Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Priscilla A. Greear - Florida Catholic
COCONUT GROVE | In the Bible, Moses journeyed across the Red Sea, chose 12 princes, fasted 40 days and received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. Likewise, Jesus passed through the River Jordan, called his 12 disciples, fasted 40 days and was transfigured upon Mount Tabor before Moses and Elijah.
As Scott Hahn prepared to graduate seminary and lead a Presbyterian church in Fairfax, Virginia, he delved into early Church fathers’ writings on such connections between Moses and Jesus, the Exodus and Eucharist. Burning through volumes in the seminary library, he amassed 20 pages of notes with which to enlighten his new church’s erudite membership.
Then one Saturday night of sermon prep, the young sola scriptura Presbyterian pondered John 6, where Jesus in feeding the 5,000 during Passover calls himself the new manna and says four times that those who abide in him and eat his flesh and drink his blood will receive the bread of life.
“St. Augustine explains to his congregation that Jesus knew that this is the second to last Passover he’d ever celebrate and one year from now it will be the final Passover and he’s not just going to celebrate it, he’s going to fulfill it,” Hahn said. “It makes total sense the Eucharist is the new Passover that brings about the new exodus. This is the new law and the new covenant fulfilling, not abolishing, the old and I’m wondering what I’m going to do because all of the early Church fathers believed the Eucharist was not the bread and wine of the grape juice but it was actually Jesus’ body, blood, soul and divinity.”
Hahn elucidated on his bold journey through Scripture to Catholicism to 400 participants in a weekend retreat Feb. 1 at St. Hugh Church in Coconut Grove and Feb. 2 at St. Agnes in Key Biscayne. Hahn is a professor of biblical theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville and the author of over 40 popular and academic books including “Rome Sweet Home,” that he wrote with his wife Kimberly, the daughter of a Presbyterian pastor. He also founded the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology.
OPEN YOUR BIBLES
The raconteur interspersed theological insights with personal —often humorous — reflections, like how growing up in Pennsylvania, his Catholic comrades were the only ones who could out-drink him and weren’t exactly Bible literate. He invited Catholics to break open their Bibles, and for those without to just look on with their Protestant friends whom they convinced to attend.
He recounted how, after time in the juvenile court system, he experienced conversion at 14 and joined Bible studies on Revelation focused on the second coming. He opted to read independently and in college was excited to plumb the depths of the New Testament in Greek. After seminary, Hahn further mined the writings of the Church fathers as a Presbyterian pastor and eventually enrolled in a doctoral program at Marquette University. In his quest for truth, he covertly attended his first Mass one weekday in a basement chapel where he struck by the inclusion of the Old Testament — but even more stunned by the homily.
“It was over and done in less than two minutes and I was like are you serious?” he mused. But he was enthralled by the Eucharist and its manifestation of John’s heavenly vision in Revelation. Hahn recognized words from the Passover liturgy and felt Jesus’ presence. “He’s consecrating the chalice and holding it up and I literally began to have this holy thirst for his precious blood, whispering ‘my Lord and my God that’s you’,” he recounted. “Then I heard that priest promise and invite the faithful to the marriage supper of the lamb straight from Revelation 19: 9.”
His lingering doubt evaporated and in 1986 he became Catholic, noting that the Bible itself pointed him to the truth of the Church and its living tradition. In closing, he challenged Catholics to wholeheartedly receive the “sacrament of love and live out the liturgy” in practical ways.
St. Hugh’s pastor, Father Luis Largaespada, offered a prayer of invitation. “As the Lord has used him and his family let us open ourselves to what it is that God can do with us so that we can be able to live that holiness, so that we can be filled with that Holy Spirit and be in love with our Church and with the gifts that we have received and that sometimes we take for granted. Let us live our faith boldly especially now in these times that are challenging for our Church.”
SEE THE TREASURES
Afterwards, Father Largaespada said that he and St. Agnes’ pastor and fellow Nicaragua native, Father Juan Carlos Paguaga, planned the retreat to unite the parishes in faith. He said he too felt uplifted in his sacerdotal mission. “He’s helping us to realize the treasures that we have within the Church within the sacraments, within the Mass, the blessing that it is to be Catholic.”
Allison Lopez came with others from St. Louis Church in Pinecrest, where she helps lead the Wednesday Bible study that draws about 100 people.
“We sit in the pews and we hear the Scripture and we think we know the stories but not until you do this Bible study do you start to make connections,” she said. For Hahn, “it all came down to this whole thing about the Eucharist and Jesus’ statement about eating his flesh. I thought it was beautifully done.”
John Buonocore attended with 26 other St. John Vianney seminarians. Having studied engineering, he said he appreciated Hahn’s analytical approach to Scripture.
“The Eucharist can become commonplace. He had me going back to that mystery and beauty of the sacrifice of the Mass, how Jesus was the new Moses,” Buonocore said. “With Moses the first miracle was the changing of the water into blood and with Jesus the first miracle was the feast of Cana, changing water into wine and it eventually does become his blood.”
Hahn’s books enlightened Karen Bonvecchio, who leads Bible studies at St. Hugh and St. Agnes. “He was instrumental in opening my eyes to the meaning of the Eucharist because the Eucharist is so central to our faith,” she said of Hahn. “It’s almost like having one foot in heaven. It’s very euphoric, it’s very uplifting and out of this world on the one hand but it’s also very real.”