This Pentecost Sunday of 2013, we read a letter from Bishop Calvo in our bulletin. It stated that our diocese needs a synod to to gather and pray together, to reflect and discern what the Holy Spirit calls and directs us to be and to do to fulfill our mission in our particular place and time.
Our Blessed recent Pope Benedict wrote:
Indeed, according to the Fathers, ontologically, the Church-mystery, the Church that is one and unique, precedes creation, and gives birth to the particular Churches as her daughters. She expresses herself in them; she is the mother and not the product of the particular Churches. Furthermore, the Church is manifested, temporally, on the day of Pentecost in the community of the one hundred and twenty gathered around Mary and the twelve Apostles, the representatives of the one unique Church and the founders-to-be of the local Churches, who have a mission directed to the world: from the first the Church speaks all languages.
This brings to mind the question once raised at 9:30 Mass, “What time is it?” Dwelling on several people venturing guesses between 10:00 and 10:05, the proper answer comes. Bernard Lonergan writes:
On the Ptolemaic system there did exist a single standard time for the universe, since the outmost of the celestial spheres, the primum mobile, contained the material universe and was the first source of all local movement. With the acceptance of the Copernican theory, there vanished the primum mobile, but there remained a single standard time, a survival Newton explained by distinguishing true and apparent motion and by conceiving true motion as relative to absolute space and absolute time. Finally, with Einstein, Newton’s absolute time vanished, and there emerged as many standard times as there are inertial reference frames that are in relative motion.
Deuteronomy 5 writes:
Moses summoned all Israel and told them, Hear, You who struggle with God, the customs, and correct judicial precedents, I proclaim in your hearing, this day, to learn them and guard to do them. The Personal Name cut a Social Contract with us at Horeb; not with our fathers did the Personal Name cut this Social Contract, but with us, all of us, alive, here, this day.
The interesting thing about customs and judicial precedents is that they develop over time. By definition, they could not have come directly to Moses at Horeb. How does Torah say this? All the customs and judicial precedents, which came over time, are to be viewed as if they came at Horeb. This is because, as the Jewish people relive their salvation at Passover, and we relive ours in the Eucharist, we relive the Passover, the Passion event, again, for the first time, each time. Einstein was Jewish and his understanding of time was Jewish.
It is like a big wormhole that connects each time we celebrate Passover and Eucharist. It makes no sense to discuss if the universal church is prior to the particular churches. Through Passover and Eucharist, we leave time. When there is no time, there is no before and after.
We notice from our Blessed recent Pope Benedict, “The Church is manifested, temporally, on the day of Pentecost in the community of the one hundred and twenty gathered around Mary and the twelve Apostles, the representatives of the one unique Church…” Those acquainted with Jewish tradition know of the men of the Great Assembly, the men who codified Torah, as we know it, and the Jewish liturgy, which is the foundation of our Catholic Mass.
Like the 120 who were present at the founding of the Catholic Church at Pentecost, the Great Assembly had 120 men. Those present at Pentecost were well aware of the tradition of the 120 men of the Great Assembly. They got the connection. Mary and the apostles are the men of the Great Assembly, formed, for the first time, this time, at Pentecost.
Our recent Pope argued with Cardinal Walter Jasper, before he became Pope. Then Cardinal Ratzinger argued that authority springs from before, and through the 120 men, presently the Roman curia. Cardinal Walter Jasper argues with our Declaration of Independence, that authority comes from below:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…
Given the new, Jewish definition of time, we see that both men are incorrect. Through the sacrament of Holy Communion, we exit time. Time becomes irrelevant. With Pope Benedict, we believe that all custom and correct judicial precedent is to be viewed as if it came from Moses at Horeb.
On the other hand, we receive truth through our experience of Eucharist and Passover, which we relive for the first time, each time we celebrate Eucharist. True authority comes from this experience of salvation. If we have not suffered, and been rescued, judicial precedent, no matter how authoritative and correct, seems meaningless. For those who have experienced death and resurrection, no proof is required. For those who have not, no proof is sufficient. This is the very point Pope Benedict tries to make in his letter to the bishops on “Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion.”
