The Pattern for Everything
Friday, May 12, 2017
Jesus both reveals and identifies with humanity in all its stages, and even reveals the trajectory of all history—at its beginning, at its lowest points, and at its fulfilled end. Jesus, the Christ, illustrates “The One, Single New Man” (Ephesians 2:15), an Archetype, a Stand-In for all of humanity all at once (1 Corinthians 15:21-28, 45-49; Romans 5:15-21, 8:3; Colossians 3:10-11; Ephesians 2:14-22).
Here is the map of the universal pattern:
- At the beginning, for both Jesus and us, the soul is already one with God. Just as Jesus is the Son of God, we also are sons or daughters of God from conception. Jesus’ unique and inclusive “sonship” declares us as “co-heirs” and “adopted children” in Paul’s theology (Romans 8:14-17). Yet this divine conception is hidden from all of us until we discover it, as I believe Jesus had to do, too. He is not “initiated” until he does.
- There are several moments (Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3:13-17 and Mark 1:9-11, Peter’s “confession” in Matthew 16:16, the Transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-8 and Luke 9:28-36) where Jesus “gets the message,” just as we often do when we are really listening. But we forget our truth or even deny it; whereas Jesus never denies his deep identity and always trusts God to be his faithful Father (see John 8:25-29).
- Even the Gospels seem to jump over Jesus’ thirty years of uneventfulness, paralleling midlife for most of us, during which all the seeds are planted for a later sprouting. Jesus increasingly encounters trials and hostility, leading to abandonment and betrayal, just as most human lives do in some form or another. He thus identifies with humanity at its lowest points. That’s the place of powerlessness as the separate ego allows itself to die, and we are gradually re-grafted to the Vine (see John 15:1-6).
- At our low points, we are one step away from either enlightenment or despair. Without faith that there is a Bigger Pattern, and the grace to surrender to that Bigger Pattern, most people will move into despair, negativity, or cynicism. We need a promise, a hopeful direction, or it is very hard not to give up. When you have not yet learned what transformation feels or looks like, someone—perhaps some loving human or simply God’s own embrace—needs to hold you now because you cannot hold yourself. When we experience this radical holding, and even deep loving, this is salvation!
- Thus, Jesus reveals and identifies with the final chapter of the human journey at its promised and now fulfilled form. He becomes the goal personified—the Risen Christ! This is where we are all heading: to resurrection. What humanity fears, hates, destroys, pollutes, kills, and crucifies, God promises to transform and raise up!
- Quietly and unrecognized, the circle comes “full circle” in what we call the Ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:9-11). We all return where we first started, with the great school of life and death ushering us back home.
At the same time, so you do not think I am playing lightly with Scripture and Tradition, we must preserve the logical possibility of “Hell,” as most religions do in some form. In doing so, we are preserving human free will. It is indeed possible to refuse this whole journey of love. Otherwise God is a Puppeteer and we are mere puppets. Love can only exist in the realm of ever more perfect freedom.
Gateway to Silence:
Alleluia, alleluia, amen!
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Great Themes of Paul: Life as Participation, disc 10 (Franciscan Media: 2002), CD.