When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he established it as an act of thanksgiving.” —Fr. Michael Van Sloun, “The Eucharist as Thanksgiving,” The Catholic Spirit, November 20, 2018 (link)

    The Words of Institution are: ‘He took the bread, and giving thanks, broke it,’ and, ‘He took the chalice, and once more giving thanks, he gave it to his disciples’ (see Lk 22:19, 17 and 1 Cor 11:24). The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes this as ‘consecratory thanksgiving’ (No. 1346). The two substances, bread and wine, are signs of gratitude, as first seen when the priest Melchizedek offered bread and wine to thank God the Creator for the fruits of the earth (Gn 14:18-20).” —Ibid.

    The Greek word ‘eucharisteo‘ means ‘to give thanks.’—Ibid.

    The entire Mass is a prayer of thanksgiving… The priest says, ‘Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,’ and the congregation replies, ‘It is right and just.'” —Ibid.

    Letter #155, 2021, Wednesday, November 24: Thanksgiving

    I have a friend who is a few years older than I am.

    He has nicknamed me affectionately “the kid from Tompkinsville” and likewise has nicknamed himself “Dave Leonard.”

    My friend “Dave Leonard” has just sent me a little email in time for Thanksgiving.

    His letter touched me, so I thought I would share it with you.

    ***

    “Dave Leonard” was born into a Jewish family, and considers himself a Jew, though he converted to Catholicism in the 1970s. He regards faith in Jesus Christ as a treasure that enlivens, fulfills and completes his Judaism.

    ***

    Over the years, after I left Connecticut in the early 1980s to begin covering the Vatican and the Church (in 1984), Dave Leonard has been a friend and confidant, advising me as I faced different issues, puzzles, challenges and tests.

    In particular, “Dave” encouraged and advised me with regard to understanding the complex personality who was the late Chief Rabbi of Rome, Rabbi Eugenio Zolli (1881-1956). Born Israel Anton Zoller, Zolli changed his name to Eugenio in honor of Pope Pius XII (whose name before he became Pope in 1939 was Eugenio Pacelli) out of respect for a Pope he believed had acted wisely and courageously to protect thousands of members of the Jewish community of Rome during 1943 and 1944. (Zolli’s name no longer appears on the list of Rome’s rabbis because he converted to Catholicism in 1945.) Zolli’s daughter, Miriam, and his grand-daughter, Maura, became treasured friends of my late father and myself. Zolli’s writings have deeply moved and influenced me. (When Zolli died in 1956, he had almost no money.)

    ***

    The “kid from Tomkinsville” is a fictional baseball player named Roy Tucker. He is from Tomkinsville, Connecticut (where I am also from).

    In the 1930s, Roy makes it to the “Big Leagues” and plays with the Brooklyn Dodgers, taking the Dodgers to the pennant and into the World Series.

    (My friend “Dave Leonard” used to joke with me that, for a journalist, being “called up” to cover the Vatican was a bit like a baseball player being called up to the Major Leagues, so he thought my career was a bit like Roy Tucker’s…)

    Roy Tucker, “The Kid,” is helped and guided, during the magic, pennant-winning season, by his grizzled old coach: the veteran catcher Dave Leonard, who gives wise counsel to the young player and helps keep him steady enough to become, for a season, a great ballplayer…

    Here is a summary of the story of The Kid from Tomkinsville, by John R. Tunis, published in 1940 (link):

    The Kid from Tomkinsville is about a fictional character named Roy Tucker who is ‘the kid’ and lives in a small town in Connecticut. Roy Tucker started living with his grandmother after his parents died. He worked at the town’s corner store while he played local baseball trying to continue his baseball career. One day, Major League scouts came to watch another player on Roy’s team and Roy got attention from them so he ended up playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Roy was off to a fantastic rookie season until after a game some players were joking around in the showers and Roy hurt his arm. Roy Tucker’s rookie season is put on hold but this isn’t the worse thing that happened in his first season.