The Jewish nation reforms, makes itself new, again, just as it did at Horeb, and just as it did with the Great Assembly, at Pentecost. In our upcoming synod, we reform again, looking back to the basics. We do not need to look far to find our basics:
Moses summoned all Israel and told them, Hear, You who struggle with God, the customs, and correct judicial precedents, which I proclaim in your hearing, this day, that you may learn them and guard to do them. The Personal Name cut a Social Contract with us at Horeb; not with our fathers did the Personal Name cut this Social Contract, but with us, all of us, alive, here, this day.
Remember, “I am the Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, who brought you out of the land of Egypt/oppression, out of the house of menial labor.” You will remember what it was like to be there, and you will remember your rescue.”
When your son asks, “What do these traditions, customs and correct judicial precedents mean?” which the Personal Name our Almighty Judge, enjoins on you, you shall say to your son, “We were Pharaoh’s servants in Egypt. The Personal Name removed us from Egypt/ Oppression with a strong hand and wrought before our eyes signs and wonders, great and dire, against Egypt/Oppression and against Pharaoh, the oppressor and his whole house. He brought us from there to give us the land he had promised on oath to our fathers. Deuteronomy 6:20-23
Pope Benedict wrote:
The concept of communion lies ‘at the heart of the Church’s self-understanding’(4), insofar as it is the Mystery of the personal union of each human being with the divine Trinity and with the rest of mankind…”
If the concept of communion, which is not a univocal concept, is to serve as ecclesiology key, it has to be understood within the teaching of the Bible and the patristic tradition, in which communion always involves a double dimension: the vertical (communion with God) and the horizontal (communion among men).
The new relationship between man and God, established in Christ and is communicated through the sacraments, also extends to a new relationship among human beings. As a result, the concept of communion should be such as to express both the sacramental nature of the Church while “we are away from the Lord”), and also the particular unity which makes the faithful into members of one and the same Body, the Mystical Body of Christ, an organically structured community.
We need to understand our faith as coming from the Bible itself, from Horeb, and through the customs and correct judicial precedents, which come from Horeb. There is the double dimension in our transfiguration. Mark 9:2-8. God reaches down to us as we reach up to him. We then descend from that mountain and meet the epileptic at the bottom of the hill.
The key sentence in Mark’s account is when Jesus tells his followers, “This kind can only come out through prayer.” Mark 9:29. There is only one prayer in the entire exchange, “The boy’s father cried out, ‘I do believe, help my unbelief!” Through the Eucharist we cry out to God, “Help my unbelief.” “Help me to see you in the Eucharist, to relive the Eucharist every day of my life.” “Help me to heal my son, in my direct offspring,” and in the sons and daughters of all mankind.” “Help me to be an instrument in removing all suffering in the world. Help me to end disasters like happened twice in Bangladesh in the past year.”
“The new relationship between man and God, established in Christ and is communicated through the sacraments, also extends to a new relationship among human beings,” as Pope Benedict tells us. We relive the exodus event, each time and for the first time we celebrate Eucharist.” We die with Jesus on the Cross, and we rise with him to new life. This is a very literal death and rebirth. We remember what it was like to be there, and when we see others suffering, it brings back the bad memory, and we do something.
“A Voice of Their Own,” quoting Cardinal Jasper, speaks of the great perichoretic formula. Perichoresis comes from a fancy Greek word meaning a dancing around. Just as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, dance around each other, we join the dance with all of mankind. We become one with the Trinity. We notice how Pentecost begins with tongues of fire. The Hebrew word for fire, also means Mensch, or “Men.” The tongues of fire intermingle within us and make us men in the grandest sense of the term, people who care for other people. That needs to be the great message of our synod.
 Lonergan, Bernard (2012-05-23). Method in Theology: Volume 14 (Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan) (Kindle Locations 2718-2723). University of Toronto Press. Kindle Edition.