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Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 13, No. 4, April 2017
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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The Centrality of the Resurrection
for All Men and Women of Good Will


Carmine Gorga

This article was originally published as Chapter 18 of
The Centrality of the Resurrection: Are We Ready to Let Jesus Enter our Hearts?
The Somist Institute, November 2016
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION


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LINK TO THE BOOK
Editor's Note: According to the author, this book "is an examination of the relationship between man/woman and God." The resurrection of Jesus is the central mystery of the Christian faith. For us Christians, it is a historical event that happened in the flesh, in a concrete location, at a given point in time that marks the end of the Old Law (patriarchal) and the beginning of the New Law (sacramental) in human-divine relations. It follows that this supreme act of God in time and space has crucial implications for social/ecological justice, here and now. For Christians, even as we struggle in the "already/not yet" of union with God in Christ, it means that we must collaborate, with all men and women of good will, in the mission of integral human development and in facing the splendid challenge of attaining an integral human ecology. The book is written from a personal Catholic Christian perspective, but the conceptual tent is big enough that should be understood by all Christians as well as believers in other religious traditions, and even by unbelievers with an open mind (look at the big picture, don't get stuck in doctrinal details!). The article below, on the "centrality of the resurrection," will be followed next month by a companion article to connect the dots of human body/flesh, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and current social/ecological justice issues.


"The resurrection of Christ was God's supreme and wholly marvelous work." (Saint Augustine)

Remember this wonderful, powerful statement of Saint Augustine? Well, I have repeated it here because it points to the centrality of the Resurrection. However, we must realize that it is fundamentally faulty, because it shutters the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Unwittingly, it separates God from Christ. Let us get to work, then; we have much important work to do.

A warning. To try to avoid that the position outlined here may be totally misconstrued, allow me to emphasize that Catholic theology for me remains, as it was for St. Thomas Aquinas, the mother of all sciences. The structure is perfect. There is nothing to add or subtract from it. By focusing on the centrality of the Resurrection, I am not adding nor subtracting one iota from Catholic theology. It is only a question of emphasis and points of view.

And then this. Let the practice of Christianity be well alone. What William Donohue, the president of the Catholic League once said, is utterly true: You cannot defend the indefensible. To this intellectual statement, I can only add my experiential position: I am a Catholic-in-pain.

The Centrality of the Resurrection

The case for the centrality of the Resurrection is easily made: If we believe that Jesus was born, lived, and was crucified, and we believe that Jesus was the third person of the Triune God, then we must believe in the Resurrection. The resurrection is a theological necessity. We shall see that there are dire consequences that follow from the lack of integration of the resurrection into the life and death of Jesus Christ—and the life and death of Jesus Christ into our own lives. By the same token, there are splendid consequences that follow from letting Jesus get off the cross.

How Did the Resurrection Occur?

If we believe in the equivalence of matter to energy and to spirit that we observed in Chapter 3, pace Acts 2:24, pace Saint Augustine, and myriad other authors who profess otherwise, the mechanics of the resurrection are understood as a very deliberate act—not an external, “miraculous,” mysterious act—but a wholly natural and intentional act. Christ first transformed his body into energy—and left behind what is now known as the Shroud of Turin as material evidence of this transformation—and then he transformed his energy into spirit. It is as Spirit that Jesus could burst out of the shroud and the tomb, and enter the Cenacle, while the doors were closed.

Once in the Cenacle, he behaved entirely as a human being: He ate, he drank, he showed his wounds to doubting Thomas. How did he do all that? As far as I can understand, it is a mystery that might prefigure either our eventual condition in the afterlife or a future profound transformation in our own being. That might be a world of "spiritualized" matter; a world in which matter knows what is proper to do, and does it. Forget Evolution, a concoction of ever changing theories worse than modern economics, if God is all-powerful, God can create such a reality at his pleasure—even through any of the (well constructed) conceptions of “evolution.”

My concern is with our present human condition.

SOME CONSEQUENCES OF LEAVING JESUS ON THE CROSS

I should like to highlight three dire consequences that flow from leaving Jesus on the cross. We are liable to misunderstand, first, what is that Christians receive at Holy Communion; second, we are liable to deny the goodness of God; third, we are liable to be oblivious to the sacrifice that is performed—or ought to be performed—at Holy Mass. Above all, if Jesus is kept on the Cross, he appears to be a prisoner of Christians; and other religious persons are less likely to attempt to know him.

What Do Christians Receive at Communion?

