Teaching: Chist the First Fruits: The cornerstone of the Church,

By 1:45 PM



What does it mean for Christ to be the First Fruits? First on the personal level. Do we know Jesus personally from some experiential moment or do we know of Jesus because others have told us about him or we have read about him? Do we know Jesus as a surface disciple would or a disciple seeking for a high? Jesus had many disciples, not all were committed. Those in John 6, for instance, found his teaching on the gift of his Body to eat and his blood to drink to hard to accept. Their faith in him was shaken to the point they walked away from him. At the same time, the twelve were so committed to him that they remained, even though they too did not fully comprehend Jesus’ message about him being the Bread of Life.

Story: After a large dinner at one of England's stately mansions, a famous actor entertained the guests with stunning Shakespearean readings. Then, as an encore, he offered to accept a request. A shy, gray-haired priest asked if he knew the Twenty-Third Psalm. The actor said, "Yes, I do and I will give it on one condition: that when I am finished you recite the very same Psalm." The priest was a little embarrassed, but consented. The actor did a beautiful rendition..."My Shepherd is the Lord, there is nothing I shall want," and on and on. The guests applauded loudly when the actor was done, and then it was the priest's turn. The man got up and said the same words but this time there was no applause, just a hushed silence and the beginning of a tear in some eyes. The actor savored the silence for a few moments and then stood up. He said, "Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you realize what happened here tonight. I knew the Psalm, but this man knows the Shepherd."

Do we know of Jesus or do we know Jesus? If we know Jesus because of some personal, transforming experience, is this relationship growing or waning? Is Jesus calling us to greater intimacy with him or is he knocking at the door of our hearts constantly seeking to draw us into that fuller union he prayed for at the Last Supper. "Father, that they may be one in me as you and I are one. You in me, I in you, they in me."

The invitation of Rev 3:20 is not meant to be a one time experience. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, (then) I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me." The intimacy that Jesus desires with us is not a surface or casual one but a life-changing one that only deepens until our true identity and destiny is reached. No matter what we can not and chose not to walk away.

Conversion is not a one-time past event but an on-going evolving process in our lives. For conversion is to lead to further purification and healing, to fuller transformation and glorification so that our union with God begun in baptism can eventually blossom into eternal oneness with God in glory.

Secondly as the First Fruits, is Jesus primary? Is Jesus one among many or is he truly and in fact the first fruits in our life?

Story: It was a hot Sunday afternoon in 1980. A young cerebral palsy victim named Cordell Brown was walking through the clubhouse of the world Champion Philadelphia Phillies. Cordell walks with great difficulty. He talks with great difficulty. Feeding himself is a very difficult task. When people see Cordell coming, they usually turn the other way or pretend not to see him. That's what some of the Phillies were doing as Cordell made his way through the clubhouse. What was Cordell doing in the Phil's clubhouse? He had been invited there to speak to the players in a pregame chapel service. What could Cordell possibly say to stars like Steve Carleton and Mike Schmit, who were far removed from his world or pain and deformity? Some of the Phillies were asking the same thing when they sat down to listen to him.


Cordell began by putting the players at ease. He said, "I know I'm different." Then, quoting 1 Cor. 15:10, he added, "But by God's grace I am what I am." For the next 20 minutes Cordell Brown talked about the goodness of God in his life. He concluded by answering the question, What could he say to famous superstars like Steve Carleton and Mike Schmit, who were so far removed from his world of pain and deformity?

Cordell said in a loving way: "You may hit three-fifty for a lifetime and be paid a million dollars a year, but when the day comes that they close the lid on that box, you won't be any different than I am. That's one time when we'll be the same. I don't need what you have in life, but one thing's for sure: You need what I have, and that's Jesus Christ."

Story: Watchman Nee, a Chinese Christian pastor, was invited to the home of one of his parishioners who asked him to pray for him and his wife because they were always losing patience with each other. After spending an afternoon in their home and seeing how they lost patience with each other, pastor Nee said, "I will not pray to God to give you patience because you don't need patience." "What?" they replied. "You see how impatient we are. How can you say we don't need patience?" "What you need is Jesus Christ,"said pastor Nee. "And that's the only thing God will give you because it's the only thing you need. You lack patience because you think you need a thousand things and you go after all of them, worried and scattered in your soul. But you need only Jesus. He will give you everything, including his patience."

When Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen the better part, he was referring to her primacy of focus on him in her life. When Jesus told the young rich man to go sell all he had and come follow him, he was instructing the man about what is primarily needed for eternal life: Jesus himself.

Thirdly, Is Jesus central in our life? Can we appropriate St. Paul’s understanding of this expressed in his personal life?

