Not like this
What is negotiated in today’s gospel could be translated with “the alternative”. But that does not really work, since there already is a party claiming that world for itself, at least in our country.
The reader of the gospels often encounters James and John, the sons of Zebedee, together with Peter, as those three whom Jesus prefers, for example when he climbs the mount of transfiguration. Apparently this got to their heads and they forehandedly declare their wishes for the seats of honor, which they derive from their closeness to Jesus. They are deceiving themselves. All twelve need to rethink. They have understood nothing, even though they have already been on the road with Jesus for some time. Only later do they realize: He laid the foundation for a different life. An alternative for many. ars
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, “What do you wish [me] to do for you?” They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to him, “We can.” Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The coming world
Aren’t the phrases coming world and eternal life, which are mentioned at the end of Sunday’s gospel, those used up words that discredited the biblical faith as the drug of empty promises?
A coming world that one can only enter after death, where surprisingly everything would be better than it is here, would be ridiculous. The Baalschem, a well-known Jewish rabbi, who thought about this, said to himself: “If I love God, then what do I need a coming world for?” Loving God, living according to his commandments, this is exactly that world that comes into our now and here and changes this world. That is what the coming world is like; it is otherworldly because so different, but in the world. acb
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through [the] eye of [a] needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.
A cheerful barbeque with former colleagues above the roofs of Munich. A thirty-year-old Syrian, who works as a cleaner in the company and has lived in Germany for four years, is also of the party.
He proudly states that as an Aramaic Christian he speaks the language that Jesus used to speak. When ISIS took the houses and shops away from his family he fled from Damascus. We talk about the difficulties of the refugees, the different religious backgrounds and political problems. I ask his opinion on what all this here will come to in view of the many challenges. To that he says calmly: “You know, as long as two or three are gathered together in his name, I’m not worried.” heg
Meaning does not grow out of systems of thought, but out of stories, and the Jewish story is the most unusual of all.
It tells us that God wanted to make us partners in His work of creation, but we disappointed him again and again. But he never gives up. He forgives us over and over again. For Judaism the true religious mystery is not our faith in God, but God’s faith in us. This is not a consolatory fiction, as atheists and skeptics sometimes say, but the exact opposite. Judaism is God’s appeal to human responsibility to create a world that is a worthy home for His presence.
Translated from: Jonathan Sacks, Vom Schicksal zum Glauben, Jüdische Allgemeine, 9. September 2018
Struggles of the beginning
How Moses had to begin at the beginning and teach them beginnings, that is to be deduced from the simple precepts with which he started to work and chisel and blast. Not to their comfort, certainly, for the stone does not take sides with the master but against him; to the stone the first stroke struck to form it appears as a most unnatural action.
Moses was always in their midst, here, there, in this and that encampment. Shaking his broad-wristed fists, he jogged, censored, chided, and churned their existence; he reproved, chastised and cleansed, using as his touchstone the invisibility of the God JHWH who had led them out of Egypt in order to choose them as his people..
From: Thomas Mann, The Tables of the Law (1944)
From the start the relationships of the CIC with Joseph Ratzinger have always interested me because over the years we have followed his theological efforts at a reconciliation, at a reapproach of Judaism and Christianity. In this area he is, I think, the most radical theologian I have ever even heard of.
He is also the one who, in the entire papal history, has dared to advance the furthest, as far as changing the Catholic Catechism. We have witnessed the entire development of Nostra Aetate with great interest – partly through sources, partly also personally in Rome during the years we lived there – and shared in it greatly. I belong to those people who perceived Benedict XVI’s election as a great sensation, as a shining hour in an otherwise gloomy time. I am not the only Jew who saw it like that. Cardinal Ratzinger’s election as pope was seen as positive in every respect throughout Israel, also by the World Jewish Congress. For years we witnessed it, how far his efforts had gone within the Church, also in the fundamental literature of the Church, to make hatred of Jews unthinkable forever..
Translated from: Chaim Noll, Mein Judesein (HEUTE, 6/2008)
Put to use
with greetings from a cabin after construction days in Urfeld by the Walchensee
Put to use
the screwdriver screws
the paintbrush brushes
the scissors and scythe cut
the rake rakes
look there – what’s coming to life
bright wide space
gently nestling meadows
between emerald green and gray
arriving and lingering
the screwdriver screws
the paintbrush brushes
the construction plan long conceived
by master hands
happily put to use
the turning of screws
the mowing of meadows
the raking of hay
In the online version of the Rheinische Post published on 6th August, 2018, one could read: “Elf commissioner wants to prevent accidents on the A2 with ‚energetic sealing‘.”
