Category Archives: Sacred Scripture

The prayer of Jesus

The prayer of Jesus, like any exercise deserving the name of prayer, is first and foremost an act of thanksgiving. The elements in his prayer which, in this particular instance, belong exclusively to his dignity as the Son, should not distract us from the thanksgiving he offers as an essential constituent of prayer. He who prays is Jesus of Nazareth. His prayer is an act of thanksgiving to the Father, pure and simple.

The prayer of his followers, too, can only be that, an act of thanksgiving. In fact this is what it is. Of course, we commonly refer to it as “eucharist”, a Greek work for thanksgiving, even while we persist in our search for ways to pray. The act of thanksgiving is and remains the supreme prayer of all Jesus’ followers.

The Gospel of John
Stanley B. Marrow, SJ

Only the Lord can help

Today, on the 19th Sunday through the Church Year, we hear the gospel reading where Jesus walks on the water. We are moving through the summer…and what the Church gives to us to meditate upon is keen these days.

St. Augustine reminds us, “If you feel your foot slipping beneath you, if you become a prey to doubt or realise that you are losing control, if, in a word, you begin to sink, say: Lord, I am drowning, save me! Only he who for your sake died in your fallen nature can save you from the death inherent in that fallen nature.”

Jesus, I trust in you.

Enmity with God poisons

Enmity with God is the source of all that poisons man; overcoming this enmity is the basic condition for peace in the world. Only the man who is reconciled with God can also be reconciled and in harmony with himself, and only the man who is reconciled with God himself can establish peace around him and throughout the world.

But the political context that emerges from Luke’s infancy narrative as well as in Matthew’s Beatitudes indicates the full scope of these words. That there be peace on earth (cf Lk. 2:14) is the will of God and, for that reason, it is a task given to man as well.

The Christian knows that lasting peace is connected with men abiding in God’s eudokia, his “good pleasure.” The struggle to abide in peace with God is an indispensable part of the struggle for “peace on earth”; the former is the source of the criteria and the energy for the latter.

When men lose sight of God, peace disintegrates and violence proliferates to a formerly unimaginable degree of cruelty. This we see only too clearly today.

Joseph Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth

Holy Tradition

A question on the bible and the nature of Tradition always surfaces. Many of those who follow the Protestant line dismiss the intimate connection Tradition that the Catholics and Orthodox make viz. the bible. The magisterial reformers of the 16th century (Luther, Zwingli) led Christians astray by teaching that sola scriptura was a true doctrine taught by the bible. No such thing. What we now come to understand as sacred Scripture found in the publication called The Bible was developed by the Church… the Church did NOT come out of the Bible. History teaches us this fact. History that Evangelicals refuse to admit. The Church, therefore, predates the New Testament, and the Bible. Tradition trumps Scripture. After all, who decided what the Bible would be? The Church, in Council.

In defense of biblical tradition here is but one support: “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Holy Tradition assists us in interpreting the words of sacred Scripture. One fact, Divine Revelation, which we accept with that faith which we owe to God alone, was completed with the death of the last Apostle, St. John. At the Council of Trent the Council Fathers taught:  Hence, too, that meaning of the sacred dogmas is ever to be maintained which has once been declared by Holy mother Church, and there must never be any abandonment of this sense under the pretext or in the name of a more profound understanding. May understanding, knowledge and wisdom increase as ages and centuries roll along, and greatly and vigorously flourish, in each and all, in the individual and the whole Church: but this only in its own proper kind, that is to say, in the same doctrine, the same sense, and the same understanding. AND yet, it is also true to say that Tradition gives us a renewed sense of what we believe and hold to be True about our divinely revealed faith. Doctrine, according to the Magisterium develops but does not reject the Truth nor take up modernist teachings to explain what is revealed by the Lord. Offering an interpretation of John 16:12-13: “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth,” Joseph Ratzinger speaks of  “livingness” of tradition through all the ages, and not merely at the time of the Apostles and that’s it.