"(But) whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ.
More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith to know him and the power of his resurrection and (the) sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ (Jesus). Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God's upward calling, in Christ Jesus."
Story: One day Carolyn was having lunch with her husband and their son Mike at their Los Angeles home. Mike was a navy helicopter pilot who was visiting from San Diego. At one point during the lunch, Mike and his father began talking about the helicopter that Mike flew. Mike said: "You know, Dad, as complicated as that helicopter is, its whirling rotor is held in place by a single hexagonal nut." Then turning to his mother, Mike said, "And, Mom, do you know what they call that nut?" His mother shrugged. She had no idea what they called it. "I give up," she said. "What do they call the nut that holds it all together?" Mike smiled and said, "They call it the "Jesus" nut."
What is your source of life? What keeps you together especially in time of personal difficulties and trials, during the dryness of spiritual deserts, during those times we have no answers to what is happening in our life? Is it Jesus?
Story: The surgeon sat beside the boy's bed; the boy's parents sat across from him. "Tomorrow morning," the surgeon began, "I'll open up your heart..." "You'll find Jesus there," the boy interrupted. The surgeon looked up, annoyed. "I'll cut your heart open," he continued, "to see how much damage has been done..." "But when you open up my heart, you'll find Jesus in there."
The surgeon looked to the parents, who sat quietly. "When I see how much damage has been done, I'll sew your heart and chest back up and I'll plan what to do next." "But you'll find Jesus in my heart. The Bible says He lives there. The hymns all say He lives there. You'll find Him in my heart." The surgeon had had enough. "I'll tell you what I'll find in your heart. I'll find damaged muscle, low blood supply, and weakened vessels. And I'll find out if I can make you well."
"You'll find Jesus there too. He lives there." The surgeon left. The surgeon sat in his office, recording his notes from the surgery. "...damaged aorta, damaged pulmonary vein, widespread muscle degeneration. No hope for transplant, no hope for cure. Therapy: painkillers and
bed rest. Prognosis:," here he paused, "death within one year." He stopped the recorder, but there was more to be said. "Why?" he asked aloud. "Why did You do this? You've put him here; You've put him in this pain; and You've cursed him to an early death. Why?" The Lord answered and said, "The boy, My lamb, was not meant for your flock for long, for he is a part of My flock, and will forever be. Here, in My flock, he will feel no pain, and will be comforted as you cannot imagine. His parents will one day join him here, and they will know peace, and My flock will continue to grow." The surgeon's tears were hot, but his anger was hotter. "You created that boy, and You created that heart. He'll be dead in months. Why?" The Lord answered, "The boy, My lamb, shall return to My flock, for he has done his duty: I did not put My lamb with your flock to lose him, but to retrieve another lost lamb." The surgeon wept.
Later as the surgeon sat beside the boy's bed; the boy's parents sat across from him. The boy awoke and whispered, "Did you cut open my heart?" "Yes," said the surgeon. "What did you find?" asked the boy. "I found Jesus there," said the surgeon.

Fourthly, if we have experienced a personal transforming moment in our life that has brought us to a personal relationship with Jesus as the first fruits; if Jesus as a result is primary in our life; if our life revolves around Jesus, what we have witnessed experientially and interiorly have we witnessed exteriorly to others by our words and deeds?
Story: A young man in Germany, barely twenty-one years of age, was conscripted into the army in the late 1930s. The full evil of Hitler's regime was yet hidden from most people. Even so this young man was already aware of a conflict between his Christian faith and propaganda he was hearing. The new Nazi law required that he obtain identity papers, including a picture of himself. It was prohibited for the picture to show on the clothing any medals, badges, fraternal pins, etc. But this young man customarily wore a small gold cross in his lapel. He insisted that it stay when the photographer took his picture. And he carefully cropped the finished picture below the cross, so it would show on his identity papers. It was there for anyone who looked to see. It was part of his identity, and a statement of his loyalty. It was also in a small way a declaration to others and a reminder to himself of where his ultimate loyalty lay. The sovereign of his life was certainly not Hitler, not even his country, nor the army, but Christ. And while the full impact of that obedience upon his life was perhaps not yet felt, he had made his choice.
An old man lived in New Guinea. He made his living by cutting firewood for the mission hospital. Everybody called him One Tooth, because his upper jaw contained just one tooth. Besides cutting wood, the old man also spent a part of each day reading the Gospel to outpatients sitting in the hospitals waiting room. Day after day, he shared his faith in Jesus with these suffering people. Then one day something happened. One Tooth began to have trouble reading. At first he thought it was something that would get better, but it didn't. So One Tooth went to see the hospital doctor. After examining the old woodcutter, the doctor put his arm around the old man and said, "I have something difficult to tell you. You're going blind, and there's nothing we can do."
"Oh no!" said One Tooth. "I'm already old. Now I'll be blind and useless too."
The next day One Tooth didn't show up at the hospital. Nor did he show up the day after that. One Tooth had vanished. Later the doctor learned that One Tooth was living alone in a deserted part of the island. A boy who brought the old man food told the doctor where he was. So the doctor went to see One Tooth.
"What are you doing here?" the doctor asked. One Tooth replied, "Ever since you told me I was going blind, I've been reading and memorizing the most important parts of the Gospel. I've already memorized Jesus' birth, several of his miracles and parables, and his death and resurrection. I've been repeating these over and over to the boy, to make sure I've got them right. In about a week I'll be back at the hospital again, Doctor, telling the outpatients about Jesus.
John Paul II stated it thus: "The new evangelization needs new witnesses...people who have experienced an area of change in their life because of their contact with Jesus Christ, and who are capable of passing on that experience to others." (John Paul II, 1991)
 
