coburns-croppedRecently on Facebook, I let people know about the situation of Gretchen Passantino-Coburn and her husband Pat.

I wrote:

Gretchen Passantino Coburn is an outstanding Evangelical apologist for the Christian Faith. She and her late husband, Bob Passantino, in the spirit of C. S. Lewis, recognize Catholics as brother Christians struggling against the forces arrayed against us.

Gretchen recently and very graciously invited me to guest blog on her site, even though I was expressing a different point of view. That’s how classy she is!

Bob Passantino played a key and supportive role in my conversion to the Catholic Church. It was also a role that led to my coming to work at Catholic Answers.

Now Gretchen is in danger of losing their house.

I value the apologetic ministry that Gretchen and Bob established to promote the Christian Faith, and I recommend that those who have been helped by my own apologetics ministry donate to prevent the loss of their home.

I have!

http://www.gofundme.com/agrtwk

 

I’d like to extend the same invitation to readers of my blog. If you can help, please do.

Right now–until Monday, June 30th–they have a matching grant so that every dollar donated up to $10,000 will be matched by an anonymous donor.

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If I do say so myself, this is one for the annals of unflappability.

NON-PLAYER LINK.

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popefrancisThis version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 30 May to 20 June 2014.

Angelus

General Audiences

Letters

Homilies

Speeches

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

Papal Tweets

  • “May the Lord bless the family and strengthen it in this moment of crisis.” @pontifex, 16 June 2014
  • “Sometimes we cast the elderly aside, but they are a precious treasure: to cast them aside is an injustice and an irreparable loss.” @pontifex, 17 June 2014
  • “There is never a reason to lose hope. Jesus says: “I am with you until the end of the world”.” @pontifex, 19 June 2014
  • “There is so much indifference in the face of suffering. May we overcome indifference with concrete acts of charity.” @pontifex, 20 June 2014

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Pope Francis waves to crowds as he arrives to his inauguration mass on 19 March 2013.This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 8 to 14 June 2014.

Regina Caeli

General Audiences

Homilies

Messages

Speeches

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

Papal Tweets

  • “I ask all people of good will to join us today in praying for peace in the Middle East. #weprayforpeace” @pontifex, 8 April 2014
  • “May we never talk about others behind their backs, but speak to them openly about what we think.” @pontifex, 9 April 2014
  • “Let us pray for all victims of sexual violence in conflict, and those working to end this crime. #TimeToAct” @pontifex, 10 April 2014
  • “I wish everyone a wonderful World Cup, played in a spirit of true fraternity.” @pontifex, 12 April 2014
  • “May we not resist the Holy Spirit but allow him to work in our lives, so that he can renew us, the Church and the world.” @pontifex, 13 April 2014
  • “We run the risk of forgetting the suffering which doesn’t affect us personally. May we respond to it, and may we pray for peace in Syria.” @pontifex, 14 April 2014

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Pope Francis waves to crowds as he arrives to his inauguration mass on 19 March 2013.Pope Benedict shocked the world in 2013 by announcing his plans to renounce the papacy, becoming the first pope in centuries to do so.

I predicted at the time that it would not be centuries before another pope resigned, and that Benedict may have started a trend.

That prediction is now being borne out. Pope Francis has announced his plans to one day renounce the papacy also.

Here are 6 things to know and share . . .

 

1) Where did Pope Francis make his remarks?

In an interview with the Spanish-language newspaper La Vanguardia.

You can read the Spanish original here.

And you can read an English translation here.

 

2) How did the subject come up?

The reporter asked Pope Francis about what he thought of Pope Benedict’s resignation, as follows:

What do you think of the renunciation of Benedict XVI?

Pope Benedict has made a very significant act. He has opened the door, has created an institution, that of the eventual popes emeritus. 70 years ago, there were no emeritus bishops. Today how many are there? Well, as we live longer, we arrive to an age where we cannot go on with things.

Pope Francis thus sees Benedict XVI’s act as setting a precedent for future popes that mirrors the way in which bishops have similarly begun to have retirements in recent decades. Note that Francis refers to Benedict having “created an institution.”

