Today Francis invites us into a meditation on the being and meaning of Jesus — the presence of God with us, within us and all around us.
"Emmanuel" means God-Is-With-You. God is not an out-there god; not up there, signified by lifting our eyes to heaven, nor some distant place. God is with me. God is with me in a far more intimate way than I am accustomed to think. I have had some difficulty contacting or communicating with God using human senses. I cannot touch God, cannot hug God. I cannot catch the aroma of God's presence or hear God speaking in the way words are generally spoken by others. No sight of God comes to our eyes nor can our senses of taste or smell help us in knowing God's presence. Our pet, a cat or a dog will be aware of our presence using those senses but we cannot pinpoint God's presence that way. This does not deny that God may be manifested or "incarnated" in some way.
Why is that so? If God is present to us, why can't I see God, touch God, taste God or smell something of God in the air? Why cannot I hear a voice or hear God moving about to know of God's presence?
Usual experience of self includes a body with its senses. I am also aware that I have a brain that is associated with thought or intellect. Humanity's accumulated idea of God is that God is different, more to do with thought or intellect (spiritual factors) than with bodily features although artists have depicted God as a venerable old man.
My senses do not reveal God as present to me yet deep within I know of a Presence. I do feel and "sense" in a way that has nothing to do with my bodily senses. Such "feelings" or "sensations" reveal a Presence that stirs up in me intimacy or belonging, of excitement. I have been told by some who claim good authority that God is present and I believe, but that is not the same "sensation". That is more faith on authority. My personal "sense" of Presence is more to do with intuition. Through intuition or through a sort of spiritual genetics — I simply know. Maybe that is how Abraham got to know of the Presence of God. Later writers would relate the events and describe them according to happenings around them and in language more familiar to the readers of that time. Peoples of much earlier times than that of Abraham, peoples unknown to the rest of the world until relatively recent times such as the Indigenous people of what is now known as Australia, were aware of the Presence I am writing of. Peoples who were in existence closer to the origins of what is known as human beginnings seem to have had a closer memory of the creative Thought-of-God. As I, in my humanly perceived condition, find more pre-occupations of an earthly nature I remove myself effectively from a true recollection of my origin and of my being in God.
Roughly two thousand years ago there was a young Jew of the Hebrew religion who was reared in the tradition of Abraham and the Prophets of that religion. His name was Jesus of Nazareth. He is one who knew that Presence. His knowledge and experience of it were intimately personal. His life revolved around the "sensation" (not just his convinced state) of being one with that Presence. He lived his life as he knew it to be: one with God, and he taught the union he knew we all have with God. He wanted us to know, not just believe, that we all are one with God in reality not merely figuratively. Jesus' was (and is, as he showed himself alive after his crucifixion) so manifestly one in God and God in him that he was clearly a human manifestation of God and became known as the "Son of God". Being but one with God in reality, I too am capable of being aware of the Presence of God and of experiencing the living out of divine qualities within One Being, but I had forgotten. Concentration on and perhaps preference for the limiting qualities of what I had become accustomed to believe is my world, diminishes my sense of recollection. This possible preference may be out of guilt and fear because of having thought myself separate from God.
Jesus wanted me to be, even as I experience this worldly dimension, one in and with God. In relating the story of his birth, Jesus became referred to as "Emmanuel" who means for me that God is with us and that Jesus is manifesting for us the Presence of God, but more, that there is nothing but God. All life, including what I have been accustomed to think of as my life, has its being in and with God. My thinking otherwise that I am separated and insular beings does not make it true. Only God has truth and I do not have a separate truth. 2006
"My yoke is easy and my burden light."
