02 January 2017

You got the Wrong Man-God.


Today's readings:
  • 1 John 2:22-28
  • John 1:19-28
In the Douay, the RSV, or the NAhttp://usccb.org/bible/readings/010217.cfmBRE with Mass texts.

Et interrogaverunt eum, et dixerunt ei: Quid ergo baptizas, si tu non es Christus, neque Elias, neque propheta?
And they asked him and said to him: Why then dost thou baptize, if thou be not Christ, nor Elias, nor the prophet? 
John 1:25

The Pharisees and, later, the Sadducees and the powers in the temple - most of the latter were sold out to the Romans - were looking for something. They came to John to ask if he was this something. And he said no. But Jesus wasn't the something they were looking for, either. The over used (even abused) phrase "paradigm shift" comes to mind here. We've heard often enough that Jesus just wasn't the sort of Messiah the Jews were expecting. It's true. But Judaism of this period was not a monolithic experience. John the Baptist is of a priestly family (on both sides). His parents were clearly prepared for what happened. So, somewhere in the Jewish world, Jesus really was expected - just not by most of those in power.

When you're looking for the wrong thing, you don't find it.

A lot of people do not find in Jesus what they are seeking, yet they try to make it so. You have to do violence to Jesus as we have received him in order to make him into something he is not. The Jews tried to take him to force him to be king, for example. The scholars of our time try to make him out to be a kind, yet kookie sort of apocalyptic nutter. Sort of like Oral Roberts with his healings and miracles - which we all know are faked - but he's kinda nice, anyway. The new age turns him into all sorts of crap - ascended master, thaumaturge, Gnostic spirit pretending to be human, etc. None of these folks have Jesus and John says they are liars.

Who is a liar, but he who denieth that Jesus is the Christ? This is Antichrist, who denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father. He that confesseth the Son hath the Father also.

In verse 27 John tells the Church, though, "Let the unction, which you have received from him abide in you. And you have no need that any man teach you: but as his unction teacheth you of all things and is truth and is no lie. And as it hath taught you, abide in him." That word, Unction (in the Douay) or Anointing (RSV) gets parsed out into "What you have heard" by the NABRE. Msgr Knox says "Meanwhile, the influence of his anointing lives on in you, so that you have no need of teaching; no lesson his influence gives you can be a lie, they are all true." Anointing and Unction are good poetic images and the more prosaic language in the other two seems unneeded. Jesus' teaching is, in this case, the Holy Spirit, the anointing of the Spirit of God in our hearts teaches us the truth.

This is important. I've realized the real question one must ask another person who claims to be Christian is, "Is God able to reveal himself in a real way?"

Once an Episcopal Priest said to me, "Jesus has revealed to us what God is like" and for a while that satisfied me. But he called Mary "Christ's Mother" instead of "Mother of God" and he didn't want to call her that. Because Jesus was not "revealing" so much as teaching us about God - not revealing himself.  Jesus is, in fact, the Face of God: the eyes, beard, lips, nose, nosehairs, possibly lousy hair, sleepy-crusted eyelids, smelly onion breath, froggy in the morning voice, face, and presence of God here on earth.

The Jews came to John (as they later would to Jesus) and said, "Which of these die-casted roles are you? John's answer was, "you're rolling the wong dice." Naturally, this offended them - because they were in power and they clearly knew more than this Cohen upstart. But God is something very different than you've made him out to be. First off, look: there is the Lamb of God standing in muddy Jordan water with damp robes.

And if that's not what God is to you, then... well... we're on different paths.

Is God able to reveal himself? And is he able to do it in a way you don't want him to do it? It requires a paradigm shift. If you're not looking for that quasi-homeless, sleeps-in-the-dirt God that we have, you're going to find something totally different here. And you'll probably walk away.