The elf commissioner, it remained unclear by whom she had been commissioned, was active on the A2 with an animal communicator. Right away she had felt „very sad energies” on the highway. “In some cases they were upset creatures of nature, who were rebelling and wanted to take back their bit of nature.” Wild boars caused many accidents because their territory had been taken from them, “hooligans spoiling for a fight”.
What does it mean in this context when clergy bless cars, motorcycles, dogs and other things? How are critical contemporaries supposed to be able to differentiate? anm
A help that should not be overlooked
Notes to the discussion on the article of Joseph Ratzingers/Pope em. Benedikt XVI “Grace and vocation without remorse”
After the wave of reflexive criticism that has arisen concerning Joseph Ratzinger’s “Notes to the tract De Iudaeis“, one may ask why Cardinal Koch asked Pope em. Benedict XVI to publish this sketch. The cardinal – rightly – recognized the provocative potential of this article. ...
In 1905 Rabbi Leo Baeck published a book “The Essence of Judaism” – a reply to “The Essence of Christianity” (1901) by the most renowned protestant theologian at the time, Adolf von Harnack. In it he wrote “This is what the Jew should be like as a Jew: the great non-conformist in history”.
It is unlikely that Walther Cohen’s father had read Leo Baeck. On his desk in the upper-class house, a death mask of Goethe stood next to a statue of Voltaire. When he wanted to read the bible Rudolf, Walther’s younger brother, was recommended the Ilias by his father. The family was positioned through the last name Cohen, although they were saved from the worst. The father was a half-Jew, as they used to say at that time, and married to a Quaker; in 1933 he joined the Quakers to provide for the prisoners in Dachau with their effective network and, if possible, buy their freedom. He refused to emigrate to Switzerland.
When Walther was twelve, he and his brother wanted to cheer up the Jews who had been herded together in the detention center in Berg am Laim in 1940. They collected tree frogs and brought them to them. At home on the coatrack his brother Rudolf’s Hitler Youth uniform and his jacket with the Yellow Star hung next to each other. In the spring of 1945 Walther picked up freed concentration camp prisoners with his handcart and brought them to his mother, who was a doctor. Later on he turns into a cat burglar well known throughout town and to the police, breaks into villas, takes fur coats and other useful things to pass them on to his clochards. One time he leaves a note: “A very interested person was here, who allowed himself to take a cookie.” Homeless had access to his garden room day and night and could always find hot soup and bread. He worked as a bookbinder, a book restaurateur. At the insistence of his wife, whom he married shortly before his death, he finally began training to become a catechist.
At 16 he was baptized. The priest and theologian Dr. Alois Goergen, his religion teacher, had encouraged him. Later he joined the group around Dr. Goergen known as the “Goergen Circle” in Munich. According to his brother’s words it was here that Walther first saw a “chance of life” in a group “that aims for an almost virginal purity in everything. His hate, contempt, ridicule turned into adoration for Christianity and especially for Mr. Goergen.” But his urge to put anyone and everyone to the test and to discern what is real about them, whether their life corresponds with their words – even with the most beautiful theology – brought him new disappointments. He died at 31, in some ways not unsimilar to Joseph Roth.
He introduced unheard of things to the group: Martin Buber’s Chassidic stories, especially “Jesus was a Jew and not a Christian”. In 1954, ten years before the Second Vatican Council rephrased the relationship of Christianity and Judaism in Nostra Aetate, he presented a kind of Israel-first-manifesto, starting with the sentence:
“As it has pleased God to reveal himself to the Jews, but not to the Greeks, the Romans or any other people …”
His short presence was like the flare of a comet that brought a “land” to light, which for many was a terra incognita: Christianity as the teaching of differentiation within the school of Israel and the Old Testament. .
By the beard of the Feminist!
The scaffold of the Innsbruck cathedral is currently decorated by a 56 square meter large political message: “As long as God has a beard, I’m a feminist!” A female artist from Innsbruck chose the phrase on the cathedral in cooperation with the bishop and vicar general.
The Jew and philosopher Baruch Spinoza realized and wrote that God, if He is God, should on no account ever be described by words of human standards. We humans have human perceptions, which is why any term could only give an incorrect presentation of God’s infinite magnitude and otherness. Of course a Jew has not allowed any pictures of God at all and not even said His name. This clarification is already attributed to Moses. luw
The questions to be answered would seem to be: What would the significance of a church, a community, a homily, a liturgy, a Christian life be in an unreligious world?
How do we speak of God – without religion, meaning without the time-conditioned premises of metaphysics, of subjectivity, etc. etc.? How do we speak – or maybe we cannot even really “speak” of it as before – of “God” in a “worldly” way; how are we Christians in an unreligious- worldly way? How are we called out without seeing ourselves as religiously favored, but rather as fully belonging to the world? Then Christ is no longer the object of religion, but something entirely different, truly Lord of the world.
