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AHC G A People Preparing For the Messiah’s Return - Hebrew Catholics

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“The Gospel to Every Creature”

One Hebrew Catholic’s Perspective
www.hebrewcatholic.org.nz

Our Christian Vocation

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A People Preparing For the Messiah’s Return

Unit 6

Membership of the Church can never be a casual affair, permitting us to drift through life. In Hebrew Catholic spirituality, everything is geared towards preparation for the glorious and victorious Return of Christ our Lord ― the Blessed Messiah. An absolutely essential element in our preparation is our loving faithfulness to His commands — especially His final: “Preach the Gospel to every creature.” That means serious planning.

We therefore take a serious and earnest approach to this goal of preparation. We are serious in our studies; serious in our prayers and serious even about the importance of our celebrations! Each of these has its own cultural intensity and dynamism!

Step 1 Suggested Reading:

●     Catechism of the Catholic Church

–     Part 1, Section 2, Chapter 2, Article 7

–     Part 1, Section 2, Chapter 3, Article 12 (VI)

We look now at practical outcomes of viewing our religious history which started with Abraham, and what it has taught us. The consistent message from the beginning has emerged loud and clear: Listen! — Love! — Live!

Let’s outline one model we could use for guiding our mission.

 

Responding to God

Just to recall —

God Calls:

We LISTEN

“Listen to Him!”

(St. Luke 9: 35

God Commands:

We Follow!

“Follow me!”.

(St. Matthew 4:19)

(St. Mark 10: 21)

(St. Luke 18: 22)

God Provides:

We LIVE!

“you shall Live!”

(St. Luke 10: 28)

As Discussed — What This Means

Listening to Christ

•  He conveys God’s
   message of Love.

•  He calls us to
   follow Him.

•  His Way leads us
   to live in the
   Household of God.

Following Christ

•  In unconditional
   love, offering one’s
   self, body and soul,
   to God’s service.

•  Giving priority to
   God’s Law.

•  Dying to our own
   self-centeredness.

Living in Christ

•  Preparing for the
   Lord’s Return.

•  Giving witness to
   God’s presence
   in all aspects of
   our lives.

•  Living LIFE to the full,
   and helping others
   also to find true LIFE.

Step 2

We suggest you note down in categories responding to the above, first — one or two things you would like help with in order to put them into practice, and secondly — some specific skills in which you feel the Church needs to offer training.

Step 3

Check your lists against our examples in the next section: “Developing Spiritual Skill Sets.” — Note aspects you would like to see given more coverage.

“The Church exists in order to evangelise, that is, to preach and teach, to be channels of the gift of grace.”

(E.N. Section 14)

Pope Paul VI, Synod of Bishops 1975


Listening ― Loving ― Living

The following pages will appear, in some respects, as a basic guide to curriculum development in these vital aspects of the Christian life and its transmission to those beyond the cultural boundaries of the Church. They are seen as critically essential and non-negotiable. They need urgent attention and we hope our first efforts will at least draw attention to the need for a very ordered, energetic and sustained programme of shaping disciples of Jesus Christ in our contemporary world.

 

Developing Spiritual Skill Sets

I     Listening to Christ: Living Word of God

  • The people of Jesus Christ who faithfully and regularly apply themselves to studying and meditating or reflecting on His teaching (and that is what “listening” means) are well equipped to develop a strong sense of who they are and to value their personal identity, body and soul. This is crucial in a world which increasingly tends to erode this and weaken an individual’s pursuit of true wholeness and integrity.
  • Hebrew Catholic Spirituality gives a strong yet supremely balanced understanding of where all of Christ’s people have come from: Jew and Gentile. It also deepens the appreciation of what His people have been delivered from by God’s action.
  • Learning the skills of LISTENING to Christ the Word also equips our people, especially the young, to be able to discern what is truly real (authentic) and relevant in contemporary life in our civilization ― such as it is. At the same time it helps us discern what is false, manipulative, and ultimately destructive of honest, genuine and wholesome living.