Francis’s use of the plural (“eventual popes emeritus”) may even envision the idea of more than one former pope being alive at the same time. Indeed, in light of what he says next, he may be thinking of himself and Benedict XVI sharing this status at some point.

 

3) What does he say next?

KEEP READING.

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jesus-prays-garden-meltonRecently, Gretchen Passantino-Coburn posted an interesting piece on whether Jesus was trying to avoid the Cross when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The piece very correctly points out that Jesus knew it was his Father’s will for him to die on the Cross and that he lived his life in complete submission to the Father’s will (thus also setting an example for us).

As a result, there was never any conflict between his will and the Father’s, properly speaking.

What are we to make, then, of his prayer, “Not my will by yours be done”?

The article makes a striking proposal:

[W]e argue below that it was not death on the cross that Christ was longing to avoid, but death in the Garden before the cross; and that Christ’s will was not different than the Father’s will, but in harmony with the Fathers’ will. We argue below that Christ, in danger of expiring in the Garden, cried out to the Father for the necessary power either to remain alive through his Garden experience, or, if he expired in the Garden, to be revived by the Father so that he would be alive for his coming crucifixion.

I have a different understanding of this passage, and Gretchen has very graciously invited me to do a follow-up piece for purposes of discussion.

 

The First Question

The first question we need to address is whether Jesus was about to expire in the garden of Gethsemane. According to the article,

Jesus was in danger of dying in the Garden. Luke says, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). Matthew and Mark affirm, “he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matt. 26:37-38, cf. Mark 14:33-34).

[Theologian J. Oliver] Buswell notes that profuse perspiration is a medical sign of life-threatening shock, when the body is so traumatized that it cannot control basic life sustaining functions and instead “shuts down” preparatory to death.

What should we make of this argument?

 

“I Could Die”

The statement that he is sorrowful “to the point of death” is generally understood as hyperbole (exaggeration to make a point). This is a common mode of expression in the Bible and one that Jesus uses in the Gospels.

We even have similar sayings in English where the possibility of death is raised without it being meant literally (e.g., “I’m so embarrassed I could die”).

The possibility (probability) of hyperbole is so significant in this case that Jesus’ statement about being sorrowful “to the point of death” can’t be relied upon as proof he was literally about to die in the garden.

The argument for the claim thus depends critically on Jesus’ sweat becoming like blood and this being an indication of imminent death.

 

Is the Text Original?

The statement that his sweat became like blood is found only in Luke 22:44. It is not in Matthew, Mark, or John.

However, there are significant reasons to question whether this material was originally in the text of Luke. Most modern Bibles will carry a footnote on verses 43 and 44, like this one from the New American Bible:

These verses, though very ancient, were probably not part of the original text of Luke. They are absent from the oldest papyrus manuscripts of Luke and from manuscripts of wide geographical distribution.

It is risky to make a dramatic interpretive claim (Jesus was about to die in the garden barring divine intervention) concerning an event found in all three of the Synoptics if the key detail is found only in one Gospel and there is strong reason to think it was not in the original.

 

Is Bloody Sweat a Sign of Imminent Death?

If we assume that the statement was in the original, there is still a problem, because Buswell appears to have been mistaken about the nature of this phenomenon.

While rare, bloody sweat is a known medical condition. Referred to as hematidrosis (Greek, “blood-sweat”), it is caused when the capillaries rupture into the sweat glands.

When it does occur, hematidrosis frequently is the result of anxiety, and it has been successfully treated with beta-blockers such as propranolol, which are used (among other things) to treat anxiety.

However, it does not appear that hematidrosis is “a medical sign of life-threatening shock, when the body is so traumatized that it cannot control basic life sustaining functions and instead ‘shuts down’ preparatory to death.”

The condition is not on that order of magnitude. While often produced by anxiety, the condition is a dermatological one that involves the capillaries leaking into the sweat glands, not a sign of overall systemic shutdown.

I did a quick review of online medical literature and turned up many cases where hematidrosis was not a sign of impending death. (See, for example, here, where patients are noted to have had repeated instances of hematidrosis.)