    “The manager of the Dodgers was killed in a car crash soon after Roy’s injury. The veteran catcher named Dave Leonard, who was cut during the season, becomes the manager of the team and turns the season around after a slump. Dave Leonard takes the Dodgers to the playoffs and the story ends when Roy makes a diving catch to make it to the world series…

    “The story makes you feel like you are right with Roy Tucker in his rookie season. The book makes a lot of baseball references and you may need some baseball knowledge to understand the full story. I especially enjoyed this book because of how realistic it was for a full season of baseball. There were a lot of ups and downs during the book and you never knew what was going to happen next. I thought it was great how the veteran Catcher Dave Leonard assisted Roy during the whole season and was always by his side…

    “But it is much more than a sports book. The Kid from Tompkinsville draws on the experiences of real athletes… It captures all of what baseball is about — being a rookie and learning the ropes, following (or ignoring) what the press has to say about the players and the teams, getting through injuries and batting slumps, experiencing different styles of leadership, winning and losing, and learning from mistakes. It really captures baseball at its best and the way it was meant to be.”    

    A bit like covering the Vatican over many years under different pontiffs… —RM   

Time and Eternity

by Dave Leonard

     (Dave Leonard is the pseudonym of a long-time friend of Robert Moynihan. Leonard was the wise coach of “The Kid from Tomkinsville,” a fictional young baseball player who was called up from Connecticut to the “Big Leagues” — the Major Leagues of baseball — and then led his team to the league pennant and into the world championship series; the book, by John R. Tunis, was first published in 1940)

    Dear Roy, aka “The Kid,”

    Time passes; and the Word remains.

    Saint John Paul II published Tertio Millennio Adveniente with the five-year program to prepare for the Third Millennium of Christianity.

    We observed all the details of the program while we introduced our boys to Roy Tucker and Dave Leonard.

    I hoped to join John Paul II in Nazareth on March 25 of the Great Jubilee in the year 2000.

    Yes, John Paul II was emphatic: the Third Millennium of Christianity began in Nazareth on March 25, 2,000 years after Miriam said “Fiat!” Let it be done to me according to thy Word.

    As you and I approached the feared Y2K and the Great Jubilee, you and your father and I were together for a life-changing Novena in Rome in March 1999 around the Solemnity of Joseph and the Annunciation.

    We went to see Miriam just before she died, and we visited with Maura and prayed with her on the bridge beside the Jewish Synagogue. [The bridge to the Isola Tibertina.]

    Even though the Swiss Guard scandal of the time distracted us [the terrible murder in the Swiss Guard barracks of Swiss Guard Commandant Alois Estermann and his wife, Gladys, on May 4, 1988, which I was attempting even 10 months after the fact to understand more fully], we were able to give much of our attention to Eugenio Zolli and Eugenio Pacelli.

    Today, I pray that we might harvest some of the fruit of their sacrifices.

    For the past two millennia, some Jews who professed their Faith in Jesus of Nazareth have felt like “fish out of water”: do they remain Jewish? Or do they leave Judaism and become Catholic?

    Personally, I did not dwell on this question.

    In God’s mystery of divine providence, when I became a Catholic, I knew that I had found the fullness of Judaism in the Catholic Church.

    When I read what Eugenio Zolli said confirming my gut feeling, it was a great consolation. I quickly realized that very few Jews or Catholics understood this simple fact. Zolli was attacked by both Jews and Catholics when he was Baptized. By 1999, we recognized the great courage and Faith displayed in two profound statements of John Paul II.

    When the Pope appointed Bishop Lustiger [Jean-Marie Lustiger, 1926-2007] as Archbishop of Paris [in 1981] and then made him a Cardinal [in 1983], many leading theologians objected because Lustiger proclaimed that he was still Jewish, he was living Judaism as a Catholic priest.

    People said Lustiger was crazy and should not become a Cardinal!

    Then, the Pope announced the canonization of Edith Stein as a Christian Martyr and again was attacked with the same narrow-minded blindness: one cannot be Jewish and Catholic, a person must choose one or the other, they argued.

    God bless Saint John Paul II who remained firm: Lustiger became a Cardinal and Edith Stein is a Martyr Saint!

    With these two actions, the Pope said more about Catholic-Jewish relations than any other “magisterial” teaching or document!

    We are still praying for Eugenio Zolli and Eugenio Pacelli to be honored for their courage in proclaiming our Catholic Faith.

    Since those events of 1999, we have been distracted by many, many scandals, questions and threats.

