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As [the disciples] were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, "Peace to you!" But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.


Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high."(ESV)

Knowing Ignorance

Easter Tuesday

22 April 2014

How anxiously the preacher prays for his catechumens. How deeply he desires that they should share with Christ the baptismal waters. How desperately he wants them to taste and see that the Lord is good, eating of that body and blood that give life together with those who have been admitted to the banqueting table of the Lord Jesus. Sometimes he seems to be harassing them with the certainty of God's grace, "You will receive the sacrament of baptism." He pleads with them not to receive the grace of God in vain. He cannot conceive of any other way of life, but the life of those who are fed and nourished on the flesh of the Son of God. For him any other way of life is the way of death. He really believes this. No wonder he is anxious for the life of the catechumens, those who hear so as to be instructed.


Christianity is not just theoretical knowledge. So it is that learning the faith is one thing and being in it is entirely another. I met a man who claimed to know the faith, yet confessed not to believe it. Certainly, there are people teaching the faith at schools of theology who are not themselves believers. Christianity could become one among many interesting academic disciplines; something to be known and mastered. But Christianity is not to be mastered, but must master us; for there is but only Lord and Master: Christ. Christianity is nothing if not a practice, a life, a way of ordering all things to the faith of Christ. Perhaps the worst ignorance of all is the one that claims to know far too much. It exclaims impatiently, "Oh, yes, yes, I know the faith. I just choose not to believe it." Such an ignorance stands back from the risk of life with all of its dangerous commitments and is afraid to leap into the arms of God. The preacher can only feel an anguished sorrow for such a one, who thinks he knows it all and yet is so ignorant as not to believe it. This is an ignorance not of the mind but the far worse ignorance of the heart.


The preacher has no skills at his disposal and no power of persuasion beyond the words themselves. For the Word carries all its own power. He teaches what the Lord Jesus wants taught, but that is no guarantee that it is caught. In the unveiling of this life, there is an unveiling of a death. In this enlightenment, there is darkness. In this seeing, there is blindness. In this order, there is a chaos. Humans have not the capacity to see that which cannot be seen. The seeing must come from elsewhere. Socrates said, "When I think I know, that is when I know nothing." It is true that the deeper we go into this faith, the less we know, the more we must depend not on our knowing, but being known. The Lord Himself seeks those who know but are not known by Him because He wants so much more for them. He rescues them from their knowing ignorance by plunging them into the baptized life.


Augustine of Hippo


"When the holy Gospel was being read, we heard the Lord Jesus Christ exhort us by the promise of eternal life to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Whoever heard these words, you have not all as yet understood them. For those of you who have been baptized and the faithful do know what He meant. But those among you who are yet called Catechumens, or Hearers, could be hearers, when it was being read, could you be understanders too? Accordingly, our discourse is directed to both. Let them who already eat the flesh of the Lord and drink His blood, think what it is they eat and drink, lest, as the Apostle says, 'anyone eats and drinks judgment on himself'(1Co 11:29).


"Those who do not yet eat and drink, let them hurry when invited to such a banquet. Throughout the [Lenten] days the teachers feed you. Christ daily feeds you. His table is ever ordered before you. What is the reason? O hearers, you see the table and come not to the banquet? And why, just now when the Gospel was being read, did you say in your hearts, 'We are wondering what it is when He said, "For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink"(Jn 6:55). How is the flesh of the Lord eaten and the blood of the Lord drunk? We are thinking about what He said.' Who has closed it against you, that you know this? There is a veil over it. But if you will, the veil shall be taken away. Come to the [baptismal] profession, and you have resolved the difficulty. For what the Lord Jesus said, the faithful know well already. But you are called a Catechumen, a Hearer, and yet are deaf. For the ears of the body you open, seeing that you hear the words which were spoken; but the ears of the heart you still closed, because you do not understand what was spoken. I plead, I do not discuss it. Easter is at hand. Submit your name for baptism. If the festival does not excite you, let the curiosity induce you, that you may know the meaning of, 'Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him' (Jn 6:56). That you may know with me what is meant by, 'Knock, and it will be opened to you' (Mt 7:7), I say to you, 'Knock, and it shall be opened to you,' so do I too knock, open to me. When I speak aloud to the ears, I knock at the breast."   


Augustine, Sermon on John 6

Almighty God, through the resurrection of Your Son You have secured peace for our troubled consciences. Grant us this peace evermore that trusting in the merit of Your Son we may come at last to the perfect peace of heaven; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. 


For Bud Obert, that the Lord Jesus would send guardian angels to his bedside


For all those suffering from poverty, that the Lord would watch over and care for them and bring His blessings to them


For all those who drive professionally, that the holy angels would watch over them and guide them in their travels 

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Resurrection (1515)

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