➊ The Living Situation Affects Carries Moral Judgements

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The Living Situation Affects Carries Moral Judgements

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But this is the covenant I will make I will put my law within them, No longer shall they teach one another Israel itself will simply do nothing, no confession or expiation of sins, no initiative to return to God. Two other characteristics of this new covenant are relevant. Ezek Jer Two antitheses underline the specific character of the new covenant in comparison with that made with the ancestors in the desert. The latter, written on stone, was violated by that and succeeding generations; the former is absolutely new because it will be inscribed upon the heart. Moreover, the teacher will be the LORD himself, no longer human mediators. In the middle of our text the covenant formula stands out, affirming that the LORD and his people belong to each other. This formula has not changed, it is still valid and constitutes the heart of the passage.

In sum, the new covenant has the same partners as the earlier covenant, the same duty to observe the Torah and the same relationship with the LORD. The concept of the new covenant does not imply any opposition between the New Testament and the Old, or between Christians and Jews cf. It does, however, mark a radical innovation in the history of the covenant. Through the pardon of their iniquity and the gift of the Holy Spirit the LORD now gives his people a natural disposition to live according to the Torah. For Christians this forgiveness is actualized in the saving death of Jesus for the remission of sins Mt The purpose of the Wisdom Books is to teach human beings righteous conduct; they therefore constitute an important manifestation of biblical morality.

Some of them are shaped more by human experience e. Proverbs and by reflections on the human condition, thus establishing a precious connection with the wisdom of other peoples, others have a closer association with the Covenant and the Torah. Qoheleth belongs to the first group, Ben Sirach to the second. As examples we shall discuss these two books. Qoheleth forms part of the wisdom movement. It is characterized by its critical approach.

Qoheleth uses it to describe all the phenomena of human life. People live in a world over which they have no control, a world full of inconsistencies, of contradictions. Nothing that can be obtained in this world has an enduring value: wisdom, richness, pleasure, labour, youth, life itself. People may or may not receive what they deserve. Everything yields to the spectre of death, the only inevitable factor of life which no one can escape. Notwithstanding the inconsistencies and vicissitudes of life, human beings must accept their proper role in relation to God. Against the attempts and efforts of humans to overcome and to understand life, Qoheleth offers the realistic alternative of facing the fact that no control is possible, and of letting things run their own course.

Only so can we hope to find joy and satisfaction in all we do. Seven times Qoheleth advises people always to rejoice when an opportunity presents itself 2. Nowhere, however, is a hedonistic way of life recommended. The author points out certain scandals and abuses inherent in the monarchical system: the case of an aging king who becomes dictatorial and autocratic 4. He further denounces anti-social ways of behaving: envy and competitiveness 4.

In short, in this wisdom book, in many respects strikingly modern, we find a mine of useful reflections capable of inspiring a balanced way of life on both the personal and the collective level. Sirach views wisdom not as only associated with human experience and deriving from God but also as intimately connected with the history of salvation and with the Torah of Moses In this book both realities, revelation and experience, are combined and integrated without eliminating each other.

The book is mostly a collection of various instructions, exhortations and maxims referring to the whole gamut of themes regarding a life of virtue and ethical conduct. There are duties towards God, domestic duties, social obligations and responsibilities, virtues to be practised and vices to be avoided for the formation of moral character. For the author wisdom and fear of the Lord are practically synonymous and they manifest themselves in obedience to the Law of Moses Wisdom is also at work in developing family relationships: duties of children towards their parents 3.

Wisdom also develops various aspects of social living: the distinction between true and false friends 6. For wisdom there is no area of life that is not worthy of attention. Everyday life is full of innumerable situations that require special approaches, of decisions and actions not controlled by general legislation. It is with this area that traditional wisdom is concerned. Sirach combines personal experience and traditional wisdom with divine revelation in the Torah, with liturgical practice and with personal devotion. The sages contemplate the world God created in all its beauty, order and harmony. These reveal something about their Creator. Through wisdom Israel meets her Lord in a living relationship open also to other peoples.

