Theology 101: Theology for Adults — Dialogue #4

The following is a compilation of Dialogue #4 in the Theology for Adults workshop series. This workshop was held on Tuesday, May 20th, 2014, at St. Albert the Great Catholic Church. The workshop discussed how our own personal image of Jesus is often skewed by popular belief toward a kind, gentle, soft-spoken, wimp. Jesus was anything but a wimp. Jesus was a radical whose radical words and actions literally turned the world upside down.

How do you see Jesus?

As Christians we proclaim our belief in Jesus Christ and profess that it is through his passion, death, and resurrection that the gates of heaven have been made available to us. Each of us has a vision, an image of Jesus in our minds and I would posit, while most are quite similar, if we could project our own personal image onto a screen, each would be significantly different.

The Ascension of Jesus Christ

The Ascension of Jesus Christ

Part of the problem is – with the exception of those who lived in Israel and followed Jesus during his brief life here on earth —no one has ever physically laid eyes upon Jesus nor are there any photographs or paintings available from that time. Jesus never sat for a portrait and cameras were a long way off. The earliest images of Jesus were painted many years, even centuries, after his death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. Not a single painting has ever been created by an artist who personally knew Jesus or anyone who knew him.

So the image you have in your mind of Jesus is just as valid and just as accurate as mine or anyone else’s. But for the moment, let’s make a few generalizations concerning the image of Jesus in order to establish some sort of baseline for our discussion.

Madonna and Child

Madonna and Child

In general, we have four normative images of Jesus:

  1. as an infant in swaddling clothes lying in a manger;
  2. as a healthy and vital young man in his early thirties;
  3. as a bloodied and beaten man, carrying or nailed to a wooden cross; and
  4. as a glorious and glowing vision of God resurrected and ascending into heaven.
The Good Shepherd

The Good Shepherd

Another generalization that we can make is that much of the art of which we are familiar depicts Jesus as a tall, slender Anglo-Saxon Caucasian male, bearded, with kind and loving eyes, a soft warm and gentle mouth, slender fingers and smooth, clean hands with neatly groomed and combed long dark brown hair, impeccably clothed in clean white robes and clean feet shod in neat leather sandals.

All too often we project this image onto his personality, imagining a mild mannered, meek, non-violent, quiet, soft-spoken teacher or preacher. Seldom would we associate words such as strong, outspoken, commanding, demanding, well-educated, revolutionary, or radical with our image of Jesus. A wonderful image, most assuredly, and a beautiful vision to behold, but so far from probative reality that it begs the question of the artists: “What could they possibly have been thinking?

Christ The King

Christ The King

Let’s pause for a moment and consider the fact that Jesus was not an Anglo-Saxon Caucasian Adonis! He was neither Asian, African, Indian, Polynesian, Hawaiian, Slavic, nor Hispanic. Jesus was a Jew, whose ethnicity belongs among the ancient Semitic races that include Akkadians, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs. Being a Jew, Jesus was most likely olive-skinned with dark eyes and was most likely fairly short in stature, certainly by today’s measurements.

Why is this important? Primarily because our image of Jesus necessarily colors our ability to understand who he truly was and what he taught and that prevents us from seeing and knowing him to the fullest. Our ability to be his disciples, to truly believe in him will remain circumspect and limited as long as we hold onto an image of a man who is the embodiment of human perfection, an image that distracts us from the real Jesus and the radical nature of his presence here on earth.

Rather we must envision an everyman, an imperfectly conformed human being, before we can have any hope of divining his divine perfection. Jesus was not, despite the musical persuasion, a Hollywood superstar nor was he a runway supermodel. As soon as we create such an image in our minds we lose sight of the authentic Jesus and any ability to discern his voice, his message; we find ourselves struggling to freely accept what complete and honest discipleship demands of us.

What is a radical?

We can assume with some reasonable assurance that virtually everyone, no matter their perception or understanding, or knowledge of Jesus, will readily admit that Jesus was much more than just an ordinary or common man. No matter whether you believe that Jesus was and is God or whether you believe he was a great prophet, a holy man, a revolutionary, or a radical there can be no doubt that he, quite literally, changed the world.

But was he really and truly a radical?

The dictionary defines the noun ‘radical’ as:

  1. a person who holds or follows strong convictions or extreme principles; an extremist; and/or
  2. a person who advocates fundamental political, economic, and social reforms by direct and often uncompromising methods.