    Let’s take a breath and recall Saint John Paul II‘s message of the Great Jubilee: March 25, 2000, marks the 2000th anniversary of the Incarnation! We profess that Jesus of Nazareth lived on earth about 33 years, was crucified, died, was buried, rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven from where He sent the Holy Spirit on Pentecost — 33 (or 34) years after the Incarnation.

    Christian tradition speaks of the Church “recapitulating” the Life of Christ. Events in the world today have escalated beyond imagination. Jesus admonishes us to “learn a lesson from the fig tree…”

    Today, it is prudent and responsible to observe the “signs.” Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.

    Sin certainly abounds: we observe the response of the Holy Spirit (as published in the Nov-Dec 2021 issue of Inside the Vatican) making Joseph known today.

    God creates human life in Marriage-and-Family, and redeems human life in Marriage-and-Family.

    Marriage-and-Family are under attack as never before and the Holy Spirit is revealing the role of the Holy Family of Nazareth in Salvation!

    What does the “fig tree” tell us today? Based on Saint John Paul II‘s focus on the Great Jubilee, it is reasonable to speculate that the present order may continue for another 12 or 13 years [Note: he is calculating from 2000 to 2033] only God the Father knows the exact day or hour!

    If the Church recapitulates the Life of Christ, we might speculate that the Church has another 12 to 13 years before She must undergo Calvary, the empty tomb and Ascension!

    Like the frog in the pot of water gradually being heated, we are now in a “pot of boiling water.” Are we prepared to remain in this pot another 12 or 13 years? One fears it will only get hotter!

    God has already won the victory. Viva Christo Rey!

    Pray – for the sake of the elect – that these days will be Mercifully shortened.

    I flew into Rome in May 2003 and met you in the airport as you were leaving. You said you hoped we would be able to meet again, perhaps in an airport in several years. Roy, my dear friend, keep the Faith!

    In the Holy Family, I remain your old friend,

    Dave Leonard

Eternal Thanksgiving: Service and Suffering

By Dave Leonard, as a reflection on Thanksgiving

November 24, 2021

    During the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar, in union with every member of His Body, Christ the Head offers on Calvary, the only holy, acceptable, living, eternal Thanksgiving Sacrifice for our Salvation, and we the Faithful enter into Holy Communion with Jesus, Mary-and-Joseph.

    Hermeneutic of Continuity

    Toda” is the Hebrew word for Thanksgiving: before the Apostles began using the Greek word, “eucharist,” they knew the one Holy Sacrifice as the Toda Sacrifice.

    The Toda Sacrifice is a Jewish Sacrifice: it is the only Jewish Sacrifice still offered daily (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus; Feast of Faith, Ignatius Press, 1986; page 58). Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish man, daily offers this Jewish Toda Sacrifice on altars all over the world.

    A Jewish husband and wife – the Mother and human father of Jesus – initiate this one Holy Sacrifice when they offer their divine Son to God the Father in the Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:22-40); and, together as one on Calvary, Jesus and His Jewish Mother – still united in hearts, minds, and wills with Joseph – complete and perfect the only acceptable Sacrifice.

    The Church is our Family: Jesus is our Brother, Mary is our Mother, and Joseph is our human Holy Father in Faith. In every Mass, we offer the one Holy Jewish Sacrifice with our Holy Jewish Family.

    We cannot honestly receive the true and real human Flesh and Blood of our Lord and Savior and deny that it is Jewish Flesh and Blood; we cannot participate in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and deny that it is the only true Jewish Sacrifice! This is the “hermeneutic of continuity.”

    Judah-ism is never ruptured!

    Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger, wrote in German in 1981 (Feast of Faith, Ignatius Press English translation, 1986; pages 54-55): “The passion and resurrection of Jesus is toda. It is the real fulfillment of the words of the great Christological Psalms of the New Testament (69, 51, 40, and 22) at a new depth. Indeed, it is as if the words had been waiting for their profound fulfillment in Jesus, a fulfillment which surpasses every individual destiny, whether of death or of deliverance, and which also surpasses the merely collective destiny of Israel, expanding both individual and collective destinies into something far greater and hitherto unknown. (my emphasis)”

    Ratzinger (Pope Benedict) continues, “What is toda?” In the toda Sacrifice, a person “celebrates divine deliverance in a service of thanksgiving which marks an existential new start in his life” (page 55).

