i just finished my reflection paper in Christology…sharing it with you…
“I believe in Jesus Christ…”
Cesar Y. Granada
For the past two thousand years, our Christology inside the Catholic Church was drawn with finality with the great councils in the fourth-fifth century. Albeit with some clarifications and elaborations in the Middles Ages, our creed became silent to the historical Jesus we found in the gospels. We ended up in a confused and extraterrestrial Christology which we inculturated as folk religiosity and somehow accepted blindly due to obedience and benefit of doubt since this came from the Church who cannot deceive us since it claims God revealed it. This course somehow disturbed the silent waters of my understanding of Jesus and to a greater extent vindicated the doubt of the modern person in me which sometimes ask heretical questions on what the Catholic Church taught me all these years.
We started our course by recalling our belief in Jesus Christ and later found out that our knowledge is in line with the Catholic Church. However, we were asked to review and raise questions and be critical on these religious language vis-à-vis our historicity as a Filipino Catholic in the 21st century. Our processing lead us to conclude that these terms, language and concepts are no longer relevant to our fast changing world of globalization and information overload. We saw the need to uncover the story behind such frustration on our Christology if we want to remain faithful to Jesus of Nazareth.
Those terms that we used to describe Jesus as a heavenly being is a product of a past historicity which is valid and true at their own time but the problem started when the subsequent generation stopped doing theology and became comfortable with the reflection of the previous one or re-interpreting it in a similar conceptual framework. We saw its relevance and meaning is no longer at par with our consciousness as people in history; its cosmological and anthropological language is outdated – leading believers to assent with no relevant existential ground on their daily life. In the Philippine context, these came as outdated Christologies which ended up to in our culture as folk religiosity; “Anak ng Diyos at Anak ni Maria”, “Jesus as Host”, “Jesus as Suffering Servant”, “Jesus as Christ the King” and “Jesus as Miracle Worker”. These models of Jesus Christ in our culture, though valid and reflects a seemingly inculturated Christianity, remains to be linked to the historical Jesus. The problems arise because its model of interpretation is based on a transplanted Christianity, an artificial view of salvation far from what we experience in the local context. What’s worst, it provides a breeding ground for dependence on miracles, infantile tendency to Faith, and a God who delights in the suffering of the human person.
For me, it was a paradigm shift to see salvation as experiential, that we can experience “heaven” here on earth and point it to Jesus as the reference point. We seldom associate the good life with
salvation; corrupt and power intoxicated people enjoy access to health services, unlimited human rights, maligned justice and dignity while we who live in the outskirts of society is content with our suffering since Christ’s suffering is seemingly numb to the injustices of society because heaven awaits him for this silent suffering. To wish for the good things in life seems too much and vainglory according to the Church, we need to cling to God’s intervention and benevolence without human effort, an insult to a sentient being God created. The course gave me a reason to rethink and revise this incorrect model of heaven. To live the fullness of life as a human person is also salvation. Heaven is here-and-not-yet, a blessing; for those who live God’s love, compassion and mercy to its personhood, to its neighbor and the world where God is. Also a hope; to enter the fullness of life with God is prayed for not as a reward but as a transhistorical mystery, that God prepared for us. This paradigm shift is something relevant to us in the
present here-and-now that is fullness of human life, (justice, human rights, access to food, human dignity, equal opportunity at work, and many more). It helped me realized somehow that God is present and immanent in my life’s struggles and victories as I search for my mission in this life. More than academic learning; this existential affirmation of God’s immanent disappearance in my life affirms my faithinterpretation of Jesus as someone who can relate with my life minus the doctrinal and cultic otherness of a divine Jesus which the Catholic Church is espousing today. This new paradigm shift from a theology-fromabove to theology-from-below is indeed revolutionary as it accentuates the relevance of human experience vis-à-vis God’s epiphany as a human person in the historical Jesus. I am a gift to humanity; with dignity and beloved with no if’s and but, thanks to Jesus of Nazareth.
Traditionally, heaven is the reward for accepting Jesus as the Son of God; whose passion, death, and resurrection gained for me an access to the heavenly throne and at the same time living a pious life and complete obedience to the Catholic Church through its clergy. Christology comes first and Soteriology follows. A Divine Son of God who offers salvation in the cross for humanity period. This statement solved everything, especially for a Filipino Catholic whose life and existence is not a bed of roses. A false hope to millions of generations believing that a mere faith in Jesus Christ is enough and patient suffering in the sinful structures of society if only offered to Jesus, will give us a sure way to the beatific vision of God.
