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Outcast 2 - A New Beginning


Certainly the Lord instituted his Sacrament in the context of a meal, more precisely that of the Jewish Passover supper, and so at the beginning it was also linked with a gathering for a meal. But the Lord had not ordered a repetition of the Passover supper, which constituted the framework. That was not his sacrament,his new gift. In any event, the Passover supper could only be celebrated once a year. The celebration of the Eucharist was therefore detached from the gathering for the supper to the degree that the detachment from the Law was beginning to take place, along with the passage to a Church of Jews and Gentiles, but above all, of Gentiles. The link with the supper was thus revealed as extrinsic, indeed, as the occasion for ambiguities and abuses, as Paul amply described in his First Letter to theCorinthians.




Outcast 2 - A New Beginning


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As a consequence, the Synod of 1985 sought a new beginning by focusing on the word "communion", which refers first of all to the Eucharistic centre of the Church, and so again returns to the understanding of the Church as the most intimate place of the encounter between Jesus and mankind, in his act of giving himself to us.


The Church is not born as a simple federation of communities. Her birth begins with the one bread, with the one Lord and from him from the beginning and everywhere, the one body which derives from the one bread. She becomes one not through a centralized government but through a common centre open to all, because it constantly draws its origin from a single Lord, who forms her by means of the one bread into one body. Because of this, her unity has a greater depth than that which any other human union could ever achieve. Precisely when the Eucharist is understood in the intimacy of the union of each person with the Lord, it becomes also a social sacrament to the highest degree.


First of all, the beloved figure of St Martin de Porres, who was born in 1569 in Lima, Peru, the son of an Afro-American mother and a Spanish nobleman. Martin lived from the adoration of the Lord present in the Eucharist, passing entire nights in prayer before the crucified Lord in the tabernacle, while during the day he tirelessly cared for the sick and assisted the socially outcast and despised, with whom he, as a mulatto,identified because of his origins. The encounter with the Lord, who gives himself to us from the cross, makes all of us members of the one body by means of the one bread, which when responded to fully moves us to serve the suffering, to care for the weak and the forgotten.


In our time, we can recall the person of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Wherever she opened the houses of her sisters to the service of the dying and outcast, the first thing she asked for was a place for the tabernacle, because she knew that only beginning from there, would come the strength for such service.


Christianity, from the one Lord, the one bread, which seeks to makeof us one body, has from the beginning aimed at the unification of humanity. If we, precisely at the moment when the exterior unification of humanity, previously unthinkable, becomes possible, withdraw ourselves as Christians, believing we cannot or should not give anything further, we would burden ourselves with a serious sin. In fact, a unity that is built without God or indeed against him, ends up like the experiment of Babylon: in total confusion and total destruction, in hatred and total chaos of all againstall.


Through them the Lord himself gives himself as spirit that gives life, to transform us men, so that we become one bread with him and then one body with him. The transformation of the gifts, which is only the continuation of the fundamental transformations of the cross and of the resurrection, is not the final point, but in its turn only a beginning.


The ritual of baptism was a reenactment of the new beginning that had been made after the Great Flood washed away a "corrupt world, filled with violence."[2] Noah and the other survivors began a new life after the earth emerged from beneath the waters of the Flood. In the same way, those who came to John were washing away the sins of the past, and when they emerged from the Jordan River they were ready to begin a new way of life.[3]


But when Jesus was baptized it did not symbolize repentance for past sins. His baptism signaled the new beginning for which John had been preparing the people. The Bible presents it as the moment when the Holy Spirit--the female Spirit of God--descended upon him in the form of a dove.[4]


This denigration and segregation of women extended to every area of their lives. They were considered ritually unclean every time they menstruated and every time they gave birth to a child. A man could become unclean by neglecting to follow established procedures that guaranteed ritual purity, but a woman was in the position of being unclean simply because she was a woman. And the state of ritual impurity meant that for the duration of the uncleanness, the person was to be treated as an outcast, as someone who must be shunned. To come in contact with such persons was to be defiled by them.[27]


Not only did ritual impurity make people unfit for human contact, it was also believed that they became outcasts in the eyes of God. The person in a state of ritual impurity was "considered hateful to God, and man is to take care in order not to find himself thus excluded from his divine presence."[28]


"And when the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came up trembling, and falling down before Him she declared in the presence of all the people for what reason she had touched him." She was trembling with fear because she had dared to touch a holy man when her condition rendered her outcast. Even if Jesus did not condemn her, the crowd she had contaminated was likely to turn on her. It was a terrible moment.


