The Real Jesus

So much has been written about Jesus over 2000 years that one is tempted to ask, “Will the real Jesus stand up?” Perhaps the best way to understand Jesus is not through our minds but through our imagination. In literature we read of kings and princes who disguise themselves as nobodies so that they can mingle among ordinary people and find the love of their lives who will love them, not because of their position in life, but truly for themselves.

In some ways, Jesus is like these royal characters. But the big difference is that these fictional personages had deliberately chosen to disguise their identity. For Jesus, there was no make-believe. Jesus had to search for his identity. Jesus had to become a man of radical (extraordinary) faith, hope and love.

Radical Faith. Let us recall that the same Spirit Who brought creation out of chaos was the same One who empowered Mary to conceive Jesus. But the Spirit wasn’t finished with his work of bringing about Jesus. As a truly human person, Jesus was a work in progress. He had to undergo the same developmental process of any human being. He had to develop his body, his mind, human imagination and human feelings. We read in the gospels that Jesus grew in age, wisdom and grace. Much would be hidden from him as he went through this process of growth.

It was the Spirit who led Jesus to develop his innate belief in God’s love for him and in God’s mission for him. Jesus’ evolving faith was an extraordinary power. For Jesus’ faith empowered him to reach an intelligence that no human reasoning could provide. His radical faith would give him a vision of God, himself, others and life as God sees them. But still it was through the “eyes of faith” that Jesus saw his relationship to God and his mission for God.

Radical Hope. Now let us return to the Spirit’s role in the development of Jesus and ask ourselves: What kind of a person did Jesus need to be to accomplish his mission? Remember the purpose of Jesus’ Incarnation: to reveal God’s vision of reality to mankind and to reconcile humanity to God. In one sense, Jesus’ mission was Mission Impossible. Jesus would carry out his mission in a political environment in which Israel was an occupied land of theRoman Empire and his people were under the subjugation of Roman officials. In this environment, new ideas were unwelcome, even considered dangerous, that could lead to insurrection against the overpowering might of theRoman Empire.

Again, the Spirit led Jesus to grow his innate power of hope. Jesus’ radical faith gave him God’s vision of reality and his radical hope gave him the certainty that his mission would be accomplished and the energy to fulfill his mission.

Radical Love.  The Spirit set in motion a dynamic, psychological-spiritual growth process in Jesus’ life.  If we reverse the usual order of faith, hope and love to love, hope and faith, we make a rich discovery about Jesus. We discover that these three virtues are not just individual, unconnected virtues but are the components of Jesus’ growth process. We discover too that love is the driving force in the spiritualization process and, more importantly, in Jesus’ life. For it was only through radical love that Jesus could overcome the utter shame and repulsiveness of the Cross.

I believe that Jesus was very much like us in this matter. The logic of reason could not help him understand the mystery of redemption. He knew that it dealt with things like evil and death, life and forgiveness. But he did not understand the mysterious ways of God the Father, whose ways and thoughts are not ours. It was only through the power of love for God and us that brought him to the absolute faith that his death-unto- resurrection would mean salvation for the world. Ultimately, it was Jesus’ radical love that generated his radical hope and radical faith. “Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Cor: 13, 13.

Jesus has taught us that the spiritualization process is one of radical love, hope and faith. The goal of our spiritual lives must be to allow the Spirit to accomplish this process in us. The means are clearly the growth process of holiness, formation and evangelization. Pursuing holiness is pursuing growth in radical faith in the Christian Vision. Pursuing spiritual formation is pursuing growth in radical hope that the Spirit will give us the wisdom to live the Christian Vision. Pursuing a life of evangelization is radical love in action!