This term does not occur frequently in the New Testament. We shall now examine in the main writings of the New Testament how the gift God granted in his Son Jesus Christ manifests itself, and its consequent orientations for morality. Jesus made the Kingdom of God a central metaphor for his earthly ministry, conferring upon it an added intensity, expressed through the qualities of his teaching and of his mission. Understood as the equivalent of the presence of God himself who comes to conquer evil and transform the world, the kingdom of God is pure grace, discovered like a treasure hidden in a field or like a pearl of great value ready to be bought Mt At the root of this term lies the conviction, basic to biblical faith, that God is the sovereign Lord, an idea acclaimed in the Psalms and in other books of the Bible cf.

Pss Though not a common or a prevalent theme, the ardent wish for the coming kingdom was present in post-exilic Israel in the form of the desire for the coming of God to remove the threats and injustices experienced by the people. Some sayings and parables of Jesus describe the kingdom as a future event not yet realized. The beatitudes themselves, with their promise of a future blessing and justification, present the kingdom as an event yet to occur.

At the same time there are certain kingdom sayings of Jesus that speak of it as something in some way already present. The well-known logion in Lk This carries important implications for Christian morality. The future reality of the kingdom invades and determines the present situation. Hence values and virtues that conform us with the will of God, to be fully affirmed and revealed in the future kingdom of God, must be practised now as far as possible in the sinful and imperfect circumstances of the present life, as the parables of the net and of the wheat and weed teach cf.

Mt This reflects the essentially eschatological dimension of Christian life and ethics. Jesus not only proclaims the nearness of the kingdom of God Mt 4. The kingdom of God does not come with the usual manifestations of royalty. It can be discovered only in Jesus and his mission, and in the characteristic virtues of which he offers an example during his ministry. In the actions of Jesus, referred to above Mt Rev In an episode related by all three Synoptics Jesus presents his mission to sinners as an essential part of the mission with which God has entrusted him Mt 9. Jesus forgives the sins of a paralytic who, with great faith and no less effort, is brought to him, thus provoking deep indignation among some scribes.

It is only after this that he heals the paralytic with his word and interprets the healing itself as a confirmation of his power to forgive sins. For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners. As Son of God Jesus receives from the Father an exclusive knowledge of God as Father; he has also received the exclusive commitment to reveal, that is to make known, God as Father. In this way the promise in Jer These distinctive traits of the new covenant in Jer Jesus as Son knows the Father in a complete and exclusive manner and lives in the most intimate communion with God. This unique relationship with God underlies his principal tasks. His activity also shows the way in which God communicates his definitive gift and fulfils his promise of the new covenant.

This is the model for all action in his Spirit and for walking in the way of God. He proclaims the nearness of the kingdom of God, to be heard and accepted through conversion and faith. Acting in this way, Jesus reveals at the same time the norms of righteous human behaviour. We shall present some aspects:. Jesus manifests his authority to show the right way for human conduct specifically by the call of the disciples.

The path traced by Jesus is not presented as an authoritative norm imposed externally. Jesus himself walks along it and asks no more of the disciples than to follow his example. Moreover, his relations with the disciples do not consist in dry and disinterested lecturing. In this communion of life with him they learn from Jesus the way of right conduct, they partake of his Spirit and walk along with him.

The relationship of Jesus with his disciples is not something limited in time, it is a model for all generations. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. A whole list of fundamental virtues and dispositions is to be found in the beatitudes. The beatitudes belong to a literary genre used in the Old Testament and other parts of the New Testament. They attribute joy and happiness to certain persons and dispositions, often in connection with a promise of future blessing. In Matthew 5. Then come the afflicted who do not turn in upon themselves but compassionately participate in the necessities and sufferings of others.

Next come the meek who do not use violence but respect their neighbours just as they are. The merciful offer active help to the needy cf. The pure in heart seek the will of God with integral and undivided commitment. The peacemakers do everything in their power to maintain and re-establish love-inspired fellowship among human beings. These virtues and dispositions correspond to the teaching of Jesus in all the gospels and also reflect the behaviour of Jesus himself. For this reason following Jesus faithfully leads to a life animated by these virtues. Therefore the beatitudes constitute one of the most compact and explicit revelations about God that is to be found in the gospels.

Poverty in spirit or fidelity under persecution do not stand as obligations on their own. We cannot of course mention all models of conduct that appear in the actions and teaching of Jesus. Most of all discipleship of Jesus implies determination not to be served, but to serve. The service of Jesus is limitless and includes the sacrifice of his life. For this reason the invitation to discipleship does not mean following Jesus only in his actions, in his style of life and in his ministry; it includes the invitation to participate in his suffering and in his cross, to accept persecution, even to die a violent death.