The Eucharist is the transubstantiated body of Christ. At communion Christians receive the real presence of Christ, the unity of body, mind, and spirit of Jesus. This is the unity that is present forever in the resurrected Jesus. This is the spiritual Jesus, the divine Jesus. If we accept the fact that Mary is a totally spiritual human being, we are not going to have any difficulty in recognizing that Jesus was a totally spiritual human being—in addition to being divine, namely the second person of the Triune God. All this complexity is reduced to manageable proportions as soon as we recognize that the “real” reality of this world in indeed composed of the unity of matter, energy, and spirit. To be clearer, perhaps, let me add that I can see the spirit of Christ even in the beautiful flower that lies in front of my eyes. But at that instant I do not need to be in a church; I do not need to confine my relationship with God to a wafer; I do not need a priest to consecrate the wafer. What I do not have then is the splendor of the Catholic tradition and the historical reality of Jesus.

Why is the Resurrection so central to the faith of Christians? Two points may clarify the issues. If we do not focus on the resurrection of Christ, we cannot attain communion with the spirit of God. If we do not focus on the Resurrection, the Holy Communion can become a macabre orgy in which we feast on the human body and blood of Christ.

How horrible.

How magnificent instead are the historical facts! This is my body… This is my blood. Bread and wine are representations of Jesus’s body and blood. But what is the real meaning of this representation? If we adhere to the historical meaning, we discover something very concrete, very important. Jesus’ body is “the living bread” (John 6:51), whose meaning came down through the ages to my mother who used to say: “This person is as good as bread.” Jesus is the “vine” (John 15:1) and Jesus’ blood is the wine, which, as Saint Gaudentius of Brescia recalled, is “the blood of the grape” (Genesis 49:11) created “to cheer man’s heart” (Psalm 104:15). Try as I might, the only thing I “taste and see” at Holy Communion, is not the body and the blood of Jesus, but his divine body, the goodness of the Lord.

This is the Jesus who makes us strong and cheerful.

The intensity of feeling—the love of God—that envelops us at Communion varies from time to time and from person to person. The relationship with Jesus cannot be but intensely personal. God is not interested in generalities.

How simple, how magnificent are the historical facts, which, when neglected, throw us into a world of abstractions and rationalizations. To call the living bread “the sacred flesh of Christ,” as for instance Cyril of Alexandria and Thomas Aquinas do, is not enough. The addition of the word “sacred” does not transform that flesh into Spirit. The flesh has to go, as it did in history, through the act of the Resurrection. The human Jesus is no longer with us; and he is no longer only on the Cross. At Communion we do not receive an indistinct Spirit; rather, we are in communion with the specific Jesus, the whole Jesus, the divine Jesus as the second person of the triune God.

These are some of the dire consequences of seeing Jesus only on the Cross. Without putting too fine a point on it, by leaving him on the cross we kill Jesus again and again; and we leave him on the cross—in pain. (Which, I believe, is what we do with each one of our sins: We shoot a dart directly into the heart of Jesus.)

With this ferocious short list of possible misunderstandings that can arise from leaving Jesus on the cross I do not mean to blame the long tradition. We did not know that matter is energy; we did not know that the relation that ties matter and energy together can be validated only by the equivalence of matter to energy and to spirit. We have no idea yet what does this unity imply. Inklings can be gotten only by being humble enough to enter into the world of many primitive societies, into the world of American Indians, for instance, a world in which everything is spiritual. In brief, we have to be tough-minded New Agers.

And the list continues.

God Did Not Create Us to Suffer

If we leave Christ on the cross, we are easily misled into believing that God created us to suffer. This status is unreal. When Jesus is reduced to a word, a single word, then the reality of Jesus is lost—and, as it will become increasingly clear as we proceed, the reality of God is lost. God did not create us to suffer, but to flower in his spirit. All eight Beatitudes are prescriptions on how to pass from a condition of distress to a state of pure bliss. (In my files there must be the record of a ninth Beatitude I discovered once and not been able to trace again). Two corollaries—and a scientifically proven fact—are most important.

First, we suffer only if and when we are away from God. We fret, as soon as we get separated from God. We have no calm; we have no peace. No sense of direction.

Second, if and when we are with him—and we act in love for ourselves, for others, and for God—we can tolerate anything. We hope that all sufferance will disappear; and it does in fact vanish. This is proof of, and reward for trust in God.