Buswell, writing in the early 1960s, may have had less access to medical information about hematidrosis. In fact, the condition is rare enough that it had not been studied as much then as it has been now. As a result, it could be understandable for Buswell to draw inaccurate conclusions.

 

A Clearer Indication? An Explanation?

It also strikes me that, if the Evangelists meant us to understand that Jesus was about to die on the spot, in contravention of God’s plan for him to die on the Cross, they would have signaled this to the readers in a clearer way.

They also likely would have provided some explanation for why this last-minute crisis was occurring.

For example, was it a final attempt by Satan to foil God’s plan?

If so, how do we explain the Gospels’ insistence that it was Satan who prompted Judas to betray Jesus? Furthermore, Jesus himself describes his arrest (not the agony in the garden) as “the hour of darkness” (Luke 22:53), suggesting that Satan was behind it.

But if it wasn’t the devil that tried to bring about Jesus’ death in the garden, what did? It wasn’t the Father’s plan for him to die there, and so it wouldn’t have been the Father.

That would leave us with either an accident that seems to threaten God’s Providence or Jesus simply having a panic attack so severe that it threatened his life.

Personally, I’d be inclined to resist either of those suggestions.

 

An Alternative Theory

As an alternative theory of the event, I would propose that Jesus knew in advance that he would die on the Cross and that he was resolute toward this goal. However, it is one thing when death is remote and another when it is staring one in the face.

Thus Christ was able to deal serenely with the prospect of Lazarus’s death—and even remark on how it would bring glory to God—when he was still in Galilee (John 11:1-4), but he nevertheless wept when he was standing at Lazarus’s tomb (John 11:35-36).

This response is rooted in the death aversion that is part of human nature. Being in proximity to death causes aversive feelings in humans (fear, sorrow, revulsion), and that’s a good thing. It is part of God’s plan, and it leads us to try to preserve life.

By virtue of his human nature, Jesus had death aversion also, and—as with the rest of us—it manifested with particular intensity when the hour of his death drew close.

Nevertheless, he was resolute to go through with the climax of his mission.

 

“Not My Will But Yours Be Done”

Jesus statement “Not my will but yours be done” does not indicate an actual opposition of wills. Indeed, it indicates the opposite—that he is completely submissive to the Father’s will.

The paradoxical nature of this statement is to be understood along the lines of similar paradoxical statements that Jesus’ makes—e.g., “He who saves his life will lose it,” “The first will be last.”

These statements rely on ambiguity of language for their solution (i.e., they rely on the fact that terms like “saving” and “losing” and “first” and “last” can be taken in different senses).

In this case, the term that is subject to ambiguity is “will.” This can indicate a determination, decision, or choice—or it can indicate a wish, preference, desire, or similar emotional rather than volitional state.

One can even recognize that one’s wish is not going to be fulfilled, but still give voice to it as a way of expressing one’s feelings.

That ambiguity seems to be in play here. By making his statement, Jesus is expressing his fundamental submission to the Father’s will while giving voice to the fact that he is experiencing death aversion. His statement could be paraphrased, less paradoxically, as “Not what I might wish, but may what you determine be done.”

 

Feelings vs. Resolve

This does not imply that Jesus’ will is not united to the Father’s. Indeed, he indicates that it is united to the Father’s.

Rather, it implies that Jesus is feeling something different than what he wills. What he wills is to do what the Father has determined, but he is experiencing the feelings of aversion that are normal for human beings in the presence of their own, imminent demise.

His giving voice to those feelings allows him to achieve an emotional release—just as when he wept or when he cried out in anguish—but his will is still in submission to the Father’s.

This incident thus highlights the dynamics of Jesus’ experience as a man. We also find ourselves in situations, particularly when we are suffering or preparing to die, where we need to say what we’re feeling as part of dealing with our emotions—even though we are resolved in our wills to a particular course of action.

By way of conclusion, I’d like to thank Gretchen and Bob Passantino for defending the fact that Jesus was always resolved to do the Father’s will, and I’d like to thank Gretchen for her gracious invitation to do this post.