From his very first coming the Son is moved by the desire to enter into a relationship with humanity, to help it overcome its solitude; it needs him, perhaps even unconsciously. Accepting his coming brings salvation. The manifesto of this transformation can be seen in the dialogue with Nicodemus Jn 3. The newness Jesus brings is the fruit of a gratuitous gift that begs to be accepted; those who refuse it are guilty and place themselves outside the order of salvation. The literary structure of the miracle-story is itself significant. Each story begins with a situation of need, fear and danger, more often of suffering, which is later overcome.

Jesus makes the transition from a wedding at which wine is lacking to a feast where wine flows in abundance 2. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. In these sayings Jesus discloses what God the Father has given to humanity in the person of the Son. Jesus is bread, light, gate, shepherd, resurrection and life, way, truth and life, and vine. At the same time he shows what people should do to draw benefit from the gifts his presence brings: come to him, believe in him, follow him and remain in him. He also reveals the gifts he grants: life, deliverance from darkness to confident sight, triumph over death by resurrection, knowledge of the Father and full communion with him.

Though the terms may differ, they express the gifts of the new covenant, the knowledge of God light, truth , the law gate, shepherd, way , and the ensuing fruit, life. All this is present in the person of Jesus and is granted by him integrally and organically, as symbolized by the relationship between vine and branches. Confronted by the appearance of the Son of God in history human beings are invited to express their total acceptance and open themselves to salvation. Acceptance is expressed by means of a total life-commitment. He says whatever the Father has commanded him to say This is especially true of his will to serve cf.

The high point of imitation is the mission undertaken by disciples in imitation of Jesus Faith goes hand in hand with love of brothers and sisters. The Father loves Jesus, Jesus loves the disciples, the disciples must love one another. This new reality has the power to become a sign Jn This love means commandment, instruction, Torah, as in all biblical ethics. The importance of the community corrects this impression; evil has a collective aspect cf. Jn The gift of the Son and its moral implications in the Pauline corpus and other Letters. For the apostle Paul moral life cannot be understood except as a generous response to love and to the gift God gave us. God, who wants to make us his sons and daughters, sent his Son and put into our hearts the Spirit of his Son crying Abba, Father Gal 4.

Eph 1. Gal 5. Believers are therefore invited to render ceaseless thanks to God 1 Thess 5. In his writings Paul insists on the fact that the moral conduct of believers is a consequence of the grace of God which has justified them and enables them to persevere. Because God has pardoned and justified us he accepts our moral conduct as a witness to the salvation operative within us. He founds his counsels and exhortations on the experience made of Christ and of the Spirit without external impositions. He puts a distance between the problems and his answers.

He takes up the great trends of his gospel e. Rom 1—8 , shows how his readers should develop their understanding of the gospel, and only then does he proceed to formulate his counsels regarding the various difficulties encountered by these young Churches e. Rom 12— In this context another question arises. Has too broad a separation been created in the course of centuries between the moral imperatives presented to believers and their roots in the gospel? In any case it is important today to formulate anew the relationship between the norms and their theological motivations in order to achieve a better understanding of how the presentation of moral norms depends on the presentation of the Gospel.

For Paul the determining factor of moral activity is not an anthropological concept, that is, a certain idea of human nature and human dignity, but rather the relationship of individuals with Christ. But death to sin is death with Christ. We find here a first formulation of the Christological foundation of the moral conduct of believers, a foundation that is expressed as union but at the same time implies a separation; united to Christ believers are now separated from sin.

What is important is the assimilation of the journey of believers with that of Christ. In other words the principles of moral conduct are not abstract but derive from a relationship to Christ that has made us die to sin together with him. Moral conduct is founded directly on union with Christ and on the indwelling of the Spirit, from whom it comes and whose expression it is. Thus, basically this behaviour is not dictated by external norms, but derives from a strong relationship which, in the Spirit, unites believers with Christ and with God.