"Did I speak these words? I probably did, or words similar to them, in those long ago years. Prompted by a great love of my fellow human beings, I did say and put into practice a lot of things during my life, death and resurrection. I ask you, my dear sisters and brothers, to understand my words quoted of me in their totality and untainted by vested-interestedness. To do that is all that it takes to have a life that is simple, peaceful and happy. Let not others confuse you, my way of life is simple and clear. I say to you, who have forgotten, you are in reality what you have always been, God's Only Child. You are, as I, one with the One, whom I have called Abba, Father. You are of the essence of God. You are Love. You are the Beloved, always loved and lovable. Just accept that. It is my message to you. That is what my life is all about, to teach you that. I loved you so much and wanted you to know that you are loved and lovable. When my earthly life, beautiful in itself but only an opportunity to learn and remember, was threatened because of my message, I did not renege, I accepted this world's death (traumatic in the relating, but nothing really) to show that I mean what I say. Because your vision of me was obscured, I made it clear that I was alive, that life did not depend on bodily senses."
"Yes, taking up my message may appear to you in your bodily state like the yoke that is placed on the neck of a beast of burden but it is not really onerous. It does not require effort. Clinging to this world is what requires effort. Trying to get a place here, to satisfy your ambitions or want or greed, does generate striving or effort. But you are more important than your dreams of human desires. Yes, dreams are all you have here, really. My way is not a road, a journey that may be experienced as narrow, wide, hilly, rough or laborious to travel on. My way is what you are. You have it now. You live it now. You are what my Creator made you to be and cannot be otherwise. If you are attached to what you have created here, your personal history, your personality, your appearance, your brains, your ambitions, your world, you will have that and pain besides. To accept my message to be your real self as God sees you, the Beloved and one with God, you will be at peace within, dwelling in the eternal embrace you belong to." 2006
I have two ways of knowing Jesus. The New Testament scriptures portray him as he was painted in art and words years after his death and resurrection according to Christian tradition and experience of those early years of Church development. He was perceived as a spiritual reality. It seems to me that I have gained, from reading scripture meditatively, an intuitive understanding of the Jesus who lived and walked this earth and continues to live in me. My awakening and growth has gone beyond belief in articles of faith (and beyond doubt and unbelief) to an understanding of God as Spirit and of me living a spirit relationship. It is for me a transformation from a world of matter, even a transfiguration to the reality God created.
As a child, I had an experiential awareness of an all pervading spiritual being. This being was undefined by me. It was, however a clearly perceptible feeling of oneness and well being. The religious teachings of my school days sat uncomfortably with me. My experience in a dualistic and complex world was of something simple, quite natural and spiritual. It did not make me sanctimonious or "holy". I felt normal and was even punished as naughty. My experience was not of something "out there". It was of a presence of which I was part: It was within me, around me, under me, above me. This experience seems to be similar to what Jesus was calling us to. Jesus was a spirit person and I related to that. Jesus allowed the wisdom accessed as a spirit person and the knowledge gained of the human condition to start a movement inviting his followers to become aware of and adjust their lives according to the relationship he had with Spirit. He taught then and teaches now that we too share in that relationship. 2006
It seems to me, from a long life of study, discussion, reflection and prayer, that from the earliest of times there was in humanity an energy simmering there as if it were trying to lift itself to a higher level. Maybe it was trying to remember something residual that, like a song half remembered, played on its mind. I'm thinking of ancient religions, some, like the spirituality of the Australian original inhabitants, are only now being studied seriously. I'm thinking too of the emergence of the Jewish Religion. From that religion arose Jesus of Nazareth who began teaching a message of restoring humanity to an understanding of God who is Creator and with whom humanity has an intimate relationship. I feel that an energy, starting many, many centuries ago and continually stirring up great men and women (I'm thinking of prophets and others), also prompted Jesus. Jesus really brought up very major ideas not all exactly new, like Love, and another that hinted that we were precisely one with God. I feel that this energy continues, activated by the Holy Spirit, at great moments in history to the present day.
After the death of Jesus, the disciples set out to spread Jesus' message and eventually built up something that we now call Church. From that point in time when the Church existed as an organization the need to have Jesus established as founder became appropriate. Hence Jesus was portrayed (from a later date) in the light of the established Church.
What are your thoughts on this commentary?