    The person “confesses (jd[h]) God to be his deliverer by celebrating a toda” (my emphasis).

    Here we discover the root of the literal meaning of Judah-ism.

    Toda” and “confesses” are Hebrew variations of the same word: to offer thanks; to praise; to confess.

    The name of the fourth son of Jacob/Israel is Judah (jd[h]): “[Leah] conceived and gave birth to a son and said: now I will praise the Lord. So, she called him Judah.” (Genesis 29:35) Judah, literally, means “one who confesses, praises, offers toda.”

    Judah-ism, in its most radical sense, refers to the universal religion of all who confess, praise, and offer thanksgiving to the God of Abraham.

    In recent centuries (perhaps millennia), humans have forgotten this original radical and true sense of Judaism.

    When we offer the Jewish Toda Sacrifice on the Altar (the Mass), are we not practicing true Judah-ism?

    Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict pointed to our answer in 1981 (English translation, 1986) when he said: “the words had been waiting for their profound fulfillment in Jesus… expanding both individual and collective destinies into something far greater and hitherto unknown.” (page 55 cited above; my emphasis)

    End of enmity between brothers in the human Holy Family

    The Holy Spirit most certainly surprised the Apostles after the Resurrection, and continues to surprise us today! The Gospels consistently identify Jesus as the “son of Joseph,” even though everyone then, and to this day, knows that the Jewish Messiah must come from the Tribe of Judah; and, the tribes of Judah and Joseph were enemies! In the Book of Genesis, Joseph is the dominant hero and “savior”: Pharaoh gave Joseph an Egyptian name, “the Savior of the world.” (Genesis 41:45; Douay English translation)

    But this Joseph became rich and privileged. Why, then, must the Messiah come through the Tribe of Judah?

    Jesus points to an answer when He declares: “This is my commandment, love one another as I have loved you. No greater love has a person than to give his life for his brother/friend.” (John 15:12-13)

    Judah is the brother in the Book of Genesis who – twice – literally offers his life for his brother: Judah promises his father, “I myself will guarantee [Benjamin’s] safety; hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not restore him to you, I will be guilty of sin against you forever”; and to Joseph, Judah pleads “take me as your slave in place of my brother.” (Genesis 43:9 and 44:33-34)

    “Judah” literally means “one who confesses,” and Judah is the son who offers his life for his brother.

    The Apostles and Evangelists carefully document the pedigree of the new Joseph (of Nazareth) from the Tribe of Judah through David. In Joseph of Nazareth, the “enmity between Joseph and Judah” is reconciled (Isaiah 11:13 and 7:17).

    The enmity between all siblings and all humans is reconciled by the Holy Family of Nazareth offering the eternal Toda Sacrifice.

    Both you and I enter into the fulfillment and perfection of Judah-ism when we offer the Holy Sacrifice with the Holy Jewish Family.

    The Suffering Servant hidden in Nazareth offers the One Sacrifice

    Isaiah explains that the Messiah will be hidden when He comes: He will be a “bud” from the stump of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1ff). The Hebrew noun for “bud” in Isaiah 11:1 is “n-tz-r”, from which comes the adjective “nazarene.”

    The insignificant, unnoticed “bud” – the Nazarene – “has no appearance that we should look at him” (Isaiah 53:1ff).

    In the Book of Immanuel (First Isaiah, chapters 6 to 12), God explains – through Isaiah – that all the “mighty trees” will be cut down; only stumps and stubble will remain. And, like a tiny “mustard seed,” a tiny “bud” – a Nazarene – will appear and become fruitful. This “bud” grows in Nazareth (the home of the “n-tz-r”); Joseph and Mary and Jesus live ordinary lives for decades. In Nazareth, the Suffering Servant described in Deutero Isaiah (Isaiah chapters 40 to 55) “grew in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men” (Luke 2:52)!

    The Suffering Servant grew in Nazareth, hidden from the world, and became the Mystical Body of Christ offered and consumed daily on Altars in every corner of the world!

    We speak of a Mystery “too wonderful to understand” (Job 42:3); we repeatedly attempt to articulate the Mysterium Fidei. We confess (jd[h]) our Faith in the Jewish Messiah and His Mysterious Sacrifice for our sins. Using human language, we attempt to articulate and proclaim the “Great Mystery” of the Marriage Feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9), the Wedding of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:32).

