Sunday, June 7, 2015

For Corpus Christi Sunday: Remissions Old And New

[This is a favorite of mine that first appeared on Corpus Christi Sunday of 2013. Among other things, it delineates some of my disagreements with Church teachings -- not theological doctrines, but notions about deliberately seeking pain, privation, and other sorts of pointless personal sacrifice in supposed expiation of sin, or, even more ridiculously, "to grow closer to God."

If I'm wrong about this, then my entire conception of why God designed Man's life as he did is wrong. Place your bets at the window. $2.00 minimum. -- FWP]

Today is the Feast of Corpus Christi, or as it's more commonly known, The Body and Blood of Christ. Inasmuch as the sentiments I expressed in this old piece remain relevant and (to me, at least) inspiring, I was tempted merely to repost it and have done for the day. But other thoughts have obtruded...thoughts I hope you'll find supplementary to that old Rumination on "the food chain."

The Book of Exodus laid a blood burden on the Jews:

The LORD said to Moses: “Thus you will say to the Israelites: ‘You yourselves have seen that I have spoken with you from heaven. You must not make alongside me gods of silver, nor make gods of gold for yourselves. You must make for me an altar made of earth, and you will sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your cattle. In every place where I cause my name to be honored I will come to you and I will bless you. [Exodus 20:22-24 et seq.]

In that regard, the Judaic faith perpetuated the barbaric custom of blood sacrifice, which is (for me) an indication that not all the decrees of Exodus and Leviticus were true commands from God. As I set forth in the essay linked above, God did not intend to eat His people, so the blood sacrifices common among the pagans were unnecessary, perhaps even offensive to the true God. Indeed, they were firmly rooted in the older superstition of scapegoating: the belief that one could transfer one's sins to an animal, whose blood one could then shed in expiation for them.

Jesus Himself reproved the custom:

“Go and learn what this saying means: ‘I want mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” [Matthew 9:13]

The Book of Hebrews makes this even more explicit:

For the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins. So when he came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me.
“Whole burnt offerings and sin-offerings you took no delight in.
“Then I said, ‘Here I am: I have come—it is written of me in the scroll of the book—to do your will, O God.’”[Hebrews 10:4-7]

For in Him there is, indeed, remission of sin without the shedding of blood.

Many Christians speak of Christ's New Covenant without much understanding of what the term implies. In the episode concerning the profiteers in the courtyard of the Temple at Jerusalem, He castigates those who would impose a blood burden upon Man in the name of submission to God:

He found in the temple courts those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers sitting at tables. So he made a whip of cords and drove them all out of the temple courts, with the sheep and the oxen. He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold the doves he said, “Take these things away from here! Do not make my Father’s house a marketplace!” [John 2:14-16]

When He offered Himself in expiation for us all, He made it plain that there was no call for blood sacrifice...indeed, that there never had been any such obligation. It was the ultimate demonstration of the folly of blood sacrifice as the Jews had practiced it throughout the millennium before His Coming. For Christ's Passion was the ultimate shedding of blood: divine blood, to which the world can produce no equal.

The New Covenant is one with the Passion...and of course with the Resurrection, Christ's way of confirming His authority for so ambitious a claim.

Needless to say, the Jews decline to recognize Jesus as the Son of God. It's a requirement of the Judaic faith that they maintain that the Messiah has not yet come. However, they no longer follow the Mosaic blood-sacrifice custom, one of many ways in which Judaic thought has demonstrated growth of understanding.

Yet some Christians' understanding lags behind that of the Jews. Too many of us believe that we must suffer temporally to expiate our sins. Too many of us fail to grasp the extent of Divine mercy. And far too many of us are prone to pointing to some natural disaster -- some working-out of the inexorable laws of Nature as they operate under the veil of Time -- and hinting that those who suffered its ravages are somehow paying for their sins, or worse, for someone else's sins!

Man is forgiven his sins on a much more merciful basis than that.

One may owe material restitution for his crimes against others. Indeed, one whose crime is sufficiently grievous may owe his very life. But the remission of our sins is quite another matter. Jesus said so more than once:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! [Matthew 7:7-11]

May God bless and keep you all.


Anonymous said...

... And may the Holy Spirit hold you and yours close Francis.

Francis W. Porretto said...
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