For the apostle this is more than a simple metaphor, it acquires a quasi-metaphysical status. Again, as Christians form the one body of Christ, the various charisms must be exercised in harmony, with mutual respect and love and with special attention to the more vulnerable members 1 Cor 12— Further, when celebrating the Eucharist Christians must not abuse or disregard the body of Christ by giving offence to the poorer members 1 Cor As the relationship with Christ is so fundamental for the moral conduct of believers Paul explains what their attitude towards the Lord should be.

This love is no inoperative sentiment. This relationship between believers and Christ profoundly conditions their own interrelationships. It is not right, for example, to exercise judgment over a slave who belongs to this Lord Rom The relationship in ancient society between master and slave is relativized 1 Cor 7. Col 4. Instead, it is appropriate for one who is a servant of the Lord, to serve out of love those who belong to this same Lord 2 Cor 4.

Eph 6. The right conduct that corresponds to these attitudes towards the Lord derives from his will, manifested in his words, and especially in his example. He indicates forcefully and with great clarity which actions are dangerous and exclude from the kingdom of God cf. Rom 1. More frequent are the references to the example of Christ, to be imitated and followed. He presents as a model the generosity of Christ, who made himself poor in order to make us rich 2 Cor 8. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Though Paul rarely asks believers for discernment, he indicates that all decisions are to be taken with discernment, as we can see at the beginning of the parenetic section of Romans Christians must use discernment, because the decisions to be taken are not always evident or clear. Discernment consists in examining, under the guidance of the Spirit, whatever is better and perfect in every circumstance cf. By urging believers to discern, the apostle makes them responsible and sensitive to the delicate voice of the Spirit within them.

The Letter of James takes for granted the saving work of Jesus, but is especially interested in the moral life of the members of the Christian community. The central theme of the letter is the true wisdom that comes from God 1. Both conceptions are illustrated in 3. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind, But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.

The wisdom from above, the moral teaching revealed from on high, is not human but divine. Human beings can only analyse it, enter into it more profoundly and put it into practice. It is an objective morality. Earthly wisdom is a permanent temptation in people who want to decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong. The letter is also a manifesto for social justice. Respect for the dignity of every human person is fundamental, especially that of the poor, who are particularly exposed to humiliation and contempt by the rich and powerful. This evidently takes up the defence of the poor undertaken by the prophets, Amos and Micah especially, but it also takes on a Christological dimension.

The dignity of the glorious Christ guarantees the dignity of every Christian redeemed by his blood, and excludes every kind of favouritism. James insists much on bridling the tongue 1. Teachers have a special responsibility within the Church cf.. Those with a strong and decisive influence on public opinion also have a similar responsibility. This letter speaks at length of Jesus Christ, of his passion and resurrection and of his future coming in glory. From this derives the true principles for Christian living. The first theme is baptism 1. Death to sin must be complete, just as is the consequent rebirth to new life. The same attentive participation in society may be seen in the rules regarding various relationships of life: state, family, marriage 2.

Beside these norms of conduct in a godless environment, exhortations also occur regarding life within the community. It should be marked by prayer, charity, hospitality and the exercise of every charism that helps the community. To bring us into a new relationship with himself, God chose his own Son as the perfect, ultimate and definitive mediator. The Son removed the obstacle that hindered a covenantal relationship and established the definitive covenant between God and ourselves. Christ, Son of God 1. The mystery of Christ embraces attachment to God and fraternal solidarity, two aspects of a new covenantal dispensation.

By what means? In He insists on the removal of faults: sins are remembered no longer The two most significant expressions that define this saving efficacy from the positive point of view are the gifts of holiness Therefore, the single offering of Christ has a double effect: it confers perfection both upon Christ and upon ourselves. In his passion and resurrection Christ was both passive and active, he received and effected perfection, that is, the perfect relationship with God, and at the same time he communicated it to us, or rather, he received perfection in order to impart it to us, thus establishing the new covenant.

This text contains two parts, the first is descriptive vv. It presents the new covenant above all as the amazing gift God has given us in Christ, and at the same time shows us three advantages this brings us: a right of entry, a way and a guide indicative. The second part makes known the demands and invites us to take up the three attitudes of faith, hope and charity; we must accept the gift of God actively imperative. The text presents by way of example the very close connection between the divine gift which precedes and the human obligations which follow, respectively indicative and imperative.