This experience should help our young people for instance to see what is good and beneficial in modern society, as well as to see through the shallow and sometimes mischievous media presentations of what is meant to be “news” ― and to see their articles and programmes for what they often are: manipulative propaganda.

It is hard not to get swept along in a mob-media mentality these days. But we are called to be informed, alert, confident, and in fact, excited about the real priorities in life and the great potential these have to guide our meandering civilisation. With these thoughts in mind we have great cause for hope even in this life, amidst what others may only see as “doom and gloom”.

See Appendix: Set I

 

Appendix — SET I 

Listening to Christ: Living Word of God

Skills and Values of Special Importance

Examples

1. Scripture Reflection: How to reflect and meditate on Sacred Scripture, a Hebrew Catholic approach to Lectio Divina. How to discern and encounter the presence of Christ the Word throughout all Scripture, and to thereby grow in one’s personal relationship with Him.

This is an activity of growing importance within the Hebrew Catholic apostolate which encourages small groups, house groups, including our own “havurot” (gatherings – singular “havurah”) to meet for the purpose of knowing, loving and serving Jesus Christ, our Messiah, to the best of our ability, in the context of our cultural stream within the Church.

We produce weekly guides for meditation on the Sacred Scriptures. Usually the Scripture selection is taken from the Readings of the appropriate Sunday Mass, with particular attention focussed upon the Gospel of the day. Our narrative approach to reflection on the Scriptures enables people from all backgrounds to participate. The approach strengthens the faith of active Christians; but also provides a relaxed atmosphere for those who may have lapsed in their Christian practice, to restore some degree of connection with the Faith, without any pressure to resume Church membership unless they request it. The gatherings are also ideal for group members to invite neighbours, friends or anyone interested, to participate without pressure of any kind to become members of the Catholic Church ― yet knowing they are invited to enquire about this should they wish to do so. We consider this a practical form of genuine evangelisation at “grass-roots” level. It is a means to promote personal encounter with Christ the Word — Living Word of God.

2. Salvation History: Learning how to read and understand the principal stories and themes of the Hebrew Christian Scriptures, under the guidance of the Teaching of the Church.

3. Principal Doctrines of the Church: Knowing key elements of the Faith and being able to explain them simply in everyday language, at whatever level is appropriate in our personal circumstances.

4. Hebrew Catholic Culture:

  • Hebrew Catholic Calendar: linking major festivals and events from each tradition. Learning to live, love and enjoy the vitality and growth of Hebrew Catholic culture, in a totally inclusive manner; learning to welcome all who wish to joint in such celebrations.
  • Hebrew, Latin and Greek: promoting each language which has etched itself in the historical heritage of our Faith, and retaining elements of each in our blessings, instruction and worship.
  • Hebrew Catholic customs and practice: helping others to understand and participate fully in our beautiful heritage.

5. Understanding and Upholding the dignity and honour of being a people or a person set apart in God’s service as a Channel of Preparation as in the case of: the Jewish people; Mary, Mother of Jesus; St John the Baptist; the Church.

6. Skills to interpret, understand, and use the modern technological media in our religious education, formation and evangelisation.

7. Skills to understand the nature, changes and trends in one’s own culture and to discern false information, hidden agendas, dubious politics, misguided movements and projects ― and all manner of covert anti-Christian planning and influence which are gaining ground in the 21st Century.

8. Skills to expose the real and pernicious agendas of many anti-Christian movements, policies and actions ― sometimes even parading as virtuous charitable works.

9. Skills to understand the currents and trends within one’s culture, in order to resist the erosion of the Catholic Faith and its long standing tradition of reverence, respectful language, devotion and loving service.

