Sunday, May 22, 2016

What we are capable of

Everything that Jesus does is absolutely extraordinary. Whether or not He is God or the Son of God, the question pales into insignificance if we let ourselves look at Him and what He does with eyes unclouded by our mortality and unexpectation. It’s as if he appears on the stage of history to show mankind what we are actually capable of, what we can really accomplish, what we can be. We always want to say ‘No’ when someone expects something of us that we don’t believe we can do, be, or give, and that is almost everything. We live our lives as individuals and as nations in a constant state of fear and failure, in a state of perpetual negation. And so, we create a different world than the one that God creates for us. He gives us everything, and we take nothing from His hands, instead stealing only what is forbidden.

In His most extreme moment, Jesus, an innocent man crucified between two criminals, as He is going to meet death, cries out to God, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!’ This is not the kind of thing we expect a man on death row to think, let alone say. He has nothing more to gain or lose, yet He says this. Who is He asking God to forgive, and who is He to ask? Is He asking that the two thieves that are dying with Him be forgiven? Or the Roman soldiers who stripped and beat Him, nailed Him to the cross, and cast lots for His robe? Or the government officials, prefects and kings, who judged Him? Or the crowd that called for His execution ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ in exchange for the release of a known criminal? Or the religious leaders and the righteous who could not endure His words and deeds?

We don’t dare stand with the Pharisee who challenged Him when He told the paralytic ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ yet inwardly we are just as critical, just as negative, ‘Who can forgive sins but God?’ and so in our own day-to-day lives we execrate Him and call Him a liar by our thoughts and behaviors. We don’t really believe in forgiveness, His or anyone’s, except ritually, going to confession with our pittances of misdemeanors while we treat not only our neighbor, but the whole world, with contempt. If we listen to the words of the Gospel at all, ‘Which is easier, to say to this man, your sins are forgiven, or, take up your mat and walk?’ we hear them as tinseled words to decorate our vanity, and call it ‘piety.’ We never ask ourselves, ‘Who is He asking God to forgive?’ or even, ‘Who is He to ask?’ We know both answers.

But everything that Jesus does is absolutely extraordinary, everything He says. In everything He shows us what we are capable of. He is not God appearing as a human just to show off His miraculous powers. He is a man appearing as God to show us what we are made to be. He is not a figment of our imagination that we haul out on Sabbaths and festal days, to be put away, or even trashed, when our celebrations are over, like pagan, or rock-star, idols. We don’t really believe in the Creation story or in Adam and Eve, neither do we know, nor do we want to know, that Adam is mankind, created by God to be God on earth, and so Jesus, whom we call the ‘second Adam,’ is equally dismissed as just another story. He comes, He says, to make all things new. All things, even us. Renewed in the Image, of ourselves.

Our real selves, not what we have fashioned. What God made us, not what we pretend ourselves to be. Everything that Jesus does He does to show us what we are capable of. We really can heal the sick, give sight to the blind, preach the good news (that is, give hope to) the poor, even raise the dead. Our prayer can move mountains. Our forgiveness can transform the world. We can bring salvation to the earth. ‘Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father’ (John 14:12). Yes, we can even walk on water. We can exceed the myth. We can go beyond the saying, ‘God became man, so that man could become God,’ by actually manifesting, experiencing, living what the words are saying, and that is Truth.

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