The only thing that suffices
Panem & circenses – bread and games – was the name of a method in ancient times to pacify the people or secure their votes for elections.
Jesus is also threatened with this atmosphere during a multiplication of loaves, where the people want to make him king after they have had enough to eat. The event in Cana is not a bribe, but a “sign”. Jesus does not want to satisfy the primary needs of man, but deliver him with his entire human existence. And for that – right at the beginning – the abundance of a feast is necessary – of a wedding. Because, as Joseph Ratzinger knows, “only the lover can understand the foolishness of a love for which extravagance is law and abundance the only thing that suffices.” tac
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.
All four evangelists are confronted with the fact that Jesus, like many of his Jewish contemporaries, underwent the baptism of repentance through the prophet John.
In Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism he pushes John to the back of the stage and pulls out all the stops to say who this baptized man truly is: The heavens open, the spirit descends upon him and the voice from offstage declares him to be the son, the loved one, the chosen one. In the Acts of the Apostles Peter says it more mildly, but no less clearly: He is the word to Israel, the Kyrios, God is with him. To sum it up: Jesus is proclaimed as God’s representative. Just before Christmas a protestant theologian wrote in the FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung): “That is the crisis it’s all about: God cannot be reliably represented in the world anymore.” The Baptist had supposedly said to the people: “There is one among you whom you do not recognize.” ars
Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
What a star!
The question about what the star of Bethlehem was fills entire libraries. Hallucination? Halley’s Comet? Or maybe a rare conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn?
The answer cannot be found in the star dust of the skies, but in the dust of the earth. It was a small group of slaves fled from Egypt who recognized the true God; he became their guiding star. And so, through the existence of the Jewish people, the other peoples could also see the star of the Torah, a “star arising from Jacob”. Finding this new light is all the orientation the wise men, the searchers from among the people, need. “They were overjoyed at seeing the star.” acb
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
My father’s thing is my thing
At the Feast of the Holy Family we read the story of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple. The peak of the story happens when Jesus asks his shocked parents in astonishment: “Did you not know…” – well, what?
In one version it says “that I must be in my Father’s house”, in another “that I must be in that which belongs to my Father.” Both interpretations are open. Luke still has the entire gospel ahead of him to let Jesus say “that which is my Father’s.” At his birth he is a swaddled baby and his parents’ son, similar to us. Here in the temple he shows another side of himself, casually speaking: My father’s thing is my thing. As the Council of Chalcedon was approaching in the middle of the fifth century and the relation of these two sides of the person of Jesus was struggled for, the bishop of Rome found an ingenious way of phrasing it: completely on the side of God, completely on our side. ars
Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced (in) wisdom and age and favor before God and man.
Beyond the religious
For people from the ancient world it was normal to make animal sacrifices to the gods or a god. Brighter minds, like the Old Testament prophets, figured out early on that this was questionable.
Their criticism, directly addressed toward God, is often quoted in the bible: “Sacrifice and offering you did not require”. That is exactly how they would criticize a horse trade with God along the lines of “I give you this and you give me that” today. How can we move beyond this religiousness? It all starts with the people of God searching for his will together and acting accordingly, so that their realizations can take shape. This was represented in the life of Jesus. ruk
For this reason, when he came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight in. Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, behold, I come to do your will, O God.’” First he says, “Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in.” These are offered according to the law. Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your will.” He takes away the first to establish the second. By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Not a contradiction
For centuries exultation and threat of judgment have existed side by side in the reality of the people of God. Constant straying off and violations of God’s wishes – and right into the midst of this God speaks his words of salvation and judgment. Why?
Because man, as well as the people of God, are free to take this path or that. But both, the words of salvation and those of judgment are actually calls of invitation. Through both of them God wants to convince us to follow him. Remembering what the consequences are and what happens to you without God’s wise guidance can be helpful for this. If we understand the old language correctly, then we bring on the judgment on ourselves, it is the consequence for our actions. Whoever looks at man, himself, and the history of the people of God more or less rationally knows that both lie closely together: the joy in God and the indifference towards him. And yet we are not at the mercy of this condition, as Zephaniah says: “The Lord has removed the judgment against you.” bek
Shout for joy, daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, daughter Jerusalem! The LORD has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear. On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, Zion, do not be discouraged! The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior, who will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, who will sing joyfully because of you.
The Lesson of Advent
A street has to be built. From all the corners of the earth to Jerusalem.
According to Baruch, God is the contractor: He speaks and all obstacles give way. In the texts of other prophets God assigns this construction project to the people: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths”. That is not a contradiction – God builds and those who let themselves be gathered together build for Him. That is the great lesson of Advent. We have to make each move God makes, and He makes each move we make when we trust in Him. tac
Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on forever the splendor of glory from God: Wrapped in the mantle of justice from God, place on your head the diadem of the glory of the Eternal One. For God will show your splendor to all under the heavens; you will be named by God forever: the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship. Rise up, Jerusalem! Stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children gathered from east to west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God. Led away on foot by their enemies they left you: but God will bring them back to you carried high in glory as on royal thrones. For God has commanded that every lofty mountain and the age-old hills be made low, that the valleys be filled to make level ground, that Israel may advance securely in the glory of God. The forests and every kind of fragrant tree have overshadowed Israel at God’s command; for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with the mercy and justice that are his.
Before the time of Christ again?
The New Year of 2019 will be greeted with many expectations and fireworks, while the start of the new church year will be comparatively quiet. Are we expecting someone?
Should we roll out the red carpet for the “righteous shoot” Jeremiah talks about, or for the Son of Man arriving on a cloud? Are we maybe taken back to the waiting room, to the time before Christ’s arrival? Advent does not mean future arrival, but presence. Benedict XVI reminded us: What, or who, we are expecting is already present, for example in the great saints. Paul says it like this: “You received from us how you should conduct yourselves to please God.” Then we have adventus medius, not in the future, not in the past, but in the present. ars
May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Finally, brothers, we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves to please God—and as you are conducting yourselves—you do so even more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. This was Jesus of Nazareth’s concept of man in the language of the gospel of John. 1200 years later the theologian Thomas Aquinas concluded from this: Any truth, no matter who speaks it, comes from the Holy Spirit.
Does this not appropriate the searchers for truth, the defenders of justice and human rights activists and turn them into anonymous Christians? No. The question of truth lifts the biblical faith out of the world of religions. Faith no longer means: Being a specialist in religious matters. Having antennas for the otherworldly. Listening to your inner self and wanting to find the mysteries of the world there. The faithful are connected to all searchers for truth though the questions: What is right? What corresponds to reality? What really helps? Jesus’ word indicates an alliance with reason. acb
So Pilate said to Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
The Messiah waits
“He is seated at the right hand of God”, it says in the Apostles’ Creed. The Letter to the Hebrews specifies this: “He took his seat forever at the right hand of God; now he waits”. The Messiah waits?
He waits for his once-for-all act to have its effect. The entire history of Israel has come to a head in the existence of the Messiah Jesus. He did not spare his life and through this he created a breach in the wall of hatred towards him and his people. Thus, it is permanently made possible for everyone to implement a new way of life. hak
Every priest stands daily at his ministry, offering frequently those same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But this one offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God; now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool. For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated. Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is no longer offering for sin.