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Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What Jesus Meant

Still reading Garry Wills' book, What Jesus Meant. Here's some more from it .....

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It is the simple contention of this book that what Jesus meant is clearly laid out in the gospels. He did not found a church or advocate a politics -- though one can worship him in many gatherings or polities. But neither of those structures is what he meant by "the reign of heaven." Heaven's reign is himself, the avenue of access to the Father. He partly opened that access on earth, but the process will be complete only in the Father's bosom when history ends. One enters the heavenly reign by sharing Jesus' own intimacy with the Father. He is the Vine, to which the branches must be attached to draw life from him. By becoming members of his mystical body, one honors the Father and passes the key test for a disciple -- treating the poor, the thirsty, the hungry, the naked as if they were Jesus.

How can we tell who among us is securely affixed to the Vine? We cannot. He told us as much. He says that heaven's reign on earth is like wheat growing with weeds in it, separated only at harvest time, when the wheat will be gathered into God's barn (Mt 13.24-30) ..... The meaning is clear. All earthly societies have currently unidentifiable elements of heaven's reign in them, but none of them -- no state, no church, no voluntary organization -- can be equated with heaven's reign. Claims to a "faith-based politics" or to a perfect church substitute a false religion for heaven's reign -- which is a form of idolatry.

Jesus' followers have the obligation that rests on all men and women to seek justice based on the dignity of every human being. That is the goal of politics, of "the things that belong to Caesar." But heaven's reign makes deeper and broader demands, the demands not only of justice but of love ...... "A new instruction I have given you: Love one another. As I have loved you, you must also love one another. All will know that you are my followers by this sign alone, that you have love for one another (Jn 13. 34-35).

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3 Comments:

Blogger PrickliestPear said...

I really appreciated his book Papal Sin, but I can't seem to work up much enthusiasm for this one (or What Paul Meant, or What the Gospels Meant).

This passage, and the others you've posted, suggest to me that he might be a bit conservative for my taste. That doesn't mean I won't read them; it just means they won't be jumping the queue on my reading list.

10:38 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi PrickliestPear,

I've read What the Gospels Meant too but I can't actually remember that much about it. Haven't read any of his other books but I did see a video of him discussing What Paul Meant, and he seemed to say that Paul was not really anti-women, anti-gay, but that he was misunderstood and that some of the books ascribed to him were not really written by him. From hearing him talk in another video, he seems not especially conservative in that he's pretty down on the church hierarchy. But maybe you mean conservative in how he interprets scripture? Yeah, he doesn't really light a fire under me either :)

12:47 PM  
Blogger PrickliestPear said...

But maybe you mean conservative in how he interprets scripture?

That, yes, but not just that.

Actually, I sensed even when I read Papal Sin that he was theologically quite conservative in some respects. Off the top of my head, though, I couldn't provide specific examples of why.

10:51 AM  

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