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pope-francis2This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 19 May to 7 June 2014.

Regina Caeli

General Audiences

Homilies

Speeches

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

Papal Tweets

  • “At times we can be self-absorbed. Lord, help us to open our hearts to others and to serve those who are most vulnerable.” @pontifex, 2 June 2014
  • “Thank you to all teachers: educating is an important mission, which draws young people to what is good, beautiful and true.” @pontifex, 3 June 2014
  • “Like the Good Samaritan, may we not be ashamed of touching the wounds of those who suffer, but try to heal them with concrete acts of love.” @pontifex, 5 June 2014
  • “Peace is a gift of God, but requires our efforts. Let us be people of peace in prayer and deed. #weprayforpeace” @pontifex, 6 June 2014
  • “Prayer is all-powerful. Let us use it to bring peace to the Middle East and peace to the world. #weprayforpeace” @pontifex, 7 June 2014

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Pope Francis is having his "Inaugural Mass"? What's happens in this Mass, and why is it important?This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 19 to 31 May 2014.

Homilies

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “May we enter into true friendship with Jesus, so that following him closely, we may live with and for him.” @pontifex, 29 May 2014
  • “Every Christian can witness to God in the workplace, not only with words, but above all with an honest life.” @pontifex, 30 May 2014
  • “In the difficult moments of life, Christians can turn to the Mother of God and find protection and care.” @pontifex, 31 May 2014

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pope-francisThis version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 11 to 25 May 2014.

Regina Caeli

General Audiences

Homilies

Speeches

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

Papal Tweets

  • “The one who listens attentively to the Word of God and truly prays, always asks the Lord: what is your will for me?” @pontifex, 19 May 2014
  • “Come, Holy Spirit! Help us to overcome our selfishness.” @pontifex, 20 May 2014
  • “I ask all of you to pray for the victims of the floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Serbia and in other countries in the region.” @pontifex, 21 May 2014
  • “We will never be disillusioned or lose our way if we are guided by God.” @pontifex, 22 May 2014
  • “To live by faith means to put our lives in the hands of God, especially in our most difficult moments.” @pontifex, 23 May 2014
  • “Dear friends, please pray for me during my pilgrimage to the Holy Land.” @pontifex, 24 May 2014

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pope-francis2This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 24 April 2014 to 17 May 2014.

Regina Caeli

General Audiences

Homilies

Messages

Speeches

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

Papal Tweets

  • “What does “evangelise” mean? To give witness with joy and simplicity to what we are and what we believe in.” @pontifex, 5 May 2014
  • “A society which abandons children and the elderly severs its roots and darkens its future.” @pontifex, 8 May 2014
  • “In our families we learn to love and to recognise the dignity of all, especially of the elderly.” @pontifex, 6 May 2014
  • “Holiness means giving ourselves in sacrifice every day. And so married life is a tremendous path to sanctity!” @pontifex, 9 May 2014
  • “A family enlightened by the Gospel provides a school for Christian living! There one learns faithfulness, patience and sacrifice.” @pontifex, 10 May 2014
  • “Let us all join in prayer for the immediate release of the schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria. #BringBackOurGirls” @pontifex, 10 May 2014
  • “Our life has been saved by the blood of Christ. Let us always be renewed by this love.” @pontifex, 12 May 2014
  • “Let us read the Gospel, a small section each day. This way we will learn what is most essential in our lives: love and mercy.” @pontifex, 13 May 2014
  • “Let us pray for the miners who died in Turkey and for the latest victims of shipwreck in the Mediterranean.” @pontifex, 14 May 2014
  • “Let us ask the Holy Spirit for the grace to live daily according to the mind of Jesus and his Gospel.” @pontifex, 15 May 2014
  • “Our mission as Christians is to conform ourselves evermore to Jesus as the model of our lives.” @pontifex, 16 May 2014
  • “The month of May, dedicated to Mary, is a fitting time to begin to recite the rosary daily.” @pontifex, 17 May 2014

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