    The Suffering Servant is truly offered on the Altar; the priest and the people all proclaim, “Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world,” and we consume the whole Suffering Servant, the Head and all the members! We proclaim: “Let it be done to me according to your Word; Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but only say the Word and my soul shall be healed.”

    Torah — the Law — is fulfilled and perfected (Matthew 5:17) when the Word of the Lord offers the only acceptable Sacrifice. The Word of God is joined for all eternity with humans; together in Christ, Mary-with-Joseph — and every member of the Mystical Body (every Faithful member of the People of God) — offer the eternal Jewish Sacrifice for the Salvation of the world, fulfilling and perfecting “all the Law and the Prophets.”

    God raised up Moses and Aaron and established the Levitical Priesthood to discipline and protect His Chosen People when they were not yet fully mature. He gave them the Passover Sacrifice and led them out of Egypt to teach them a lesson: the Passover Lamb and the parting of the Red Sea were primitive types, historical realities prefiguring a fulfillment in the “fullness of time.”

    Isaiah, according to Saint Jerome and other Church Fathers, is the Proto-Evangelist called by God to proclaim the Gospel (Isaiah 6: “Who shall I send?” “Here I am, send me.”) Isaiah’s detailed description of the Suffering Servant is quoted repeatedly by the other evangelists. “In the fullness of time,” God sent His Son to Mary-and-Joseph, to two Faithful and righteous Jews who heard the Psalms of David and did them: Joseph-and-Mary lived the Psalms. In the fullness of time, Joseph-and-Mary became the first Servants of the Lord who meditate on His Law day and night (Psalm 1); and they do it, they keep the Law! Mary proclaims to Archangel Gabriel: “I am the Servant of the Lord” (Luke 3); and, Joseph silently proclaims in union with Mary: “I am the Servant of the Lord.”

    Joseph-and-Mary as one, the Holy Family, offer their Son to God the Father. Abraham’s consent to offer his beloved son was a type, prefiguring what Mary-and-Joseph offer in Truth. On Calvary, God the Father accepts the Holy Family’s offering; and, Jesus declares: “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

    Jesus begins His public ministry at the River Jordan with his cousin, John from the Tribe of Levi. John says, “He must increase, I must decrease.” (John 3:30) The two cousins, John and Jesus, mark the transition from the temporary Levitical Priesthood to the eternal Priesthood according the Order of Melchisedek with the identical proclamation: “Repent! The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:1-2 and 4:13-17)

    I hear voices

    In the Mass, I enter God’s time; humans see the Mass as “anachronistic.” In the one Holy Sacrifice offered daily on the Altar, the Passion, Death, Resurrection, Ascension, and Descent of the Holy Spirit become present in a manner beyond human words; it is the Sacred Mystery of our Faith!

    In the one holy Sacrifice, Jesus suffers and dies. His Body is broken. His Body and Blood are separated in death! And, suddenly, quietly, on the Altar, the ordained minister in persona Christi breaks the Bread – the “fraction”: the Body is broken and a small piece is re-united with the Precious Blood in the Chalice! The Body and Blood are re-united: Christ is Risen!

    The ordained minister and all the Faithful proclaim again the Real Presence of the Suffering Servant: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” In God’s time, I hear John announce (as Jesus is approaching his cousin, John, along the Jordan River): “Behold, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29 and 36)

    This proclamation — proclaimed by all the Faithful at the climax of the Holy Sacrifice on the Altar — evokes the symbolism of a Passover Lamb.

    The Passover-Exodus symbolism is fulfilled in the reality on the Altar. I hear John the Baptist, the final Levite, announcing the eternal Presence of “the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world”; I hear him announce the Real Presence of the Suffering Servant described by Isaiah the Proto-Evangelist. The Risen Lamb is the Suffering Servant!

