By Lois Rogers | Correspondent
Angela La Manna was looking to gain a broadened sense of awareness of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice and Resurrection as she participated in a program on the subject ahead of Holy Week and Easter.
“Having Father [Gadenz] come here to explain it in adult terms,” she said, reinforced with depth and clarity the “amazing fact that from the Cross, [Jesus] didn’t condemn anyone but instead offered humanity a blanket forgiveness that extends throughout time.”
La Manna was among the faithful who gathered April 3 in St. Justin the Martyr Parish, Toms River, to hear Father Pablo Gadenz offer an in-depth look at the Passion and Resurrection narratives in Luke’s Gospel.
Father Gadenz is a priest of the Diocese and associate professor of Biblical Studies, Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange. He’s also an author of a recently released 400-page commentary on the Gospel of Luke.
During the presentation, La Manna was especially focused on gaining insights from Father Gadenz regarding the way Jesus forgave the disciples who denied him, the fellow countrymen who demanded his Crucifixion, the Romans who acceded to those demands and the repentant thief crucified alongside him.
In his one-hour talk before more than 100 parishioners and others from around the Diocese, Father Gadenz explained that Jesus opened the doors to grace and the doors to heaven for everyone.
“His was the most important sacrifice, the only one that could satisfy God,” La Manna said. “We have read this so many times from childhood up. But as a child, you understand it only on the surface.”
Father Gadenz’s new work, “The Gospel of Luke,” is the 15th volume in a 17-volume Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series covering the entire New Testament. It was published last fall, and two remaining volumes are scheduled to be released this year. His April 3 presentation was the second of two on the Gospel of Luke held in St. Justin Parish.
“We always feel a need for adult faith formation,” said Father Mark Kreder, parish pastor.
The offering as Holy Week approached was comprehensive and enhanced by a chapter-by-chapter outline that detailed the apostle’s Passion narrative (Luke 22:1-23-56), which begins with the readings on Palm Sunday and concludes with Jesus’ Death and burial in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.
An outline of the Resurrection narrative followed, enabling participants to follow along with Father Gadenz’s discourse, from the discovery of the empty tomb by the women through encounters with the risen Jesus, to his Ascension, when as Messiah, he is presented as priest, prophet and king.
Throughout the session, Father Gadenz interwove traditions and prophecies of the Old Testament with the new, such as when Jesus transforms the Passover with the Institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper: “This is my body … this cup is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22: 19-20).
The words of the prophets and linkages to biblical figures came through clearly throughout his presentation, said John White, a deacon candidate from St. Monica Parish, Jackson, who found the presentation especially compelling.
“He was able to correlate from the days of the Israelites and their Exodus to Jesus as the new Adam opening Paradise,” said White, who is taking a course on the New Testament with Father Gadenz that is being offered by Seton Hall at Georgian Court University, Lakewood.
“Even though 2,000 years have gone by, Father Gadenz was able to show us how [Jesus’] sacrifice and Resurrection affects us now and how it will affect people hundreds of thousands of years from now,” White said.