Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Jesus, as I See Him

I have a certain image of Jesus that undergoes changes as would be expected. I am much more interested and attracted to Jesus of the dusty roads of Galilee than I am to the Christ fashioned by early leaders like Paul and John of the Fourth Gospel.

It seems to me that Jesus never intended to found a new church. He was a Jew--a man filled with divine power, grace and wisdom. He was a radical egalitarian as pointed out by Crossan. He was a healer, whose healing gifts, even more than his spiritual message drew many to him. Probably only a few were capable then and now of absorbing his teaching and his spirit. It may be a "way" better imparted on a one to one. I think he had special followers that he was able to reach. The core message and most profound -- as well as most difficult to accept -- is found in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus's declaration of the two commandments: love God and love your neighbor as yourself were already part of Jewish tradition in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

Although I consider myself no longer a Catholic, and basically, no longer a Christian in the sense that it is my spiritual path---I am still interested in Jesus, who I do not consider the Son of God. If there is a God, then the Muslims state it well: There is no God --but God.

The reason I like the writings of the Franciscan priest, Fr. Rohr, so much is that he cuts through the hypocrisy of the majority of Christians by pointing out what Jesus really asks of his followers.

Jesus said something like: Not the one who calls out "Father, Father" but he who does the will of my Father.

It is not sufficient, IMO, to have faith in Jesus as a unique and powerful manifestation of the Divine, but do as he says; live as he did. Take the Beatitudes as a rule of life. Swallow them whole.

If we come to believe, to have faith---then our lives begin to be shaped by the example of Jesus. This transformation is propelled by gratitude.

I dislike the bumper sticker: Christians aren't Perfect. We are just Saved.

There are SO MANY Christians who feel good inside, who feel that they are justified because they assent to the Divinely Inspired book , The Bible, and because they have declared their faith in Jesus, as God Himself! However, I have real doubts whether Jesus or God considers many of these people "saved" by what is called "being born again".

Faith is more than assent. Real living, transformational Faith must be radical trust. Faith is a way of seeing what is. Faith is affirmation --- total and heart felt. Faith is surrender. (I give credit for these ideas to Marcus Borg, Jesus scholar.)

Being born again is a big deal. It turns one inside out.

Jesus's way is truly as the Catholic Church teaches: The Way of the Cross. Being a Christian is not easy. It means sacrifice, not being accepted by many. Having to pass up financial opportunities. Being willing to accept everyone in the sense of asking them over to your house for dinner.

Well, I am carried away. But these are my feelings. I know I cannot accept Christianity. I think, essentially, it is a distortion of Jesus's life and message.

However, I have a genuine respect and love for Jesus. I asked respected Tibetan Lama once: “Is it possible for me to start attending a Christian church, and, become a practicing Christian?”

He told me, through a translator, that there would be no problem with that. That there was no need to cease being a Buddhist if I became a Christian. He added: “As for me, Jesus is always in my heart.”

As for me --I am not strong enough, self-less enough to follow Jesus as he requires.

Jesus said that a person had to lose his life to gain eternal life. I believe he meant that this person must become Self-Less. He must not attach himself to his EGO which is only a relative "self". Meister Eckhardt said that the end of the Christian path is to reach the point in which you have emptied your heart and mind of everything. Then, one more step: Empty your heart and mind of God!

Because “our” God is not the true God. If we empty ourselves of our notions/ ideas of God ---we give the Divine an opportunity to flow into ourselves; heart, mind, spirit soul and body.

This reminds me of an often related old story of the important Chinese government official he came to a Ch'an (Zen) master and asked for enlightenment, liberation, the meaning of life, the secret of Zen.

The master said, "Let's have tea."

However, when the master poured tea into the cup of this important civil servant --- he continued pouring and pouring until the tea flowed over the table.

"Master, what are you doing? What is the meaning of this?"

"I can no more pour tea into a cup that is full than I can pour wisdom into a mind --that is NOT empty." the master replied.