Those definitions may or may not feel quite correct, with any degree of certitude, depending on your own personal understanding of what a radical might be. Certainly we have all become painfully aware of a wide variety of individuals and groups over the past fifty years or so, of whom we would and could easily ascribe the label ‘radical’. Some real life examples that you may be familiar are:

  • Jim Jones, leader of the Peoples Temple, who called his followers to commit mass suicide by drinking poisoned Kool-Aid in 1978;
  • The Branch Davidian religious group, led by David Koresh, a schismatic sect of the Seventh-day Adventists, who died in a fiery assault by federal law enforcement;
  • Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) a radical activist movement, founded by Tom Hayden, Bill Ayers, Aryeh Neier, and Alan Haber in the 1960s;
  • The Black Panther Party (BPP) a black revolutionary socialist organization founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale in the 1960s;
  • The Red Army Faction, also known as the Baader-Meinhof Group, led by Ulrike Meinhof, Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, and Horst Mahler; and
  • Al Qaeda, a global Islamic terrorist group, led and largely financed by Osama bin Laden.

A broader, more historical list of radical extremism might include:

  • 1st – 4th century
    • Pharisees, Jewish Religious leaders
    • Romans and Greeks
  • Middle Ages
    • Islam
    • Pagans
    • Catholic Church: Inquisition, Crusades
  • Modern day
    • Protestant Reformers
  • 20th – 21st century
    • Nazism
    • Communism
    • Fundamentalist Christians, sect, and cults
    • Islamic Jihadists
    • Racism/Ethnic Cleansing
    • Peaceniks, Protesters
    • Greenpeace, SDS, PETA

We could name many more examples than those heretofore identified, some more violent and others less so. There have even been a few who have promoted and advocated nonviolent approaches. The unfortunate reality is that we have become far too familiar with radical groups and individuals in our lifetimes.

Another reality is that historically radicals can be found embedded and associated within two broad genres: politics and religion, which may be the rationale behind the warning that you should never discuss politics or religion between family and friends.

Certainly the man that most would place at the top of every list and would most readily ascribe the ‘radical’ label to in our time would be Osama bin Laden, whose radical Islamic views have promulgated a global pandemic of terror and death with the singular avowed goal of worldwide conversion and/or annihilation of all who are not followers of radical Islam.

The examples that have been mentioned so far do not, in any way, form a complete list of radical groups and individuals and yet there are a few other examples that should be mentioned to provide a more complete expression of what it means to be a radical. On the opposite end of the violence spectrum we can enumerate the peaceful, non-violent radical exemplified by such individuals as:

  • Mahandas Karamchand Gandhi, who through nonviolent civil disobedience led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world,
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who led the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the United States, using nonviolent civil disobedience, based on his Christian beliefs.

And it is within the context of this peaceful, non-violent genre that we can and should place Jesus, for he was certainly a radical in his time and place while promoting love toward all and peaceful, nonviolent association, even with his enemies.

You should recall what Jesus told his disciples “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father,” [Mt 5:43‑45].

He also said “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow” [Mt 5:38-42].

It is almost as if Jesus took these admonishments and actions straight from either Mahatma Gandhi’s or Dr. Martin Luther King’s playbook! Of course, we know that it was the complete reverse. Jesus was the first radical to advocate a peaceful nonviolent approach to human relationships and interactions. So yes it would appear that we should conclude that Jesus was indeed a radical who called upon all of us to a revolutionary new way of living, believing, and loving one another.

What is radical?

The word ‘radical’ can also be used as an adjective and the dictionary defines the adjective ‘radical’ as:

  • Of or going to the root or origin; fundamental;
  • Thoroughgoing or extreme, especially as regards change from accepted or traditional forms;
  • Favoring drastic political, economic, or social reforms;
  • Forming a basis or foundation; or
  • Existing inherently in a thing or person.

And it is perhaps here that we can uncover and rediscover the radical Jesus. For Jesus, no matter how you may envision him, radically and literally turned the world upside down and inalterably changed our relationships with God and our fellow man forever. He took the world of man that had existed for arguably over five-thousand years and within a blink of an eye altered its course, redefining man’s relationship with God, and reopening the gates of heaven to all who would but follow him.

Fundamentally, and quite radically, Jesus altered the Divine relational paradigm that had existed for millennia, calling for a new covenant of love, mercy, charity, humility, and forgiveness. No more shall one “give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” [Ex 21:23-25} but rather one shall turn the other cheek and forgive the wrongdoer, love one another, give more than is asked, and lend what you have. This was so radical that many found great difficulty in accepting or following his teachings. And surprise, surprise, many still do!