The goodness of God is indisputably proven by the scientifically ascertained existence of glorious chemical compounds in our brain. As soon as we suffer beyond human tolerance, substances are released by our brain to make our pain vanish. If you do not know or do not remember the name of these substances, just Google “the brain releases” and the answer will magically appear: dopamine, endorphins. The production of these chemicals by the brain is a scientifically accepted fact. And why neuroscientists, and scientists of any stripe, do not advertise this fact, why do they not scatter the knowledge of this fact among the four winds of the earth, why do they not meditate on this fact can be understood only if placed in the context of the positivist bias of our age. If an ascertained fact is beyond our range of ideological acceptance, we opt to neglect it. Or to misinterpret it, to suit our biases. Surely dopamine and endorphins are chemical substances. But is the feeling of pain—or joy—a chemical substance?

There is a heavy penalty in denying the reality, in the present case the reality of the existence of body, mind, and soul. One lives in a world of unreality. One needs to create a language of his own.

To me, the working of dopamine and endorphins is reason enough to thank God, to praise God, to glorify God, my God—my merciful God. The question I ask is this: Who/What “designed” to trigger the release of these substances at just the right moment?

At the other extreme, death by cancer is literally sold today as a horrible thing. Only those who know how horrible an abrupt death is will appreciate my contrary personal conviction, which I might crudely put this way: How beautiful it is slowly to die by cancer. Cruel as it appears at first hearing, if we were to accept such a state of mind, first, we would feel so much closer to those who are dying of such a horrible condition; then we would discover that we are, all, indeed dying a little bit day by day; and then we ought to have an explosion of joy when we realize that we are alive—whether we are in good or bad health.

Instead of analyzing any of these complex realities in detail, some psychologists and, through specious methodologies, some neuroscientists are feverishly trying to disprove the existence of free will—and some even the existence of an objective reality “out there.” A case in point. The first part of a six-part PBS documentary, called "The Brain" with David Eagleman, concludes by saying: "Reality is what your brain tells you (it is)." How biased is that?

If you check it out on the Internet, you find Dr. Eagleman writing: “For the past 2 years I've been writing and filming this 6-hour television series and the companion book. Join me for an exhilarating tour into the inner cosmos that generates your reality. [There]. In the infinitely dense tangle of billions of brain cells and their trillions of connections, I hope you’ll be able to squint and make out something that you might not have expected to see in there. You.”

Well, no! “You” is, not in your brain, a part of you; you is a person (for me, clearly in the image and similitude of God), who is composed of body, mind, and soul. This is a person who is not concealed inside our brain, but is revealed in our integration of the beautiful, the good, and the true in every action we take—publicly or secretly—in the market place, in the place of worship, unavoidably in full relation with all our brothers and sisters, seen and unseen, and with full impact on Mother Nature. There is where it is possible to find "you."

Of course, these piddling annoyances (how many of the seven billion people on earth watch PBS or take a course in science), these pitiful attempts are magnified by a culture that, for its own shortsighted power reasons, is desperately trying to expel God from the human consciousness. Do you remember the relish with which Voltaire and the Illuminati exploited the 1755 Lisbon earthquake to "prove" the cruelty of God—and even his stupidity—because he did not choose to punish London, a Protestant city, rather than Lisbon, a Catholic city? Yes, these are people who, at the drop of a hat, are going to detail to you how they are going to build a “better” world than the one we live in. Many have gone beyond words into nefarious actions.

By the way, why, as far as I know, have we never attempted to interpret God’s message transmitted by that 1755 devastating earthquake as chastisement to atone for the religious (!) wars (!) ultimately caused by a long chain of errors committed by the Catholic Church? May these errors be the reason why God chose to send his message to Lisbon, the Catholic Lisbon? Why has our mind been closed to this possibility? Is it because we all modern people insist on using only our brain, and we leave our soul well alone? Is it because we do not all listen to our stomach revolting against war? Is it because we do not all live with the stench of burned flesh in our nostrils?

A Skewed Conception

Perhaps the best way to show how skewed is the conception of pain in Christology is by indirection. The characterization of the Madonna as Mater Dolorosa is not complete. Did not Mary ask Jesus to perform his first miracle? Did she not say to Jesus: "They have no wine?" Was wine supposed to induce pain in the merriment of the nuptials at Cana? Why not celebrate her also as Mother of Merriment? Mother of Joy?

A Sacrifice Remains

Mass a sacrifice remains. A sacrifice is being performed during the Holy Mass. Salvation comes from the sacramental, mystical re-presentation of Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice. But a sacrifice of what? What did Jesus do?