We are all invited to approach God and to enter into intimate contact with him. First of all a personal union with God is required. This is achieved by the practice of the three theological virtues since these are closely and directly related to the new covenant. The first condition for approaching God is adherence to him in faith through the priestly mediation of Christ. This refers to the sacrament of baptism in both its external rite and its internal efficacy. With these words the author points to the radical change from the old to the new covenant, a transition to a more interior covenant. The second condition required is hope Lastly, the author exhorts to love There is a very close relationship between covenant and love.

These verses invite us to be attentive towards one another in order to progress in an effective love which issues in the works of love. They also stress the need faithfully to attend meetings of the community. In many of his exhortations the author shows to those who have drawn near to God what their right conduct should be: they will have to bear persecution and sufferings, to remain firm in faith and patient in hope Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Christian worship is implemented principally through Christian living. In this same way Christians should praise God and serve their brothers and sisters. Through him and with him the entire life of Christians should consist in a transformation of their own life, living in obedience to God, and in a generous gift of themselves to their brothers and sisters. The starting-point of the covenant as the Book of Revelation presents it is the Sinaitic and Davidic covenants, understood and lived in the perspective of the new covenant announced by Jeremiah Jer The author, by passing continually backwards and forwards between the Old and the New Testaments shows their continuity.

The first explicit reference to the covenant which we meet in the Book of Revelation is in This occurs at the conclusion of the great festival of praise The accomplishment of the kingdom in the human world is solemnly signified by the appearance of the ark. This extension of the old formula of covenant comes as a surprise. The basic reference to the Christ-Lamb as bridegroom and to Jerusalem as spouse, taken up once more in Both covenant and kingdom are a gift of God and of Christ; this gift however, is brought into being in its two aspects through the co-operation of Christians themselves.

The latter two terms will be our starting point. By their baptism Christians, freed from their sins, belong exclusively to Christ who constitutes them as a kingdom cf. It is a developing kingdom, implying an ever closer union to Christ. It is toward this growing perfection that the exhortations to repentance in the first section of Revelation are directed chs. As we shall see in more detail further on, the Risen Christ, addressing the Church in the first person, delivers commands to improve, consolidate and convert her. All that the Risen Christ requires of each of the Churches in Asia Minor applies in a broader way to the Church in all ages.

The Church develops her union to Christ in the measure that she accepts this message, thus becoming ever more a kingdom, ever more able to follow the Christ-Lamb and act accordingly. Christians, made into a kingdom, are thereby qualified as priests cf. The song in 5. It is Christ as Lamb who constitutes Christians priests. This unusual title also 1 Pt 2. The active mediation of Christians is exercised in the actual course of history, in which the confrontation between good and evil unfolds, between the system of Christ and the worldly systems opposed to the kingdom and the covenant and activated by the power of evil.

In association with the victory that Christ, present and active in human history, is even now gaining, the activity of the Christian will similarly obtain victory over evil. Christians exclude from the framework of their existence all negative decisions that counter, or contradict, or threaten, the kingdom in its initial stages. This moral tension of bringing the kingdom to perfection, combined with the permanent conversion which this implies will preserve Christians from regressing.

The engagement of Christians as conquerors, in the sense of their participation in the victory which Christ is gaining over the worldly structures opposed to the covenant, will inspire them to take a whole chain of initiatives. The first of these is prayer, to which Revelation attributes a decisive role in building up the kingdom of God. United with the prayers of the martyrs cf. In Revelation prayer comprises both individual praise and choral celebration.

It often takes the form of a passionate petition, such as might be expected from a Christian, who, attentive to the developments of history, sees what is lacking in the areas of morality and the kingdom. Christians will emerge as victors with Christ, through his power. They will achieve this by their word, but above all by their life, which they are ready to offer as a gift cf. For the Book of Revelation the Christian is always a potential martyr.

At the prompting of the Spirit, Christians may also assume the properly prophetic role of denouncing the worldly systems which they encounter. The Book of Revelation traces the main qualities of a prophet cf. They may even be required to follow Christ unto the end, thus making the paschal event their own. They may be martyred, but even after their death will exercise a decisive impact on history. This denotes all those initiatives of justice with which the saints enrich history by their activities. All these deeds of righteousness contribute towards the development of the kingdom, at the same time have a decisive effect on the outline of the covenant.