    Matthew, Mark, and Luke each report this episode without recording John’s announcement; these three evangelists do, however, report the words of God the Father confirming the true and Real Presence in flesh and blood of the Suffering Servant. When Jesus is Baptized, God the Father proclaims (a slight variation of) the beginning of the First Servant Song of Isaiah: “This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22) The First Servant Song declares: “Here is my Servant, whom I uphold, my Chosen, in whom my soul delights. I will put my Spirit on Him [on the “bud” / “n-tz-r”], and he will bring justice to the nations.” (Isaiah 42:1ff and Isaiah 11:1ff)

    The Passover Lamb prefigures the Suffering Servant. The Passover Lamb does not rise from the dead, does not return after it is slaughtered. The Passover Lamb does not take away the sins of the world! The Suffering Servant conquers death: “It was the Lord’s will to crush him, to cause him to suffer; and when his soul is made an offering for sin, he will see his offspring, he will prolong his days. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied. By his knowledge my Servant shall justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:10-12)

    “Behold, My Servant will prosper; He will be lifted up and highly exalted.” (Isaiah 52:13; the beginning of the Fourth Servant Song) The Beloved Disciple, John, saw in a vision, “a Lamb standing [living] as it were slain… Worthy is the [risen] Lamb who was slain.” (Revelation 5:6, 12) In the Novus Ordo, the celebrant adds the proclamation recorded in Revelation 19:9: “And he said to me, ‘Write, blessed are those who are called to the [Wedding] Supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the True Words of God.’”

    Service and Suffering

    In the Gloria, proclaimed in the beginning of the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar, we give praise to “Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, you take away the sins of the world.

    We are not describing the Passover Lamb, the primitive symbol given to us in our arrogant youth: we are proclaiming — with John the Baptist and all the Faithful: Jesus is the Suffering Servant!

    Jesus came to serve and to suffer, and frequently quotes the Servant Songs in Isaiah: “He that will be first among you shall be your servant; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:27-28)

    He suffered and offered His life for sinners. He is the Servant Who Suffers! He calls you and me; He pleads with every one of us to join Him. “Pick up your cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) He is pleading with you and me to be in-corporated into the eternal Suffering Servant, the Lamb standing Who was slain.

    The Suffering Servant is alive and offering Himself to us, inviting us to become in-corporated into His Body! We receive Communion and become members of the Suffering Servant: with Mary-and-Joseph we become Servants in the Servant.

    What do we say before we become in-corporated, before we consume the Sacred Host? We all — the ordained minister and all the Faithful — proclaim (a slight variation of) the living words spoken by the Centurion in Capernaum: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but only say the word and my soul [instead of “servant”] shall be healed.” (Matthew 8:8)

    I hear Jesus say to the Centurion: “I will go [to your home] and heal him.” (Matthew 8:7) When I am approaching the Altar to receive the Eucharist, I hear Jesus say to Zacchaeus: “Hurry and come down, for this day I intend to stay at your house.” (Luke 19:5) Jesus calls you and me personally to enter into intimate loving Holy Communion with Him and all the members of His Mystical Body, all the members of the Suffering Servant. And I reply with everyone present: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof.”

    Only a few verses after the account of healing the Centurion’s servant, Matthew connects the episode, in biblical language, with the Suffering Servant: “Many who were possessed with devils were brought to Jesus; He drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah, ‘He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.’” (Matthew 8:16-17, my emphasis, citing the Fourth Servant Song, Isaiah 53:4)

    Earlier, to remove any doubt that the Eucharist is the Suffering Servant, Matthew begins his account of Jesus’ public ministry with the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (Matthew 4:12ff). Jesus “withdrew to Galilee,” and “leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which is by the sea in the region of Zebulon and Naphtali, to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah”; and, quoting Isaiah at length to mark the beginning of the Messiah’s public ministry, Matthew identifies all those who Jesus came to save: “Land of Zebulon, land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:12-16 citing Isaiah 9:1-7)

    We are “the people who sat in darkness… living in the land of the shadow of death.”

    Jesus is the Light.

    Everyone — both the ordained minister and the congregation — who receives the Eucharist confesses with the Centurion: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof.”

    We are the “Lost Sheep of the House of Israel” who Jesus came to bring back! (Matthew 10:6 and 15:24) “The Way of the Sea, Galilee of the Gentiles” identifies all “the people who sat in darkness” all the prodigal daughters and sons who have gone away from the Lord.

    All pride must be removed before we receive our Lord in the Eucharist: we confess our unworthiness and ask for Mercy; and, miraculously, we receive the Suffering Servant and become members of His Body!

    —Dave Leonard

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