“Thy will be done,” said Jesus as he was dying on the Cross. That is what he did all his life, because this was in accordance with the great Jewish tradition: “For in sacrifice you take no delight,/ burnt offering from me you would refuse,/ my sacrifice, a contrite spirit./ A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn” (Psalm 51-16:17).

No matter how widespread the notion is, it seems to me that—quite apart from grace from our merciful God—salvation does not come through Jesus Christ's sacrifice; that is an assumption that makes us totally passive spectators. Indeed, it is an assumption full of dangerous implications: It would mean that God the Father sent his son to be sacrificed for us; no, Jesus came on earth to remind us that God is Spirit. People did not believe Jesus. On the contrary, powerful Israelites and Romans alike believed that Jesus was undermining their power. This is another wrong assumption perpetuated through the ages down to our own age: People with power do not need to be afraid: God has nothing against the exercise of their rightful powers; as any other human being, they only need to interpret and follow God's will. If they exercise their power as a full expression of love for themselves, love for neighbor, and love for God, they do not have to fear God. They will be working with God, under the tutelage of God. They have nothing to fear. (The reader will find a more extensive treatment of these issues at Toward the Restoration of Economics to Theology and An Easter Meditation).

Likewise, the rich. Did not Jesus have many rich friends? Crassly stated, who paid for all those banquets? Surely, the first public act of Jesus was to throw the money changers out of the Temple. But did Jesus kill them? He gently whipped them. Did he chase them into their bank buildings? Did he tear their banks down? Surely, the parable of the Rich Man Through the Eye of the Needle is a tough proposition. But what did Jesus mean? Jesus requested total detachment from things of this earth. He certainly was not calling for stark naked people to follow him in the streets.

All this raises an important question about God. If the Jewish people were presumably predestined not to believe in the Messiah, why did God allow all the consequent pain inflicted upon them over the centuries? The facile answer is this: There was no predestination; and pain was not inflicted upon the Jewish people exclusively. Had powerful Jewish and Roman people reaffirmed that God is Spirit, and acted accordingly, Jesus might have been happy to die a normal life to a ripe old age as any other human being. Indeed, he would have had no reason to come to earth at all.

Are we Christians, and Jewish brothers and sisters, so deaf as not to hear the words of Jesus? So stonehearted as not to join him in this sacrifice? What we have to offer in sacrifice is our self; what we have to kill is our self, our selfish self. We must offer our self to God and to others.

Now let us all repeat: Why does God want to make us strong and cheerful? Because he wants us to offer ourselves to God and to others. If God loves us to this extent, we have nothing to worry. We will love ourselves. We will find the strength to get out of personal depression and economic depressions (see Chapter 11).

If we do not remain transfixed on the Cross for too long, our sacrifice is not going to be too painful after all. When we submit our will to God, when we work in accordance with his plans, we are free. We live joyously.

POSITIVE CONSEQUENCES OF THE RESURRECTION

The Resurrected Christ is Jesus freed from the Cross. The blessings that flow from the Resurrection cannot be counted; let us see some of them.

Jesus Is Alive

Jesus is alive. By integrating the resurrection of Christ into his birth, life, and death, we fully integrate Jesus into the reality of the Triune God. What we receive at Communion is the resurrected body of Jesus, the eternal Jesus, the spiritual Jesus, the real Jesus, the divine Jesus. After all, he spent only 33 years among us. For the rest of eternity, he has been with his Father.

Once we fully accept the resurrection, we have this to say: God is alive and well. He is no longer on the cross. It is humanity that is rather sickly. It is us human beings who are rather sickly.

Major infections from which we suffer are deism, scientism, secularism, and sexism. Deism is a feebleness of the will: We are so wishy-washy that we do not have a will strong enough to become either an atheist or a firm believer in God. Scientism is a feebleness of the intellect: Our ego is so strong that we think we can with our intellectual powers bring reality into existence. Out of the myriad cases of this infection, the most evident for me is this. Silly physicists, some silly physicists, are searching for a particle—which for them is a wholly and exclusively material affair—a particle called "graviton." Yes, I can see Father Time, or some other old man or woman carrying a sac on his/her back with the graviton inside. Oh, yes. Santa Claus is a possible candidate. Secularism is a feebleness of the heart: We are afraid that we can never really love everyone—humanity is so vast, and we are so limited. What do I personally have against secularism? Oh, only two things. I hold it directly accountable for the destruction of the institution of the Sunday Meal, and the destruction of the appreciation of all Sacred Cultures. Sexism is a weakness of the body; we hold so tight to it, we hold to it for our dear life; and we do not let it go; we do not hold on to those fleeting moments when we embrace our father or mother or sister or brother or dear friend. Do we embrace his or her body? How silly; how sickly. No, we embrace his or her spirit. Ah, it had to be a priest, it had to be a pope, a pope and a saint, St. Pope John Paul II to remind us that that is also what happens when you are having great sex with your spouse; there is no husband, no wife. There is only a union of two souls. Ah, you cannot get any closer to another person than when you are joined in sexual embrace. What do I personally have against sexism and fixation on sex? Only one thing: Its reduction of love—and morality—to sex.