To go back to the historical Jesus is possible albeit a scholarly skill in identifying faith statements and historical remembrances in the text is at utmost importance. To achieve this, we will employ the historical critical method which treats text as the word of God in particular time with unique authorship, culture, socio-political and religious environment where the text is trying to narrate and communicate. In addition, we have to keep in mind that these religious texts uses symbolic language specifically as metaphors which tries to describe one thing in reference to another term. These metaphors evoke something rather than describe religious experiences.
As we continue to treat the text under historical critical method, we need to review the socio-political world of the time of Jesus, the groups, their seemingly role in society and how they shaped Jesus’ ministry. Also, a historical sketch of the history of Israel is also important as it gives us the progress of thought, worship and literature of the people and how it influenced the life and events in Jesus’ time. I believe this is a good point of Christology to trace the Jesus we never know, to re-trace if possible the steps, the world and culture where the gospels were written. The models of Jesus that was presented in class is very good and articulates a rich tradition of interpretation of his ministry and I was surprised that the term, “Son of God” is not present although indirectly contained to the “Son of God” model. I would subscribe and agree to the model as Jesus as the prophet or Sprit-man. His ministry is but the manifestation of a God whose transcendence is immanent in His creation not as an abstract or conceptual knowledge but an experiential, tangible and concrete experience of love, compassion and mercy in history. As we claim to follow this Jesus, I am challenged to revise my understanding and image of my Jesus and see resurrection experience as my own resurrection story, where my faith experience is anchored not in an other-worldly reward or compensation but rather experience in the here-and-now and ultimately a hope for that trans-historical life with God.
The re-reading of the resurrection stories gave me a good alternative theology where the emphasis is shifted on the experiential dimension of this event to the disciples without any third party re-interpretation that we can see from the Councils which defined Jesus. The middle way between seeing the resurrection as resuscitation versus faith rebirth offers a faithful rendition of the historical experience the first followers of Jesus went through. Probably, it will not take a rocket scientist to conclude that after living a life like that of Jesus, his death will translate to being one with God. Secondly, the experiential affirmation of the resurrection to the lives of the men and women who followed Jesus, which resulted to conversion, fellowship and service to their families and community shows how, transformed them inside out. If we are to follow this line of theology, the empty tomb poses a dilemma at first sight. Conditioned by our common Tradition in this phase of Jesus’ life, Christianity always point to this story as the proof of the resurrection. I concur with the class that the empty tomb story in the four gospels seems in no agreement who are the persons who saw the empty tomb. What matters in the end is that the resurrection story opened the eyes of the believers that Jesus’ message is true and believable that even at his death, lives were changed and they can see a transcendent God personified and lived in Jesus’ life and ministry.
Now that the course had ended, what did I learned? What insight did the course shed light on my poor soul. For recent years, I experienced somewhat a downward spiral of my Faith in Christianity. Its relevance becomes more and more farfetched and alien to my life as a human person and believer in God. Somehow, the course found me again to hope and appreciate the Gospels. Indeed our creed, Ecclesiology and Christology as not at pace with the modern man and woman, in a time where freedom, equality and
information is readily available and fought for, we are still treated as children; everything is provided as if everything was experienced and known already. Apologetics failed miserably as it tries to parrot an outdated view of the universe, human person and the divine. We need such courses to awaken us from this fairy-tale like salvation history. We need to heed the call of the times and see if our Faith is still at pace with the demands of the post-modern and digital world.
To meet Jesus again for the first time seems a Herculean task for Christianity but the good news is; it-is-possible! We only need to go back to the texts and with the aid of our skills God had provided, we can see Jesus of Nazareth as the manifestation of a transcendent God in His creation.
My task now that I meet Jesus again for the first time compels me to have this respect to my humanity and see its potential in the world where God has placed me. My skills, talents and the very personhood is holy because God journeys with me, in my sorrow, joy, defeats and accomplishments because that is the fullness of life Jesus showed me. Going out to the world, I will remember the six anthropological constants and the new paradigm Jesus of Nazareth breathe into it. Now I understand why the ‘reign of god’ is at hand, because God is in His creation, and with Jesus as our paradigm, our journey to God will be the beginning of that trans-historical reality, a hope and fullness of life.
Jesus is Risen,
Jesus is Lord!
Si Hesus ay namatay…
Si Hesus nabuhay!
Si Hesus ay babalik sa wakas ng panahon!