From the very first section of Revelation we find, together with the insistence on the formation of a kingdom, a persistent emphasis on the interpretation of history. History must be read with one eye on the religious principles and values which God has revealed and continues to reveal, and the other on concrete events. A reading of these events within the framework of the religious values and principles which throw light on them conveys an interpretation belonging to the wisdom genre.

Indeed, the Book of Revelation gives this name both to the wisdom by which God and the Christ-Lamb guide the evolution of history cf. It is the purpose also of the symbolic scenes expressing the great religious principles, intended to illustrate and illuminate the most varied historical situations. Their interpretation and application opens the way to a sapiential reading of day-to-day history. In the light of such a view of history Christians apply their prayers, their witness, their prophecy and other initiatives suggested for each occasion to a sapiential reading of events.

In this way the Christian will contribute to the eventual accomplishment of the kingdom, and will grow in that reciprocated love of Christ which is a feature of the covenant. Covenant and kingdom correspond to each other, running through history on converging lines until they finally meet. The expression of this situation in interpersonal terms is the reciprocity of the realized covenant, experienced as love. As we said above, the aim of a new covenant is developed by the prophet Jeremiah Jeremiah, however, does not indicate the means by which God will produce this interior transformation. The Synoptics and Paul do indicate the means by which God actually brings about the internal transformation announced by Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

Jesus, the Suffering Servant of God Lk Ex When he gave the Eucharist to the Church Jesus gave himself, thus defining the meaning of his passion and resurrection. He has transformed death, that human event which effects total disintegration, into a most potent instrument of unity. In the Last Supper, however, Jesus gives a completely opposite meaning to his violent death; he makes it the occasion and the basis of his ultimate act of love, an instrument of communion with God and his brothers and sisters, through which he establishes the definitive covenant. He is offered up as life-giving nourishment. This sacramental gesture expresses in a special way the effectiveness of the sacrifice on the community. Jesus transforms himself into food and drink for every individual cf.

John 6. Therefore his sacrifice not only makes him pleasing to God but the very way in which it is signified and achieved manifests also how it benefits us; it puts us in an intimate communion with Jesus, and through him with God. It is not limited to a privileged group but brings into reciprocal communion all those who are invited. This profound reality of the Supper of the Lord made such an impression on the faith of Christians that Paul himself, who always respects the duality of the Eucharistic elements 1Cor This one body is the Church. The Eucharist is entirely a gift, the gift par excellence.

In it Jesus gives himself, his own person. He gives his body that was given up and his blood that was shed; this means that he gives himself in the supreme act of his life, precisely when he laid down his life in perfect dedication to God and in complete commitment to the human race. Jesus gives himself in the bread and in the wine as food and drink, signifying the intrinsic change which is a feature of the new covenant Jer Through this Eucharistic union we enter simultaneously in the closest communion with both God and one another.

It is impossible to combine this profound and vital union with Jesus with conduct towards God and other people which obviously contrasts with the conduct of Jesus himself. Faced by the inappropriate conduct of the Corinthians even at the Eucharistic celebration Paul reflects on the nature and on the meaning of the Eucharist itself, and develops the criteria for right conduct.

The way he indicates centres no longer on law or letter, it is a person, an act, a spirit, all realized and present in Jesus. It would be incoherent and contradictory to receive this total gift of Christ in the sacrament and unite oneself intimately with his person and with his body, that is, with all other members of the Christian community, and at the same time to separate oneself from them, by despising them and refusing to share with them the life and goods of the community. It has a moral dimension that touches on daily living. They did not abuse the Eucharist in the sense of profaning it by failing to treat it as a sacred reality. By means of this link established between the Eucharist and moral conduct the Pauline text brings out its continuity with numerous passages in the Old Testament that insist on the relationship between worship and morality Cf.

Because of the defects which exist in the community, the Eucharist will always be a stimulus not to rest content with this situation. In the very first Eucharist, too, celebrated by Jesus himself, he felt constrained to reprove the defects of his followers. Unless there is obstinate resistance on the part of individuals or the community, participation in the Eucharist will always be a strong call to conversion and the best means to give new vitality to the covenant which renews the life and the conduct of the Church, and through the Church, of the world.

