appears before Pilate. They bring three charges against him. The first charge…Mr. Rooney? Yes. Exactly. “We have found this man subverting our nation, opposing the payment to Caesar and claiming to be Messiah, a king.” Where does that finding come from, Mr. Rooney? Yes. Exactly. Luke 23:2. You see, the first charge is sedition. And what is the second, Mr. Carmichael? Yes. The second, He was urging the people not to pay taxes to the king or to Caesar. And the third: He was installing Himself as a rival king to Pilate. Of course every charge was a lie. He didn’t oppose giving money to Caesar: render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesars. On sedition, Pilate hadn’t heard of it and if there had been sedition, Pilate would have. Now the third charge was not that He was king of the Jews but that He was challenging Caesar. That also was ridiculous: Pilate understood that if He were challenging Caesar, the gentiles would be on hand and in force to protest in favor of Caesar.

It was a rigged trial and Pilate knew it. Jesus had said His kingdom is not of this world. If it were, He would be like Judas the Galilean, the son of Ezechias who had fomented a rebellion against Rome 40 years before by rousing the people to oppose paying taxes.

The lecture continues but I will conclude it here. Have a holy and happy Easter.

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