10. Skills to present the teaching of Jesus Messiah as the real answer to the world’s real needs.

II    Loving Christ: God the Son

  • The development of a strong sense of personal identity yet at the same time being a member of God’s household with all the responsibilities that such a privilege entails, needs consistent attention on our part.
  • Hebrew Catholic Spirituality is strongly oriented towards supporting the Church’s teaching on the purpose for which we have been created and given a place in Christ’s Kingdom ― and the implications accompanying this privilege together with its duties (mitzvot).
  • Our spirituality features a very clear emphasis on what it has cost the Lord Jesus to fulfill His mission and deliver His people from all manner of bondage, repression and enslavement. Our response to this needs to demonstrate that we follow Him, and try to keep unentangled with all around us in our atheistic and consumeristic society which would weigh us down and weaken our resolve and commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Learning to LOVE Jesus Christ, together with the disciplines of OBEYING Him, sharpens the ability to know and believe beyond doubt what we should do in the situations life presents us. It engenders moral fortitude in a world which favours weak resolution and a tendency to “just go along with the crowd”.

See Appendix: Set II

 

Appendix — SET II

Loving Christ: God the Son

Skills and Values of Special Importance

 Examples

1 Learning how to draw from the Church’s vast repository of spiritual treasures. The Prologue to the Rule of St Benedict, provides a distillation of Biblical spirituality to guide everyday life and help us in our practice of self-discipline. Hebrew Catholics, together with others associated with our apostolate, are aware that there are many manifestations in the Church of authentic spirituality which draw heavily on the Hebrew Scriptures and custom. Among these, the Rule of St Benedict is a sublime example. Much of the Rule can be read to great advantage by any person of good will. The Prologue to the Rule is a beautiful “digest” of the Biblical vision of a God-centred life, and we encourage people to read our “Reflections” on it.

As God taught in Torah, and the Lord Jesus reiterated, loving God with all our might is the first Commandment. Everything we think, do and say must bear testimony to our belief in this the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22: 36 to 40). St. Benedict’s Rule demonstrates how central this must be in the life of each follower of Jesus Messiah.

Our highlighting the vitality of this masterpiece of Christian spirituality demonstrates the beautiful symmetry which exists between the Hebrew and Catholic cultures, and how mutually supportive they are.

2 Understanding the nature of “mitzvah”, plural “mitzvot”: ― not just listening to God’s Word ― but doing what it commands: knowing it is God who commands. Thus guiding the performance of religious duties and good deeds, in the Light of Christ, and with warmth and genuine ardour.

3 Valuing and passing on the precepts, customs and venerable traditions of the Church. Our civilization is declining for want of fidelity to its roots and to the guidance from those appointed by Jesus Christ to provide it.

4 Promoting loyalty to the Sacred Magisterium. Actively supporting Papal teaching and priorities.

5 Defending the Faith with all one’s ability, even with one’s life if necessary. We should be clear in our minds that the Church is under full scale siege and has been seriously wounded. We need planned and sustained spiritual preparation to be able to stand for Christ in what may seem a Godless anti-theistic society.

6 Answering objections, ridicule, distortion. Those suited to this critically important role need every support to develop a high level of skill in their special role of activity seeking out and targeting false presentations of the Church’s teaching.

7 Learning how to prevent modern society “drowning out” the call of our Messiah Jesus Christ, to follow Him rather than the allurements bombarding our attention every day. Learning how to act decisively and confidently, and sufficiently to ensure Jesus Christ remains central in our lives.

8 Developing a determined attitude of preparation for spiritual warfare; and learning how to encounter and respond to opposition with task-force efficiency and effectiveness.

9 Learning how to rid our homes and lives of false idols or anything which could displace or destroy our spiritual values, and precious culture and heritage.

10 Helping others to benefit from learning to love God in real terms, remaining loyal to Jesus Christ our Messiah and Redeemer, and His Holy Church, and modelling respect for His Most Sacred Name.

Supplementary Explanation

There is a particular aspect of our Lord’s ministry and fulfilment of Prophecy in His own perception of His role. This is evident in many places in the Gospels and the Epistles. We give three for example:

St. Mark 10: 42  45

Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know
that those who are recognised as rulers over the Gentiles
lord it over them, and their great ones make their
authority over them felt.