The story of the infant laid in the manger of a cave conjures up images of a sweet and comforting harmony, of a peaceful family scene, humble worship, and songs of angels. Yet this story stands at the beginning of all things and is also its end. It signifies God's final answer to our pleas of ever greater closeness and calls us to battle with the world. It is the story of a revolution and provides the measure for our lives as Christians. As such, it should rattle, not comfort us.


According to G.K. Chesterton in Everlasting Man, "it might be suggested, a somewhat violent image, that nothing had happened in that fold or crack in the great grey hills except that the whole universe had been turned inside out. I mean that all the eyes of wonder and worship which had been turned outwards to the largest thing were now turned inward to the smallest." To Chesterton, there was something "defiant" about the event, "something that makes the abrupt bells at midnight sound like the great guns of a battle that has just been won." Christ's birth in a cave signified an "undermining the world; of shaking the towers and palaces from below." In fact, Bethlehem was the place where the extremes of "omnipotence and impotence" met and created the ultimate paradox: "The hands that had made the sun and the stars were too small to reach the huge heads of the cattle." And God had become man "like an outcast or even an outlaw."


To Pope Benedict XVI, "the wise men from the East are the new beginning. They represent the journeying of humanity toward Christ. They initiate a procession that continues throughout history. Not only do they represent the people who have found the way to Christ: they represent the inner aspiration of the human spirit, the dynamism of religions and human reason toward him." (The Infancy Narratives, p. 97)


Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, 1. I wish before all else to express my deep gratitude to your Dean, Ambassador Giovanni Galassi, who has graciously offered greetings and good wishes in your name while at the same time pointing to a number of significant events in the life of our contemporaries, their hopes, their troubles and their fears. He has wished to underline the specific contribution of the Catholic Church on behalf of harmony between peoples and in support of their spiritual progress. I offer him heartfelt thanks. Was this century one of "brotherhood'? 2. Since we have just crossed the threshold of a new year, the Successor of the Apostle Peter strongly desires to offer to the peoples whom you represent his prayerful good wishes for this Year 2000 which so many have welcomed in "jubilation". Christians have entered into the Great Jubilee by commemorating the coming of Christ into time and human history: "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son", as we read in the Letter to the Hebrews (1: 1-2). To God who desired to make a covenant with the world which he continues to create, to love and to enlighten, I most heartily entrust each one's noblest aspirations and their fulfilment, without overlooking the tragic trials and setbacks which so often thwart humanity's march forward. With our contemporaries I praise God for so many beautiful and good things, and I invoke his forgiveness for so many attacks on human life and dignity, on fraternity and solidarity. May the Most High help us to conquer in us and around us every form of resistance, so that the season of men and women of good will may dawn or return, a season which the recent feast of Christmas has proposed to us with the freshness of new beginnings! These are my prayerful good wishes for all men and women, of all countries and of all generations. 3. The century just ended has seen remarkable advances in science which have considerably improved people's life and health. These advances have also contributed to our dominion over nature and made easier people's access to culture. Information technology has made the world smaller and brought us closer to one another. Never before were we so quickly informed about the daily events which affect the lives of our brothers and sisters in the human family. But one question can be asked: was this century also the century of "brotherhood"? Certainly an unqualified answer cannot be given. As the balance is made, the memory of bloody wars which have decimated millions of people and provoked massive exoduses, shameful genocides which haunt our memories, as well as the arms race which fostered mistrust and fear, terrorism and ethnic conflicts which annihilated peoples who had lived together in the same territory, all force us to be modest and in many cases to have a penitent spirit. The life sciences and biotechnology continue to find new fields of application, yet they also raise the problem of the limits imposed by the need to safeguard people's dignity, responsibility and safety. Globalization, which has profoundly transformed economic systems by creating unexpected possibilities of growth, has also resulted in many people being relegated to the side of the road: unemployment in the more developed countries and extreme poverty in too many countries of the southern hemisphere continue to hold millions of women and men back from progress and prosperity. 21st century calls for greater sense of responsibility 4. For this reason it seems to me that the century now beginning ought to be the century of solidarity. We know one thing today more than in the past: we will never be happy and at peace without one another, much less if some are against others. The humanitarian efforts deployed during recent conflicts and natural catastrophes inspired praiseworthy initiatives of volunteerism which reveal a greater sense of altruism, especially among the younger generation. The phenomenon of globalization has somewhat changed the role of States: citizens have become more and more involved, and the principle of subsidiarity has undoubtedly contributed to greater balance between the forces present within civil society; the citizen has become more a "partner" in the common effort. This means, it seems to me, that the men and women of the 21st century will be called to a more developed sense of responsibility. First, their personal responsibility, in fostering a sense of duty and honest labour: corruption, organized crime or passivity can never lead to a true and healthy democracy. But there must also be an equal sense of responsibility towards others: an attitude of concern for the poor, participation in structures of mutual assistance in the workplace and in the social sphere, respect for nature and the environment, all these are required if we are to have a world where people live together in a better way. Never again must there be separation between people! Never again must some be opposed to others! Everyone must live together, under God's watchful eyes! This also supposes that we must renounce idols such as prosperity at any price, material wealth as the only value, science as the sole explanation of reality. It also supposes that the rule of law will be applied and respected by everyone and in all places, so that individual liberties can be effectively guaranteed and equal opportunity become a reality for all people. It also supposes that God will have his rightful place in people's lives: the first place. In a world more than ever in search of meaning, Christians sense the call, as this century opens, to proclaim with greater fervour that Jesus is the Redeemer of mankind, and the Church senses the call to show herself to be the "sign and safeguard of the transcendence of the human person" (Vatican Council II, Gaudium et spes, n. 76). 5. Such solidarity calls for certain precise commitments. Some of these are quite urgent: The sharing of technology and prosperity. In the absence of an attitude of understanding and readiness to help, it would be difficult to restrain the frustration felt by certain countries which see themselves condemned to founder in ever more serious precariousness and at the same time to have to compete with other countries. I myself have brought up on a number of occasions, for example, the issue of the debt of poor countries. Respect for human rights. The legitimate aspirations of the most defenceless persons, the claims of ethnic minorities, the sufferings of all those whose beliefs or culture are in one way or another held in contempt are not merely optional issues to be dealt with as circumstances, or political or economic interests, dictate. Not to ensure these rights means quite simply to flout the dignity of persons and to endanger global stability. Conflict prevention would avoid situations difficult to resolve and would spare much suffering. Appropriate international means are not lacking; they need only to be used, carefully distinguishing, without opposition or separation, between politics, law and morality. Lastly, calm dialogue between cultures and religions could favour a new way of thinking and living. Despite their diverse mentalities and beliefs, the men and women of this millennium, in recalling the errors of the past, must find new ways of living together and respecting one another. Quality education, science and information represent the best means for developing in each of us respect for others, for their talents and beliefs, as well as a sense of universality worthy of man's spiritual vocation. This dialogue would also make it possible in the future to avoid arriving at an absurd situation: that of excluding or killing others in the name of God. This undoubtedly will be a decisive contribution to peace. A renewed commitment to human rights and dignity 6. In recent years there has been much talk of a "new world order". The persevering action of far-sighted diplomats, and of multilateral diplomacy in particular, has resulted in a number of praiseworthy initiatives aimed at the building of an authentic "community of nations". At present, for example, the Middle East Peace Process is continuing; the Chinese people are speaking to one another; the two Koreas are in dialogue; certain African countries are attempting to arrange meetings between rival factions; the government and armed groups in Colombia are trying to remain in contact. All this demonstrates a real desire to build a world based on brotherhood, in order to create, defend and spread peace all around us. Regrettably, however, we must also acknowledge that the errors of the past are all too often being repeated: I am thinking of reactions based on group identity, of persecutions inflicted for religious reasons, of the frequent and at times rash recourse to war, of social inequalities, of the gap between the rich and the poor countries, of the exclusive trust in profit alone, to cite only some typical traits of the century just ended. At the beginning of the year 2000, what do we see? Africa, shackled by ethnic conflicts which hold entire peoples hostage, impeding their economic and social progres