Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
May 24th, 2012

Patrick Borchers

Academic Affairs
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Thursday in the Seventh Week of Easter
[300] Acts 22:30; 23:6-11
Psalm 16:1-2a+5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
John 17:20-26


If you're like me, you're still getting tripped up by some of the changes to the English translation of the Roman Missal.  I pretty quickly caught on to saying "and with your spirit" and some of the changes — such as saying "It is right and just" during the offertory — are now so natural to me that I have a hard time remembering the old translation.

But there are others that seem to catch me every time.  One of the hardest ones for me is in the Nicene Creed where we used to say that Jesus is "one In Being with the Father" and now we say that he is "consubstantial with the Father."  I have to admit that I grumbled to myself quietly about this one for awhile.  After all, although I know what the word "consubstantial" means, it is not one that I (or most other anglophones) use very often.  For example, if my neighbor and I decide to order firewood for the winter from the same seller, and we get it in the same load and then split it up, it's unlikely that I would say to him:  "I guess our firewood supplies are consubstantial with each other."

But a benefit of the changes is that it has forced me to think a bit about some of the central mysteries of our faith.  The Gospel today seems to bring up the whole "consubstantiality" question as Jesus prays to God.  What does it mean to say that Jesus is consubstantial with the Father?  After all, Jesus could be seen as a person with human eyes, and we can't do that with God the Father.  So it clearly doesn't mean that Jesus was identical to God the Father.  But then again it clearly doesn't mean what we sometimes get accused of Muslims of believing.  Muslims, who accept Jesus as a prophet, often misunderstand us to believe in three different Gods — the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  This is clearly mixed up, because they are all part of the same Godhead, not separate deities like the pagans believed about a whole hierarchy of lesser and greater gods.

I am not a trained theologian and I'm not trying to explain the mystery of the Trinity in a few short paragraphs.  But having thought about it now because of the change in the creed, it seems to me that Jesus is God's perfect gift.  He gave us some of Himself in a human form to redeem our sins.  It's literally the gift that keeps on giving, there for us to accept every day.  So when I say "consubstantial with the Father" now, I try to remind myself that it's really about God's greatest gift to us.

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