Examining the Jesus of love in a world that sometimes wants to make him about fear.
Beyond the Victim
As I allow the dust to settle from my own disappointment and grief over a Christmas Eve mass that did not meet my own personal needs, I find that beneath that grief is Jesus asking to be heard. Beyond my own inner victim lies the very real inner conflict I felt between the actions and messages that seemed to speak of judgment, unwelcome and fear and the Jesus that I have come to know that is everything but that. What I really wish I could have done was stand up in the middle of the liturgy and say “STOP, this is not what Jesus would have said and it is not how Jesus would have acted.” But then again, who am I to tell the Catholic Church about Jesus? Really, I’m nobody. So while I could not stand up Friday evening to defend the Jesus that I have come to know and love, I will do so here today.
I know, I will risk being labeled a “Jesus Freak” for talking about the man that I think totally rocks…but so be it. I think Jesus is cool. Of course I am unable to historically authenticate any of my own theories or experiences about the man, Jesus, all I can go on is what has been shown to me through scripture, prayer, meditation and contemplation. Since first hearing the soundtrack to Jesus Christ Superstar in seventh grade music class, I have been fascinated by the man, Jesus. When Sr. Marie Schwan shared with me the Christian practices of meditation and contemplative prayer, I have been hooked. Through these practices, I have come to experience a deeply intimate relationship with God and with Jesus. And these are the things that I have come to understand:
What Jesus learned through his prayer
The primary thing that stands out to me about Jesus is that his life seemed to be rooted and grounded in prayer. Through his own prayer, meditation, contemplation and reflection on the Hebrew scriptures, he came to know God. He experienced a deeply intimate and personal relationship with God and the primary thing he learned was that the perception of separation from God is FALSE. Jesus learned through his prayer that he was ONE with God. And….he learned that this ONENESS was not reserved for him alone…..all of us are ONE with God, if we could only be shown how to remember this truth. This is what he set out to do in his ministry – to help those to whom he ministered to let go of the perception of separation from God and remember that God is love and that they are One with this God in love. Remembering this Oneness, Jesus knew, would be the remedy to the suffering of the human condition.
What Jesus taught about God
In going about his mission of preaching this gospel of Oneness, Jesus taught about a God that was dramatically different than the God taught by the religious authorities of his time. (in the end, it was this that got him killed) Instead of a God of judgment, revenge, jealousy, punishment and wrath; Jesus taught about a God of love. God loves us infinitely, without condition. God is merciful, tender, unconditionally forgiving. God is generous, a source of help, guidance, compassion. God is about peace, joy, bliss. Jesus had come to know of a God that loved all, welcomed all, desired to be in intimate communion with all. All were welcome at God’s table – priest and sinner, rich and poor, healthy and sick, Jew and gentile (and I would add here: Catholic and Christian, Muslim and Pagan, Hindu and Wiccan, etc.). All were loved, holy and precious in God’s eyes. And Jesus knew that as people came to know the God of love in their hearts, that their fears, their compulsive behaviors and their “sins” would naturally fall away.
Who is the punisher?
And Jesus knew the things that prevent us from remembering the love of God that is in our hearts – fear, attachments and the resulting compulsions of pride, greed, gluttony, power and control, rage, envy and sloth. He invited those who would listen to welcome God’s love and to let go of those things that keep them from knowing this love. Jesus extended this invitation not from a place of judgment or punishment, but from a place of loving compassion. When we let go of our fears and attachment, we are able to more and more fully remember the love of God that resides within us. And, there is no punishment from God for failing in this recollection, the only punishment is that which we inflict on ourselves when we continue to live in fear. We are the punishers, not God.
So, this is the Jesus that I wanted to defend on Christmas Eve. I would have enthusiastically welcomed each and every person there – who cares if this is the only time they came to mass this year! I would have honored the enthusiastic anticipation that fills us in the celebration of Jesus’ birth. I would have welcomed ALL the children…who cares if they are naughty? Isn’t that what kids are supposed to do…besides, liturgy is messy! And I would have preached about love love love love love and joy joy joy joy joy. Jesus rocks. He rocks because he came to help us remember that we are One with God, that we are loved without condition and that in remembering these truths, we are free. In the freedom of remembering God’s love, the love that Jesus modeled and taught, we know peace, contentment and joy. In my humble opinion, this is why we celebrate Christmas.
Authentic Freedom Ministries