In the end, these are all expressions of an unacknowledged type of freedom that we have acquired, freedom from God—so free, that God has been declared non-existent or dead. Too evident to even mention, none of these illnesses can be cured in the name of a God who has been declared dead.

In the meantime, freedom, our God-given freedom, the freedom that came from pursuing the virtues, with Martin Luther became freedom from the authorities; hence, it became political freedom. And it is not fully realized that this freedom is based on other people’s whims. Worse than that. Economic freedom has been restricted to the few who practice, not liberty, but libertinism. We, the majority of the people, have been left with the freedom in the political sphere to pull a lever every so often to vote for people we do not really know and who do not pursue our interests, while in the social sphere we have acquired the freedom to kill the unborn, to put old people to pasture, and to divorce our spouses. Why do people who have same-sex attraction insist on the freedom to steal the word “marriage”? Why can’t they coin their own word to cover their relationship?

Of course, I am fully aware that outbursts of my personal indignation are a drop in the bucket of our cultural life. But I also know that morality is the salt of the earth. The tiniest drop of it will disperse through the entire cauldron.

Nietzsche Was Wrong

For me, the most important cultural consequence of the Resurrection is that, if we believe in the Resurrection, we must conclude that Nietzsche was wrong. God is not dead. God is indeed alive and well. God is in everything and everywhere.

Yet, the shadow of Nietzsche, his spirit, was right. Christ did die on the cross. And if we leave him there, we might come to believe that he is indeed dead.

It is Saint John the Apostle who was right. Saint John (4:12-13) says: "No one has ever seen God. Yet if we love one another God dwells in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us. The way we know we remain in him and he in us is that he has given us of his Spirit." Notice. He has given us of his Spirit. Not of his body. Not of his blood and his body.

If one does not confuse God with religion—any religion—there is nothing in God of which we might possibly be ashamed.

Let us Focus on the Resurrection, Then

When we focus on Christ on the Cross—as we Christians must if we want to make our religion very real—and as we focus on the Resurrection, an amazing transformation occurs under our very eyes. We no longer see Jesus; we no longer see the Cross. Jesus is no longer a human person. Jesus is pure Spirit. Jesus is transformed into the third person of the Triune God. What we see is Pure Love. A word, perhaps, that uttered by the Holy Spirit and embodying the Holy Spirit itself, is repeated over and over and starts resonating throughout the entire universe.

Then, we get in full communion with the Spirit of Christ. We discover the deepest reason why he came down to earth: He became man to reaffirm the greatest of all Jewish discoveries, the intuition that God is Spirit. Therefore, we can be united with God because we ourselves are made of body, mind, and spirit.

When we receive the transubstantiated body and blood of Christ, the Resurrected Christ, we know that we are in communion, not with a symbol, but the reality of Christ. This reality is essential for a simple reason, because we can never be allowed to forget that Jesus was a real person. He was God incarnate as a unique human being.

Only if we let the Resurrected Jesus live in us and we in Him, only then the Communion gains its original intent as a sacrament of union of all the people—union with God.

Was Jesus reciting anything at the Last Supper but praying the old prayer, "Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup" (Psalm 16:5)? With “this bread” and “this wine,” was Jesus offering us his human body? Most certainly, he was offering us his divine spirit.

Now it is clear what John 1:3 says: "Through the Word all things were made." And he adds: "They were made through him, by him, for him." It bears emphasizing, all things were made by him.

What is the effect of believing in the Resurrection with all our mind and with all our soul? We Christians realize that the Resurrected Christ is indeed the third person of the Triune God. Then we experience the joy that, as it clearly emanates from their writings and their actions, the first Christians experienced, or the deep joy that the convert experiences, or the joy that we experience at Mass—or in a garden—when we have been blessed by a deep encounter with Jesus. May that feeling, that breath of life be with us believers, not only during the brief hour of the Mass, but throughout the week, day after day, until Sister Death takes us away from this world.