In the Eucharist Jesus gives himself to the community of those who take part in his own supreme event, in his total dedication to God and in his unlimited commitment to sinful humanity. Such a gift requires, from free beings, an active acceptance, an adaptation of self to the Spirit of Jesus, a mode of conduct in the Spirit. The ongoing challenge to open ourselves to the Spirit of Jesus is always with us, to allow him to determine our actions and to follow him. The Spirit, living in Jesus and communicated by him especially through the gift of the Eucharist, becomes a dynamic reality within the hearts of Christians, provided they do not resist its activity. They have preferred the old privileges and class-division to the Spirit of Christ, a Spirit of love and solidarity, thus coming to despise those who possess nothing 1 Cor The presence and the interior dynamism of the Spirit does not dispense Christians from their own decisions and vigorous efforts.

In completing his work of redemption, Jesus himself, who possesses and gives the Spirit, was not exempt from an arduous struggle. His example should inspire those who become partakers of the new covenant in his blood. Such a gift also comports an invitation to accept it, for it implicitly shows us the right way to receive it and it renders us capable of a fitting response. In our description of revealed morality we made a point of showing that God accompanies his gifts with the revelation of the right path to be followed and of the fitting manner of accepting them. The Bible itself witnesses to the fact, however, that from the very beginning, human beings did not do justice to the gift of God, refusing to walk the way indicated by God and preferring their own false ways.

This takes place in the whole of human history, in every generation up to the crucifixion of the Son of God, the rejection of his missionaries and the persecution of believers. Does God make the offer only once? Do those who do not accept it in the right manner lose it for ever and inexorably perish in their rebellion, separated from God, the source of life? God does not act as judge and as implacable vindicator, but takes pity on his fallen creatures. He invites them to repent, to do penance, and he forgives their faults.

It is a fundamental and decisive feature of revealed morality that it does not consist in a rigid and inflexible moralism. Its guarantor is a God who is full of mercy, who wishes not the death of the sinner, but that he turn and live Ezek The range of rich and expressive terms used of sin and forgiveness as well as the elaborate ritual of expiation point to the same reality.

However, it is not easy to express in our modern categories the anthropological and theological dimensions of the process by which the relationship between God and his people is restored. As a starting-point two concepts are fundamental. Firstly, fault and pardon are not merely matters of juridically imputing and condoning debts. On the contrary, they are factual realities.

Evil deeds produce cosmic distortion. They go against the order of creation, and balance can be regained only through actions that restore the world order. God is not a dour creditor intent on putting his accounts in order, but a benevolent Creator who restores human beings to their pristine condition of being loved by him, and mends the damage inflicted on the cosmos. These two premises contrast with the merely juridical categories of sin and forgiveness prevalent in our culture. The Book of Leviticus presents the legislation regarding the cult, with its various offerings corresponding to the different categories of sins and impurities Lev 4—7. The major rite is, of course, the ritual on the day of atonement, when the goat for the LORD is offered in sacrifice for the sins of the people and the goat for Azazel is sent out into the desert to carry away with it the iniquities of Israel Lev The law about this ritual is to be found exactly in the centre of the five books of Moses and determines the principal cultic activity instituted to ensure the presence of the LORD among his people in the tent in the desert cf.

Gen 9. It is against the background of this priestly teaching that many statements found throughout the Old Testament, about reconciliation between human beings and God, are to be understood. It is exclusively the Lord who forgives sins Ps His mercy embraces all Israel Ezek It is always offered to Israel Is Lastly his pardon ends every punishment Is The New Testament writings all agree on the central truth that God granted his pardon through the person and work of Jesus. We shall expound this message in some detail as it is found in Matthew, then more briefly in some of the other New Testament writings. Here the gift of salvation is specified as the forgiveness of sins. In Ps From now on God acts and pardons sins through the person of Jesus.

The coming and the mission of Jesus have forgiveness as their focus and attest unambiguously that it is God who forgives. Jesus frees from sin, he removes that which separates us from God and at the same time renews communion with God. In his meeting with a paralytic Jesus explicitly accomplishes this mission of his. Some scribes who were present are aware of the gravity of the moment and in their hearts accuse Jesus of blasphemy, of having claimed for himself a divine prerogative. This incident is immediately followed by the call of the tax-collector 9. Here too, everything tends towards forgiveness, Jesus expresses this with the well-known words to the sick sinner, with the call to follow him and to the common meal, that it, to communion.