Translated from: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Widerstand und Ergebung. Briefe aus der Haft (1944)
“The things of God deserve haste.”
“God does nothing but provide”, was one of Johannes Joachim Degenhardt’s favorite sentences, which is to say: He does not want to interfere in the course of events himself; he creates constellations; time windows open; occasions arise that are waiting to be recognized and used as ideal points of action. The Jewish philosopher Hans Jonas unfolded a similar thought in his speech about “The Concept of God after Auschwitz”: God forgoes the power of interfering in the course of events; he does not respond “with a strong hand and outstretched arm”, but “with the insistently-wordless courtship of his unfulfilled goal”.
Johannes Joachim Degenhardt was the best man at the wedding of Dr. Herbert Wallbrecher, the friend from his youth, with Gertraud Weiß in 1949; later he became the archbishop of Paderborn; in 1978 he was the bishop who, together with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, recognized the Integrated Community as a part of the Church.
In the spring of 1968 the Integrated Community, whose existence is significantly owed to the initiative of Herbert and Gertraud Wallbrecher, was reported on for the first time by the KNA, the catholic news agency, with an article titled “Avant-Garde or Sect?”. It was not so easy to put into words what had developed there in the twenty years since the end of the war and the catastrophe of the Shoah. At the beginning of the 70s the humanist and agnostic Gerhard Szczesny came in closer contact with the community and a friendly relationship developed. After the first meeting he noted in surprise: “It was the first time that I ever really felt at ease, that is to say unselfconscious and normal, in a community of people, who explicitly want to be understood as Christians.” At a later occasion he said: “Everything is so different here: I can’t imagine that the Catholic Church can accept you as a part of herself.” The same sentiment was expressed by Jewish friends, religious and secular kibbutzniks, with whom the community had been cultivating an active exchange since the mid 80s and later within the context of the Urfeld Circle.
The year 1985 marked a cesura. Gertraud Wallbrecher’s cause reached the center of the Church: For the first time a larger group of the community travelled to Rome for Pentecost. The occasion was Archbishop Friedrich Wetter’s anointment to cardinal, the successor of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in Munich; earlier Joseph Ratzinger had been called to Rome in 1981; for all members of the community the feast of Pentecost 1985 was like the arrival in ‘Rome’. In her Letter to the Eternal City Hedvig Fornander, a converted protestant from Sweden and a poetess of the community with powerful and visually stunning eloquence, specified the rather vague state of mind of many community members as follows:
“We seek the middle and the heart of the world,
that which binds us to what is binding, the norm,
the indispensable that does not come from ourselves,
the larger community,
the necessary outside of our state of mind.”
In celebration of the final recognition as a part of the Church, which Cardinal Friedrich Wetter pronounced in a mass in Rome in St. Paul Outside the Walls a few months later, Joseph Ratzinger expressed his joy that “you have now so visibly been granted integration into the Church of all places and all times”. When Gertraud Wallbrecher returned from her second trip to Israel a few months later she said: “We celebrated the feast in Rome as a celebration of the recognition of the will of God. Now we are challenged for the reality of this recognition and confronted with the fact that it is about the one, single People of God. During this visit to Israel I have experienced the painful history of the Jews up until the holocaust as our history. It is terrible when this is just the history of the Jews and not also of the Christians.”
“God does nothing but provide” and he does not stop “insistently-wordlessly courting his unfulfilled goal”; maybe heaven sometimes has an understanding after all.
Looking back on the turbulent history, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote to Gertraud Wallbrecher on the occasion of her 80th birthday:
“During the difficult time of the Third Reich you looked for the way of faith and after the war you realized that new ways were necessary to answer to our world’s challenges approaching the faith. Thus, slowly, through various sufferings, severances and upheavals, the Integrated Community has grown; within the Community you with your companions try to realize a seminal form of Christian existence within Christianity and the Church. … What I see as essential to your efforts is the fact that you have always stood by Catholicism as the deciding basis for the nature of the Community and thus have always seen the integration into the episcopal constitution of the Church as indispensible. I explicitly wish to thank you for that today.”
As Pope Benedict XVI said in his speech on the feast of Our Lady’s Ascension in Castel Gandolfo, 2011: “The things of God deserve haste. Even further: The only things on earth that deserve haste are those of God because they are urgent for our life.”
The last years of Gertraud Wallbrecher’s “presence in absence” due to old age and sickness were an invitation to all, who had the privilege of her contemporaneity, to assure themselves of the legacy and answer to his insistently-wordless courtship humbly, intelligently, resolutely and with great confidence.