Let us be certain of one thing and one thing only. This is the revelation of the Resurrection: Jesus is God. He was part of the Triune God before coming to earth; he was God throughout his entire permanence on earth; he is God now. For biblical proofs, please visit this section of The Open Bible.

Jesus is God!

The Madonna is the Mother of God, as established at the Council of Ephesus.

Jesus is God

As we utter these words, “Jesus is God,” immediately, three explosive realizations come into our consciousness:

Jesus is Yahweh
Jesus is Allah
Jesus is not-Buddha.

For me, a Christian, these are easy affirmations. They do not contradict my core beliefs. They reaffirm my core beliefs and enlarge my range of understanding. They help me capture—in a very minimalist fashion, to be sure—what I can grasp in the traditions of belief in Yahweh, Allah, and Buddha.

And I hope and pray that this key distinction becomes clear to all. Jesus as Jesus has been allowed to become an instrument of discord. Let us all now try to see Jesus as God.

The Resurrected Jesus Is Yahweh

Jesus is Yahweh. If Yahweh is God, and Jesus is God; then Jesus is Yahweh. When I say that Jesus is Yahweh, I get close to the entire history of the Jewish people—from the past, some of the shameful (for Christians) past—to the present. I am astonished by the discovery of the Jewish people that God is One. Indeed, much more. I am astonished by the discovery of the Jewish people that God is Spirit.

I am not a theologian, nor a historian. So my acquaintance with the Jewish tradition is necessarily amateurish. And I do not apologize for this condition. Being amateurish for me means that I am free to go to the root of things. It means that I am in love with the Jewish tradition.

For me, a deep believer, to understand the Jewish tradition is to better understand Christ. I wish I were able to convey at least this import of the Jewish tradition to other people. For me, much of the core of this tradition is caught by these verses from Psalm 63: “O God, you are my God, for you I long;/ for you my soul is thirsting./ My body pines for you/ like a dry, weary land without water./ So I gaze on you in the sanctuary, to see your strength and your glory. For your love is better than life…”

A facile but irrepressible injunction: Do not fear God; God is love; love God. May we regain that fervor of understanding that led Daniel to sing (3:56): “Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord/ Praise and exalt him above all forever.”

And yet, a grave concern has to be raised at this point. Please, do not repeat with Job, Job the beloved Job: ”We accept good things from God, and should we not accept evil?” God, who is all good, does not send us evil. Even when he reproaches us, he does it for our good. God tolerates evil. Evil comes from free evil men and women. To blame God for the evil that exists in society is what wicked men and women want: They want us to blame God and let them go scot free. Do not try to fathom God’s intentions.

But take to heart the ancient Jewish Proverb (1:7), “wisdom and instruction fools despise.”

To stress the importance of the Jewish tradition, it should be enough to repeat with Jesus: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Mt. 5:17). As I said, I am not a theologian. I am free to go beyond traditional theology to find endless riches in the Jewish treatment of Wisdom; I am made speechless by this astonishing perception of deep, sacred ecology: “Your servants love her stones./ They love even the dust of that city!” (Psalm 102:14).

This God is not an ethereal intellectual entity. It is a personal God. It is my God. My God who comes to “open my lips” every morning.

The God who, with Boris and Natasha, tempts me to say: ”It’s good to be bad.” (How boring would life be otherwise.) And then asks me to pray: ”Do not lead me into temptation.” This is the God of infinite goodness, creativity, and freedom. (Just think for a moment, would any of this make any sense if there were no God? Would, indeed could, I just be talking to myself? No, if there is no God, you do not exist either. You are just a figment of my imagination. Worse yet, I would be a figment of my imagination.)

Freedom is not “free.” Freedom, personal freedom, is acquired only through the strenuous exercise of the virtues. What joy, what satisfaction would there be… through what? Me doing nothing? Nothing comes from nothing. And what about me doing evil things? There is no satisfaction there, there is only the taste of a bitter mouth. But why? Because it is so easy to do evil things.

How to conclude this short visit with the Jewish tradition? For a long time, I resisted the thought that the poor “wretched” me should "bless" God. And then it came to me. This possibility is one of the greatest gifts that I have received from the Jewish people. They have been giving me the hutzpah to address my God, not as a subdued human being, but as a glorious manifestation of God's likeness and similitude.

This then is the gift I give myself, for me Jesus is Yahweh, and Yahweh is MY God.

The Resurrected Jesus Is Allah

Jesus is Allah. If Allah is God, and Jesus is God; then Jesus is Allah. Same disclaimer as before. I wish I knew much more of the Muslim tradition. This is what I know and deeply appreciate.

