In this Random Nun Clip, we talk about running with the saints. Our guest: Sister Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ. Hear the full In Good Faith podcast at IGF028.
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SISTER MAXINE: Today we talk with Sister Elizabeth Johnson, a Sister of St. Joseph of Brentwood Long Island. She is a distinguished professor of theology at Fordham University in New York City.
In the chat room, Mary has a question. She asks, “Is the Communion of Saints similar to the concept of the great cloud of witnesses?”
SISTER ELIZABETH JOHNSON: Oh Mary, thank you for that question. Yes, indeed. At least that’s how — well, there’s no such word as Communion of Saints in the New Testament. I mean, everyone is “the saints” and the church is the “community of the saints”. But in the letter to the Hebrews the author is talking about a whole raft of people throughout the history of Judaism who acted by faith. They talk about Abel, then Noah, and one of my favorites is Abraham, and I’ll quote here, Hebrews chapter 11: “By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that was to be given to him as an inheritance and he set out, not knowing where he was going.” Isn’t that a great line? The faith in God, that you know, the trust that carried him through.
So anyway, Sarah and Moses and Moses’ parents and we go through the whole raft of holy people from the Hebrew Scriptures. And that chapter ends by saying, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings closely and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of our faith.”
What biblical scholars say is that the image behind that passage is of a stadium with a race is being run and those who ran the race earlier are up in the stands and those now running the race are down on the tarmac. Those who are up in the stands are cheering for those down on the tarmac and those up in the stands are the cloud of witnesses. They’ve run the race. Now we’re down here still running but they’re cheering for us—that’s how I like to think of it. Anyway, surrounded by the cloud of witnesses, yes, that is the companionship model of the communion of saints.
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Hear the full episode of this In Good Faith podcast at IGF028. https://anunslife.org/podcasts/in-good-faith/igf028