In his Commentary on Vatican II’s document Dei Verbum, Joseph Ratzinger wrote:

The dynamic concept of tradition, with which the Council here develops its positive conception of traditio, was strongly attacked from two quite opposite directions. On the one hand, Cardinal Ruffini rejected it from his position of traditionally neoscholastic theology, but on the other, Cardinal Leger attacked it from an ecumenical standpoint. In spite of the sharp division in their general theological orientations, the arguments of these two Council fathers were astonishingly similar Ruffini firmly emphasized the idea of revelation being concluded with the death of the last Apostle, rejected the idea of including disciples of the Apostles among the origins of revelation, and opposed the idea of a living and growing revelation, for, in accordance with the text of Trent and Vatican I, he considered that this should be mentioned only in connection with a strong emphasis on the strict unchangeability of a revelation that had been concluded once and for all, with which he referred to an appropriate text by Vincent de Lerins, quoted at both Councils. In the concept of the schema, and especially in its emphasis on spiritual experience as a principle of the growing knowledge of revelation, he detected theological evolutionism, condemned as modernism by Pius XII. In another tone and with other reasons Cardinal Leger insisted on the same point, He found that the Schema, especially in its idea of progress, which seemed to refer not only to the knowledge of tradition, but tradition itself (Haec … Traditio … proficit), blurred the strict distinction between apostolic and post-apostolic tradition and endangered the strict transcendence of divine revelation when it was confronted with the statements and actions of the teaching office of the Church. The Cardinal was concerned that the Church should bind itself firmly to the final and unchangeable word of God, that does not grow, but can only be constantly assimilated afresh and cannot be manipulated by the Church. The Theological Commission considered the question carefully, but decided not to make any major alterations in the text. It pointed out that the clause ” … Traditio proficit” is explained by a second clause “crescit … tam rerum quam verborum perceptio“, i.e. the growth of tradition is a growth in understanding of the reality that was given at the beginning. (Commentary pp.186-187)

In another place Tradition is expounded upon in this manner by Pope John Paul II, in the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei when he about the error:

The root of this schismatic act can be discerned in an incomplete and contradictory notion of Tradition. Incomplete, because it does not take sufficiently into account the living character of Tradition, which, as the Second Vatican Council clearly taught, “comes from the apostles and progresses in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts. It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth”.

Let me suggest reading a good and essential book: Joseph Ratzinger, God’s Word: Scripture, Tradition, Office (Ignatius Press).

Orthodox Abbot Tryphon offers this reflection on Holy Tradition which supports the proper interpretation of the Bible:

Many evangelical protestants see Holy Tradition as standing in direct contrast to Scripture, as though Tradition is always relegated to “the traditions of men”. However, there are numerous references in Holy Scripture to Holy Tradition. For example:

“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught (Luke 1:1-4).”

It must be noted that in this instance, the oral word preceded the written word. hence becoming Holy Tradition.

In John 20:30-3, it is revealed, “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book”, and in John 21:25, we read, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written”. One of my personal favorite passages regarding Holy Tradition is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”

Holy Tradition is not apart from the Bible, but supports the proper interpretation of the Bible. Holy Tradition emanates from Christ Himself, and is expressed by the Apostles, the Holy Fathers, and the Church. The Fathers, in fact, are the very guardians of the Apostolic Tradition, for they, like the Apostles before them, are witnesses of a single Truth, which is the Truth of the God-man, Jesus Christ. Since Christ is one, unique, and indivisible, so also is the Church unique and indivisible. The Church is the incarnation of the incarnated God-man, Jesus Christ, and will continue through the ages, and even throughout all eternity.

Sermon on the mount summons us

The sermon on the mount is a summons to follow Jesus Christ in discipleship. He alone is perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect (the demand reaching into the depths of one’s being in which the individual instructions of the sermon on the mount are condensed and united: Matt. 5:48). On our own we cannot be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect – but we must be to correspond to the task our nature lays upon us.

We cannot do this, but we can follow him, cling to him, become his. If we belong to him as his limbs or members, then through our participation we become what he is: his goodness becomes ours. What the father says in the parable of the prodigal son is realized in us: All that is mine is yours (Luke 15:31).

The moralism of the sermon on the mount that is all too stiff for us is brought together and transformed into communion with Jesus, into being a disciple of Jesus; in clinging fast to our relationship to him, in friendship with him and in confidence in him.

To Look On Christ
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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