He thus reveals the manner in which he obtains the salvation of his people from their sins. By shedding his blood, sacrificing, that is, his own life, he establishes the new and definitive covenant and obtains pardon for sins cf. Heb 9, The actions Jesus requires of his disciples, eating his body and drinking his blood, are pledges of their union with him, and through him with God, a union that will be perfect and imperishable in the kingdom of the Father Mt 26, It is striking that at the beginning of these writings the mission of Jesus related to the forgiveness of sins is almost always emphasized. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and the word is not in us. It is faith in Jesus that renders forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God cf. Rom 5. Also the introductory paragraph of the Letter to the Hebrews describes the state of the Son through whom God has spoken in the last times Heb 1. In this way the letter emphasizes its principal theme from its very beginning. This unique and joyful feast finds its source in the fact that the sacrifice of Christ the Lamb is the ransoming and saving act par excellence that reconciles a lost humanity with God, draws it from death to life and brings it out of the darkness of despair into a joyful and radiant future in union with Jesus and with God.

Lastly we must recall the experience of the two principal apostles, Peter and Paul. Both experienced a serious failure. Peter three times denied that he knew Jesus at all and that he was his disciple Mt To both Peter 1 Cor Both experienced the decisive and vital meaning of forgiveness of a sinner. Aware of the danger of perdition they received reconciliation and became the main witnesses of divine forgiveness in the person of Jesus. Three sacraments are explicitly at the service of the remission of sins, baptism Acts 2,38; 22,16; Rom 61—11; Col 2,12—14 , the ministry of forgiveness Jn The final goal is presented in the New Testament as the ultimate stage of union with God which human beings are called to attain.

Of humans beings it requires the will to accept it and to place their moral conduct in this life within the horizon of the future fullness of life in their perfect union with God. Traces of this can be found in the whole range of New Testament writings, but eschatological union with God together with its acceptance on the part of human beings are developed chiefly by Paul and in the Book of Revelation.

In a synchronic reading of all the letters attributed to Paul, the apostle views the ultimate goal of human life as the result of a dynamism, put in motion by the first acceptance of the Gospel and baptism, that ends in union with Christ. Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in the newness of life. Participation in eternal life is already realized in the present. It accompanies the Christian in constant crescendo, along the development of earthly existence and reaches its fullness in its eschatological stage.

In this regard another aspect of this life which animates the Christian should be stressed, dependence on the Spirit, who implants within the believer the new life of Christ, makes it grow and leads it to its completion. How can we picture this completion? Paul offers some very important answers. He speaks, for example, of a life in incorruptibility, in glory, in power, of a spiritual body in place of our present pre-eschatological condition 1 Cor In our final state both faith and hope will disappear, but love, duly intensified, remains, and will colour the whole of our eschatological existence.

Divine life is most enlighteningly summed up as a participation in the resurrection of Christ in 1 Cor Then he presses forward into greater detail. This ultimate goal implies consequences for Christian conduct: first of all, the Christian must be aware of being, already in the present, a bearer of that life which will one day produce this blossom. Christ, through the new life he transmits, is already rising to new life in the believer. The Spirit which the believer possesses imparts life and gives that life its structure. Every increase in life, every growth in love constitutes a step forward in this direction.

The Christian must consequently keep this ultimate goal in view as an inspiring point of reference. Between the present state and the ultimate goal there exists an ever-increasing continuity of life. All growth tends towards the future kingdom which Christ hands over to the Father and of which Christ himself is part. Participation in the future kingdom however, is no empty reality but makes demands already in the present. It follows that, intent on the final goal, the Christian grows daily in life and in love, but must at the same time remain on guard against all those influences opposed to the kingdom that may lurk on the way. In the Book of Revelation the teaching on eschatological fulfilment, which receives particular attention, is presented in an original way.

This city is the New Jerusalem, and this change has two stages. In the first stage this city, still a betrothed bride, crosses the nuptial threshold Rev We reach the second stage. The author of the Book of Revelation expresses and stresses, with all the symbolic devices at his disposal, the new situation now created On her part, the betrothed, now wedded, is presented, heard and experienced as capable of a mutual and equal love in her relationship with Christ. He gives her stability, he builds her up to the dimensions of his love cf.

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