But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever
wishes to be great among you will be your servant;

whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.

For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve
and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

St. Mark 9: 35

Then He sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and
the servant of all.”

St. Matthew 23: 11

The greatest among you must be your servant.

Obedience in Hebrew spirituality is not just obeying in the ordinary sense of the word — doing what you have to do. God’s Word for or to us — His Torah, His Teaching, is in the first place a momentous gift. We receive it as such. It calls for a loving response — a carrying out of what God wills for us both for His glory and for our total fulfilment and restoration. Thus to love and obey, for us, is to carry out in every detail what we understand to be His message, His Way. We do it because it reflects His love for us. Our Lord exemplifies this beautifully, and presents a truly Biblical model of obedience in the form of service — of giving priority to God and the needs of other people ahead of our own. In our Lord’s words, that means to take up our cross daily and follow Him, to die to self and to serve rather than to be served.
 

III     Living in Christ: Household of God

  • Having a strong sense of personal identity and worth in our Lord Jesus Christ engenders clear perception regarding what we want to be, and how to let this be shaped by God’s plan for us, with a passion for carrying out His Divine Will not only regarding ourselves but also for His Kingdom.
  • Hebrew Catholic Spirituality encourages the development of a strong sense of rootedness in the world, and thus a deep consciousness of belonging, yet at the same time a heightened awareness of our Lord’s promised Return and the prospects of living in His fully restored Kingdom. Thus each of His members grows towards their full potential in life knowing what they were redeemed for. This gives a critical sense of direction and well-founded, even flourishing hope.
  • Learning the skills of LIVING in Christ the Word of God helps each of his members to discern how to live fully connected “in” the world ― and yet not be excessively “of it“; in what way to become involved; to whom to relate; how to use one’s precious time, skills and resources for the witness of Christ to the world. The old saying is true: You can’t give what you haven’t got! We cannot manifest Christ to the world unless we constantly listen to His voice, follow His teaching, and live in His Presence. That is to be our disciplined training as His ambassadors, to take the Gospel to every creature. Why else would our Saviour ask the Father to give us the greatest of all gifts? — Nothing less than the Holy Spirit Himself — to unite us as members of God’s Household (Ephesians 2: 19) and encourage us to share this wonderful Family membership and heritage! This is our privilged calling in which to persever as we await the Glorious Return of Jesus Messiah.

 ■ See Appendix: Set III

 

Appendix — SET III

Living in Christ: Household of God

Skills and Values of Special Importance

 Examples

1. Honouring places and times dedicated to worship. E.g How to set up and use an oratory at home. Making connections between worship at Church and at home. For help in doing this read: “An Oratory at Home“.

2. Honouring the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day: not merely as a loving attachment to former practices, but in a vibrant Hebrew Catholic manner, enriching the introduction of each Lord’s Day, and paving the way to its joyful celebration.

3. Preserving Jewish Identity in a responsible manner as Jewish and Christian people who choose to recognise the Lord Jesus as Messiah and Son of God, and to proclaim Him as such. This is a very important step for Jewish people joining the Church. It is nothing to do with establishing some kind of special elite or separatist category of souls. It is the emphatic declaration of Jews that they do not endorse the decisions and actions of the corrupt authorities in our Lord’s time and wish to enlist their family names in the service of Christ our King, (Blessed be His Holy Name), for all eternity!

4. Sharing the Hebrew Catholic perspective openly with other members of the Church and inviting them to take a full part in the restoration of, as well as participation in, a flourishing modern Hebrew Catholic culture and presence in the Church.

This is an important opportunity for Christians of Gentile origin to endorse the Church’s support for the restoration and renewal within the Church of a visible and dynamic Israelite community.