I wish I prayed to God five times a day.

I wish we Christians believed in the five pillars and consistently practiced almsgiving.

Indeed, I wish we Christians were so observant of Allah’s admonition as not to tolerate the payment of exorbitant interest on loans—usury, you know.

I wish we Christians were so imbued with the Spirit of Allah as to deeply despise much of modern secularism.

For me Jesus is Allah, and Allah is MY God.

And here a couple of observations about ISIS must be allowed. I am a pacifist. I cannot condone violence, especially when violence is perpetrated in the name of religion This is a consideration I wish ISIS people will devoutly take to heart as soon as (when?) their own existence is no longer threatened by their Christian and secular opponents. This is what I notice about ISIS people of today: Surely they are not making beheading of human beings a Sunday afternoon, a joyous spectacle, as French revolutionaries did with the guillotine.

Also, I have not yet heard any of the sanctimonious souls who are scandalized by the beheading of people by ISIS express any scandal at the crucifixion of Jesus. Forget the divinity of Jesus. We are still left with the most humane, the most sensitive, the most intelligent man that ever existed being subjected by “human” beings to scourging and crucifixion. No, crucifixion is not a word: It is the action of human beings nailing, forcing actual nails, long huge nails into hands and feet of a human being and watching his life disappear from his body drop by drop of water and blood.

In our knee-jerk reaction against ISIS we Christians—publicly and privately—neglect that we are supposed to live under this stern commandment: “Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

To open a dialogue with ISIS people, we have to recognize two more hard realities: 1. ISIS' practices are an expression of intense love for Allah; 2. Especially in the West, we have lost any sense of love for God. As I painfully realize, secularism is an attempt to destroy all cultures that believe in the sacredness of life. It is only in this context that ISIS rage, which explodes in revenge exercised by destroying all that we consider beautiful, can faintly be understood—without ever possibly condoning it.

But let us never forget that keeping ISIS people engaged in civilized exchanges is and must be the task of all Muslim leaders. It is their primary responsibility, not ours, “to win” ISIS people back to civilization. It is their responsibility to convey to young impatient hot heads that all good things come in time, that it takes time to reach all good things. Above all, it is incumbent upon leaders, Muslin leaders in particular, to summon the courage to cultivate the friendship of impatient hot heads, as King Mohammed VI of Morocco has done in a televised address on August 20, 2016, by telling them such truths as these: “The terrorists who operate in the name of Islam are not Muslims.” “Can anyone of sound mind believe that the reward for Jihad could be some virgins in Paradise?”

To tell the truth is the ultimate responsibility of leaders—everywhere, every time.

Once these hard positions are taken into consideration, and it will not be easy at all to consider them, human beings of whatever religious persuasion might sit down and discuss what are the means by which we might all grow in our love for God. We might be surprised at how much ISIS people might teach us.

That is for theologians. Theologians also have to intervene to train security forces and re-build communities. Politicians need to consider that their road to the heart of ISIS people might be the assumption that, before they become terrorists, ISIS people are political dissidents and opposition leaders. Perhaps, what young Muslims are looking for, especially young Muslims who are forced to abandon their lands and eke out a living abroad, perhaps what they are aspiring to is some form of economic justice.

To help us love God in The Other is the primary function of religion. How well is this function performed is a topic to be intensely investigated; and the investigation must start from this firm realization: We cannot love God, if we fear God.

To love God is not irrational. To love God is an intensely rational natural propensity of the mind. We have to learn how to make it a habit of the mind,

The key must be the commandment left to all of humanity by Jesus: love yourself, love your neighbor, love God.

Do these considerations help us distinguish "true" from "false" religions? No. And I believe that this is the wrong question. This is a question that leads to biased answers. The above considerations, rather, lead to this question: Is this particular religion helping us to love God?

The Resurrected Jesus is not-Buddha

I am not sure how does a Buddhist take the expression that the Resurrected Jesus is not-Buddha. Perhaps Buddhists will have no difficulty at all. They will gladly and immediately embrace this vision of Jesus.

I am concerned, however, that the expression will be harder for Christians. Rather than exploring the meaning of the expression that the Resurrected Jesus is not-Buddha, let me attempt to get into the reverse proposition. Let me attempt to demonstrate that Buddha is my God—not in the abstract, but as my personal experience.

Jesus is not Buddha, because Buddha is not God. Jesus, then, is not-Buddha and Buddha is not-God. It is as not-God that Buddha is MY God.

