Another Christian Scandal
Christianity is Scandalous, and this week almost more than any other in the entire year. The media loves publishing news on scandals, on faithlessness, on how the historical jesus was a magician, or a prophet, or just some guy.
Yet, the perverse and intolerable scandal is not in these soundbytes and snippets of misinformation. The real scandal is that flesh and blood matter. The true scandal is that Christians believe in reincarnation, but into themselves more fully alive.
The Christian message of hope that we shall all be raised as we are, with bodies, with life flowing in every action, that’s the real scandal to a world drunk with gnosticism. That God crucified stands in the gap and gives us his life, as we finally and fully offer Him the possibility of death, this is what’s scandalous.
So we turn to the Church Fathers, to see historically where the Resurrection became so entrenched with this business of bodies and a resurrection.
St. Irenaeus, a Church Father from about 100 years after St. John the Apostle offers us some insight. From the earliest Christianity, life has always mattered, what we do here and now has been irreducibly important, that’s the real scandal.
That this creation is made to receive God, to be filled with Him, to be overflowing in His love and light, that’s the scandalous message that the God of the Hebrews makes known to the entire world in His act of suffering.
If our flesh is not saved, then the Lord has not redeemed us with his blood, the eucharistic chalice does not make us sharers in his blood, and the bread we break does not make us sharers in his body.
There can be no blood without veins, flesh and the rest of the human substance and this the Word of God actually became: it was with his own blood that he redeemed us.
As the Apostle says: In him, through his blood, we have been redeemed, our sins have been forgiven.
We are his members and we are nourished by creatures, which is his gift to us, for it is he who causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall.
He declared that the chalice, which comes from his creation, was his blood, and he makes it the nourishment of our blood.
He affirmed that the bread, which comes from his creation, was his body, and he makes it the nourishment of our body.
When the chalice we mix and the bread we bake receive the word of God, the eucharistic elements become the body and blood of Christ, by which our bodies live and grow.
How then can it be said that flesh belonging to the Lord’s own body and nourished by his body and blood is incapable of receiving God’s gift of eternal life?
Saint Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians that we are members of his body, of his flesh and bones. He is not speaking of some spiritual and incorporeal kind of man, for spirits do not have flesh and bones.
He is speaking of a real human body composed of flesh, sinews and bones nourished by the chalice of Christ’s blood and receiving growth from the bread which is his body.
The slip of a vine planted in the ground bears fruit at the proper time. The grain of wheat falls into the ground and decays only to be raised up again and multiplied by the Spirit of God who sustains all things.
The Wisdom of God places these things at the service of man and when they receive God’s word they become the eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ.
In the same way our bodies, which have been nourished by the eucharist, will be buried in the earth and will decay, but they will rise again at the appointed time for the Word of God will raise them up to the glory of God the Father.
Then the Father will clothe our mortal nature in immortality and freely endow our corruptible nature with incorruptibility, for God’s power is shown most perfectly in weakness.
-Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Adversus Haereses 5,2, 2-3: SC 153 30-38) (from the Office of Readings for Thursday of the Third week of Easter)
It is my conclusion that the most scandalous thing about Christianity is not the news hype, or the surface things that people draw attention to, but the deeper core. The Christianity calls all people to take responsibility for their actions, for reality, and to recognize that God enters history as a character within history is the real scandal. That God enters into history as man, and entrenches Himself with us, to redeem us, the make us as He is. That’s what should be causing headlines.