Christians generally and fellow Catholics in particular, are asking increasingly why many people of Jewish background or connection choose to become baptised members of the Church. Every individual has their own story to tell, of course, but there are many common elements which can be discerned in the explanations offered. We list just a few here, only as generalisations, for which we are deeply grateful:—

  • The consistent fidelity of the Church in preserving many, many Hebrew concepts in its own culture and spirituality ― and permitting these to blossom in true fulfillment of what they signify.
  • The worship of the Church, in its traditional and modern liturgies ― as well as in all the rites within the Church ― reflects an integrity and profound respect in terms of Hebrew Scriptures and historic cultural practices.
  • The Church has a clear theology concerning the understanding of the “Covenant” between God and humanity, and honours those who value their heritage and contributions.

5 Playing a part in the spreading of the Faith throughout the world. Our fellow Christians, Catholics included, often have difficulty in understanding how Hebrew Catholics choose to maintain their Hebrew identity within the Church yet at the same time feel a sense of urgency to proclaim, “the Gospel to every creature”. But there is no mystery about it: “For the love of Christ compels us”. (2 Cor. 5: 14). To this end the Hebrew Catholic Apostolate contains an ever-expanding range of resources and initiatives to help all who wish to join them in carrying out the Messiah’s final command (Mark 16: 15): “Go into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature”.

“The order to go and preach the Gospel to every creature must be obeyed. That commandment sums up all the others and carries them all within it. It is His last will and testament.”

From, “The Gospel to Every Creature”, by Leo Jozef Cardinal Suenens.

For Hebrew Catholics, this heightened sense of commandment, mitzvah (duty),
is, indeed compelling. See previous Unit 5: “The Gospel to Every Creature“.

It may be helpful here to remember that our focus is on evangelisation, not proselytism.
We sometimes find people wish to use the approach we have here described as grounds
for targeting Jews (and people of other Faiths, for that matter), in the belief that they are
thereby “merely obeying what our Lord commanded”. Such a position is inconsistent
with our AHC mission which is part of the Church’s whole mission and cannot be
separated from it. The AHC refrains, in obedience to the Holy See, from any form of, or
support for proselytism targeting Jews.

6. Maintaining a schedule of morning and evening prayer, appropriate to one’s circumstances, with an emphasis on what is realistic and sustainable.

Our Electronic Prayer Book may assist readers

7. Promoting healthy living, fitness, cooking, eating and care of the body as well as the soul; upholding these matters as an integral part of sound spirituality.

8. Celebrating and rejoicing in any gathering, in ways which reflects the joy of living
in Christ. Jesus Messiah said, “These things I have spoken unto you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full“. The Hebrew Catholic apostolate is to help make people genuinely happy and to demonstrate that this joy grows directly out of our following Jesus Messiah.

Hospitality is a very highly esteemed virtue in our culture. All who share our vision are welcome, not just as casual visitors, but, in fact, to become full members of our Fellowship. We invite you to read Introducing Ourselves.

9. Practising acts of loving goodwill to all humanity.

10. Preparing For the Messiah’s Glorious Return. Learning to take our role seriously as Christ’s ambassadors in the world as we look to the coming of the Lord. This entails doing our best in parenthood, employment, homecare, community involvement and evangelisation, among other responsibilities, as members of God’s household.

In Summary

1 The above three categories of skills and values are essential for any Christian wanting to preserve and share their Faith in our world. These categories spell out some of the important principles we need to uphold. Success in achieving what we stand for, in terms of our human efforts will depend on how we implement them in specific cases. We therefore need to implement, in a planned and sustained way fundamental skills and values similar to those which we have assembled from our experience at the front-line of Christian outreach.

2 It is true God told Abraham,

“….. your name shall be Abraham, for I am making
you the father of a host of nations.  
(NAB Genesis 17: 5)

Yes, the mission is God’s, but He has called each person to be an ambassador, to be an active worker in God’s reaching out to all mankind. This implies being faithful to His teaching and the practice of personal holiness; that we may not only take or preach Christ to every creature, but that, according to the traditional spirituality of the Church, we may be Christ to every creature.

“Blessed are You, O Lord, King of creation, who has
chosen us to be His servants, and through us, to call
all humanity into His Household.”

Blessed be God forever. Amen.

 

Shalom!

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