Let us look at the scriptures to get a better understanding of Christ as First fruits.
First fruits is found in the Old Testament in reference to the sacrificial offerings. The first fruits of the harvest were sacred to God and thus were to be set aside as an offering of thanksgiving to God. Initially, the people offered the first fruits of the harvest or the first born of their offspring and flocks in thanksgiving to God for his providential care and deliverance from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. Later it was connected to gratitude for God’s blessings in general.
At the same time, the consecration of these fruits of the harvest to God was another way of asking God to bless the whole harvest. In the understanding of the people, the part being offered in thanksgiving as first fruits, stood for the whole of the crops yet to be harvested. For all belonged to God.
Using these two concepts–offering the first fruits in thanksgiving and the first fruits stand for the whole to be consecrated to God–we look at St. Paul’s teaching.
Speaking of the resurrection of the dead Paul says in 1 Cor 15: 20-23: "But as it is, Christ is now raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep...in Christ, all will come to life again, but each one in his proper order: Christ, the first fruits and then, at his coming all those who belong to him."
As the first to rise to a new glorified life, Christ is recognized by Paul as the first fruit. Jesus offers himself to the Father in thanksgiving at the Last Supper, on the cross and at every Mass on our behalf. He consecrated himself that we may be consecrated in turn, so that we can be offered with him to the Father in thanksgiving. In his humanity Jesus is the first fruit of perfect love and union with the Father. We now have access to the Father in the Spirit through Jesus.
One of the effects of Jesus’ death and resurrection in our lives is not only salvation, not only reconciliation and sharing once more in the life of God as sons and daughters, but the revelation that one of the fruits of his resurrected and glorified body is that one day our bodies will also be raised from the dead to share in the glorification that will be ours in the presence of God eternally. We profess this in the Creed every Sunday. We believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
St. Ambrose said: "Man arose because man died. Man was raised up again, but it was God who raised him. Then he was man according to the flesh. Now God is all in all. Now we no longer know Christ according to the flesh, but we have the grace of his flesh. We know him as the first fruits of those who rest, the firstborn of the dead. Unquestionably the first fruits are of the same species and nature as the rest of the fruits....Therefore, as the first fruits of death were in Adam, so also the first fruits of the resurrection are in Christ." (On His Brother Satyrus 2.91)
John Paul II said: "(A) new human and cosmic creation was inaugurated with the Resurrection of Christ, the first fruits of that transfiguration to which we are all destined."
Another effect of Christ as first fruits of the new creation is that the Spirit of God has been poured forth upon us as a sign of love and as a pledge of eternal salvation in Christ.
We read in Roms 8: 22-23: "Yes, we know that all creation groans and is in agony even until now. Not only that, but we ourselves, although we have the Spirit as first fruits, groan inwardly while we await the redemption of our bodies."
2 Cor 2:22 states: "It is Christ who anointed us and has sealed us, thereby depositing the first payment, the Spirit in our hearts." Eph 1: 14 explains this payment. "He is the pledge of our inheritance, the first payment against the full redemption of a people God has made his own to praise his glory."
And how do we experience this in our lives? Through the fruits of the Spirit. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: "charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity."112 (CCC 1832) The evidence of these fruits of the Spirit radiating in and through us are the initial signs of God’s glory.
Christ in his humanity is the first fruit in the Father’s plan to share his divine life with us in a glorified state. As Jesus is our personal Lord and Savior, as Jesus is primary in our lives, as Jesus is central in our lives, as we courageously and boldly witness the truth of Jesus in our lives to others in the power of the Spirit, we will bear the fruit of his life within us and fulfill our baptismal and confirmational commitment sharing in the life of Christ as priest, prophet and king. Then we will fulfill the plan of God as this story relays.
In one of his books, S.D. Gordon pictures Gabriel as asking Christ when he reached heaven what recognition the world had given to his divine suffering for its sake. Christ replies that only a few in Palestine knew of it. Gabriel feels that more ought to know--that the whole world ought to know--and he asks, "What is your plan, Master, for telling them of it?"
Jesus replies, "I have asked Peter, James John, Andrew and a few others to make it the business of their lives to tell others, and those others to tell others, until the last person in the furthest circle has heard the story and has felt the power of it." "But suppose they do not tell others--what then?" Gabriel asks. Jesus answers quietly, "Gabriel, I have not made any other plans. I am counting on them."
Talk One: Christ the First Fruits: The cornerstone of the Church...
Summary
What does it mean for Christ to be the First Fruits? First on the personal level
Conversion is not a one-time past event but an on-going evolving process in our lives
Is Jesus primary? Is Jesus one among many or is he truly and in fact the first fruits in our life?
Is Jesus central in our life?
If our life revolves around Jesus, what we have witnessed experientially and interiorly have we witnessed exteriorly to others by our words and deeds? What does Scripture say about first fruits?
What does the Church teaches about the first fruits?
Questions:
To what extent is Christ as first fruit reflected in our life?
What are the fruits that are evident in our life?
Where is the fruit of Christ’s death and resurrection not bearing fruit in my life?
 

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