When you peal everything away, especially when you peal all rationalizations away, you start to understand Jesus in his Transubstantiation: the wafer is not-Jesus; the wine is not-Jesus’ blood; it is the consecrated wafer that is no longer wafer; it is the not-wafer that is Jesus and the consecrated not-blood that is Jesus. It is then that you start to understand Jesus in his Resurrection. Then you begin to feel the presence of Jesus as "the Word," or specifically as “Love” and, philosophically, as not-Being. This is the road through which we might encounter Buddha as not-God. And Buddhists might welcome Jesus as God.

Just because they eschew an intellectual knowledge of God, Buddhists practice the presence of God in everything they do, everything around us. They practice and teach what only mystics can seriously do, experience the presence of God in each and every daily action.

And what might then be the experience of non-Christians as well? They might truly experience the deep truth of the Gospel: Adam tears all things asunder with his disobedience; Jesus reconciles “all things unto himself” through his perfect obedience to God’s will (Colossians 1:20).

This is a world in which

When I pray to Jesus as Yahweh I am a Jew.
When I pray to Jesus as Allah, I am a Muslim.
When I pray to Jesus as not-Buddha, I am a Buddhist.

Why? The reason is very simple. The body dies. The body is transformed into something else that we do not really know. Something spiritual that Jesus and Mary experienced before us. And the spirit never dies. In the spirit….

…there is no death; only resurrection.

An Encounter with All Spiritual Movements

If we do believe that in the spirit there is no death, only resurrection, we might be ready to have a deep encounter with all “spiritual” movements. We will be able to encounter all facets of Christianity as deep spiritual movements. We will be able to encounter members of the Greek Orthodox Church as participants in a deep spiritual movement. We will be able to encounter Judaism, as a deep spiritual movement. We will be able to encounter Islam, as a deep spiritual movement. Certainly, the broad term of New Age comes to mind.

Are not participants in the variegated manifestations of the New Age Movement in search for deep spirituality? Indeed, have they not found it? Indeed, have not New Age people found spirituality at a much deeper level at times, it seems, than Christians?

It seems to me that New Age people have done much serious spiritual work. They are fusing the verities discovered by psychology and mysticism in a unified glorious whole. Many of them lack Jesus, of course. That is why at times, to a stale Christian, New Age people feel so light-headed. But it is not their fault if they do not accept Christ. A dead Christ I would also refuse.

Thus, an essential function of Christianity comes forward: Christianity ought to help each person and each religious institution on earth to find Jesus within its own traditions and institutions. Father Panikkar has already done much of the necessary intellectual work.

This is the only way to practice peace among the various warring religions. The essential meaning of religious freedom is—and must be—that each person, each human institution is—and must be—free to pray to “god” the way one knows how. All religions are there only to help the individual person reach direct experience of and communication with God.

Let us encounter each other in the spirit of the Resurrected Christ and see what happens. Jesus is there. God is there. Always available to us—just like the sun that is always there in the sky even when we cannot see it, or we see it imperfectly.

A Geopolitical Observation

Yahweh was the God of Israel, a tiny nation surrounded by many envious enemies. Yahweh had to be a God of war. Jesus, as God of all mankind, is a God of peace.

A Personal Observation

Forget all rationalizations. Forget that Jesus is God. Think that he was only a man. Still do you have any reason not to love him? How childish! How egotistical! How misguided!

To love Jesus is just. To love Jesus is a must. To love Jesus is the most rational thing available to us.

To love Jesus is to exercise the highest of all our human virtues.

Next month, "BACK TO EARTH"...


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carmine Gorga is president of The Somist Institute. He is a former Fulbright scholar and the recipient of a Council of Europe Scholarship for his dissertation on "The Political Thought of Louis D. Brandeis." Using age-old principles of logic and epistemology, as well as mathematics employed by modern engineers and scientists, in a book and a series of papers Dr. Gorga has transformed the linear world of economic theory into a relational discipline in which everything is related to everything else - internally as well as externally. He was assisted in this endeavor by many minds, notably for twenty-seven years by Professor Franco Modigliani, a Nobel laureate in economics at MIT. The resulting work, The Economic Process: An Instantaneous Non-Newtonian Picture, was published by the University Press of America in 2002 and has been republished in a paperback expanded edition in 2009. For reviews, click here. During the last few years, Dr. Gorga has concentrated his attention on the requirements for the unification of economic theory and policy, calling this unity Concordian economics, based on the following principles:.

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