DAILY CATHOLIC    MONDAY     March 8, 1999     vol. 10, no. 46


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          The Holy Father concluded the Synod of the Americas, begun in November 1997 and capped with his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America released at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City in January this year on the Pope's visit to the Americas. It is the Sovereign Pontiff who has expressed a strong desire to see North, Central and South Americas to be considered "one continent" and he expresses the solidarity, communion and conversion of all nations in the Western Hemisphere in this summation of all that was discussed and decided on between Rome and the Bishops of America at the month-long synod late in 1997. We bring you, over several installments, the entire document since it is pertinent not only to the Bishops and clergy, but to the lay communicants of the Americas. To read the entire document at one time or for footnotes, go to Ecclesia in America. To the right is installment two of ECCLESIA IN AMERICA.

Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America

      From Pope John Paul II to the Bishops, Priests and Deacons, Men and Women Religious, and all the Lay Faithful on the encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: The Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America

Installment Two of ECCLESIA IN AMERICA:
Encounters with the Lord in the New Testament

"We have found the Messiah" (John 1: 41)

    Encounters with the Lord in the New Testament

      8. The Gospels relate many meetings between Jesus and the men and women of his day. A common feature of all these narratives is the transforming power present and manifest in these encounters with Jesus, inasmuch as they “initiate an authentic process of conversion, communion and solidarity” (11) Among the most significant is the meeting with the Samaritan woman (cf. Jn 4:5-42). Jesus calls her in order to quench his thirst, a thirst which was not only physical: indeed, “he who asked for a drink was thirsting for the faith of that woman”.(12) By saying to her “Give me a drink” (Jn 4:7) and speaking to her about living water, the Lord awakened in the Samaritan woman a question, almost a prayer for something far greater than she was capable of understanding at the time: “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst” (Jn 4:15). The Samaritan woman, even though “she does not yet understand”,(13) is in fact asking for the living water of which her divine visitor speaks. When Jesus reveals to her that he is indeed the Christ (cf. Jn 4:26), the Samaritan woman feels impelled to proclaim to the other townspeople that she has found the Messiah (cf. Jn 4:28-30). Similarly, the most precious fruit of the encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus (cf. Lk 19:1-10) is the conversion of the tax collector, who becomes aware of his past unjust actions and decides to make abundant restitution — “four times as much” — to those he had cheated. Furthermore, he adopts an attitude of detachment from material goods and of charity towards the needy, which leads him to give half of his possessions to the poor.

            Special mention should be made of the encounters with the Risen Jesus reported in the New Testament. Mary Magdalen meets the Risen One, and as a result overcomes her discouragement and grief at the death of the Master (cf. Jn 20:11-18). In his new Paschal glory, Jesus tells her to proclaim to the disciples that he has risen: “Go to my brethren” (Jn 20:17). For this reason, Mary Magdalen could be called “the apostle of the Apostles”.(14) The disciples of Emmaus, for their part, after meeting and recognizing the Risen Lord, return to Jerusalem to recount to the Apostles and the other disciples all that had happened to them (cf. Lk 24:13-35). Jesus, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Lk 24:27). Later they would recognize that their hearts were burning within them as the Lord talked to them along the road and opened the Scriptures to them (cf. Lk 24:32). There is no doubt that Saint Luke, in relating this episode, especially the decisive moment in which the two disciples recognize Jesus, makes explicit allusion to the accounts of the institution of the Eucharist by Jesus at the Last Supper (cf. Lk 24:30). The Evangelist, in relating what the disciples of Emmaus told the Eleven, uses an expression which had a precise Eucharistic meaning for the early Church: “He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread” (Lk 24:35).

            One of the encounters with the Risen Lord which had a decisive influence on the history of Christianity was certainly the conversion of Saul, the future Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, on the road to Damascus. There his life was radically changed: from being a persecutor, he became an Apostle (cf. Acts 9:3-30; 22:6-11; 26:12-18). Paul himself describes this extraordinary experience as a revelation of the Son of God “in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles” (Gal 1:16).

            The Lord always respects the freedom of those He calls. There are cases where people, in encountering Jesus, close their hearts to the change of life to which the Lord is calling them. Many people in Jesus's own time saw and heard him, and yet did not open their hearts to his word. Saint John's Gospel points to sin as the reason which prevents human beings from opening themselves to the light which is Christ: “the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (Jn 3:19). The Gospels teach that attachment to wealth is an obstacle to accepting Christ's call to follow him fully and without reserve. Here, the attitude of the rich young man is indicative (cf. Mt 19:16-22; Mk 10:17-22; Lk 18:18-23).

      Personal encounters and community encounters

      9. Some of the encounters with Jesus mentioned in the Gospel are clearly personal, as, for example, when he summons someone to follow him (cf. Mt 9:9; Mk 2:13-14; Lk 5:27-28). In these cases, Jesus deals familiarly with his hearers: “'Rabbi (which means teacher), where are you staying?' . . . 'Come and see'” (Jn 1:38-39). But at other times the encounters are communal in nature. This is especially true of the encounters with the Apostles, which are of fundamental importance for the constitution of the Church. Indeed, the Apostles, chosen by Jesus from among the wider circle of his disciples (cf. Mk 3:13-19; Lk 6:12-16), receive special training and enjoy a closer relationship with him. To the crowds Jesus speaks in parables, while explaining to the Twelve: “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given” (Mt 13:11). They are called to be heralds of the Good News and to carry out a special mission of building up the Church by the grace of the sacraments. To this end, they receive the necessary power: Jesus confers upon them the authority to forgive sins, invoking the same authority which the Father has given him in Heaven and on earth (cf. Mt 28:18). They would be the first to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:1-4), a gift then bestowed upon all who by virtue of the Sacraments of Initiation would become part of the Christian community (cf. Acts 2:38).

      NEXT MONDAY: Installment Three: Chapter One, part two: Encountering Christ in the time of the Church -

March 8, 1999       volume 10, no. 46


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