View of the Law

Jesus knew the Hebrew Scriptures well and often used them to make a point or to correct misinterpretations of the Law. It is important to remember that he told his disciples “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” [Mt 5:17-18]

The Pharisees and elders of the Jewish people were in large measure religious zealots, fundamentalists who believed in the strictest interpretation of the Torah or the Law, and it was often through their zealotry that Jesus was found wanting and a constant – in their view –  breaker of the Law. Even something as simple and seemingly unimportant as picking the heads of grain on a Sabbath was contrary to the Law (as any level of labor, no matter how minute, was forbidden to be performed on the Sabbath) and thus the Pharisees questioned Jesus “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” to which Jesus replied “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” [Mk 2:23-28]

Time and again, Jesus would perform some action that affronted their religious sensibilities, say something that appeared to them to be antithetical to the strict interpretation of the Law. However, careful review of the Gospels will inevitably clearly expose their hypocrisy and tortured misuse of what was written to justify their own actions and beliefs. When he drove out demons they accused him of being the prince of demons [Mk 3:22], when he cured the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath they conspired to put him to death [Mk 3:6], when he forgave sins they accused him of blasphemy [Lk 5:21], and ultimately, when he proclaimed that he was the Son of Man, God Incarnate, they crucified him.

Our relationship with God

His radical ideas concerning man’s relationship with God and with one another were often much too difficult a pill to swallow by those who wished to follow him. In Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength” [Dt 6:4-5]. This is a prayer called Shema Yisrael, in Hebrew: שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל‎; a prayer faithful Jews pray twice a day and is considered the greatest or first commandment. When Jesus is tested by the Pharisees, specifically a scholar of the Law, by asking him “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus deftly combines the Shema Yisrael with a second, but significantly related commandment from Leviticus [Lv 19:18] in his response “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” [Mt 22:34-40].

This combination radically altered the then accepted Jewish view concerning their relationship with God. Even though Leviticus is one of the books that make up the Pentateuch or the Torah, no one had ever connected the two commandments so tightly together as Jesus had so exquisitely done.

The notion that any relationship between God and man was predicated upon how much one loved their neighbor as well as loving one’s self was such a radical idea as to be nearly incomprehensible. It was a thought that approached blasphemy to even consider that in order to love God one must love self and neighbor and that if one failed to love self or others sufficiently, one could not legitimately love God. It was enough to send a fervent Pharisee or Sadducee into religious apoplexy!

Humility and Service

From the point of view of those who heard him, including his closest friends and disciples, perhaps his most radical commandments were the ones that demanded that they humble themselves before God and man. Jesus tells them “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” [Mt 23:2-11]

When James and John ask to be seated at the place of honor with Jesus, he tells his disciples “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” [Mk 10:42-44]

Jesus held no favor for the proud and self-righteous, for those who despised the poor and everyone else. He told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity – greedy, dishonest, adulterous – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” [Lk 18:10-14]

When an official asked what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus told him that beyond obedience to the commandments “There is still one thing left for you: sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” [Lk 18:22-23] but that was more than the official was willing to do for he was very attached to all of the earthly riches that he had accumulated.

When Jesus noticed how guests at a banquet were choosing the places of honor at the table, he admonished them by saying “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” [Lk 14:8-11]

At the last supper, Jesus elevated humility and service to others to its highest level when he washed the feet of his disciples. Imagine how dirty feet would have been in those days, walking or traveling on unpaved streets and roads that were regularly traversed by horses, sheep, goats, and other animals. Washing feet was considered a duty that only the lowliest of the slaves would perform; certainly no master or person of any poor rank would ever stoop so low as to wash the feet of their friends or neighbors.

Yet Jesus did just that and then commanded his disciples to do the same when he told them “You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.” [Jn 13:1-17]

Radical Jesus!

Read in the context of our new understanding of ‘radical’, the Gospels portray a very clear picture and a radically new image of Jesus. In the truest sense of the word Jesus was a radical whose radical message of faith, hope, and love radically confounded the status quo and irrevocably altered history for the better.

What can be surmised from even the most cursory glance through the Gospels is that every word and action of Jesus was in a very real sense revolutionary and radical. And it must be admitted that whenever radically new ideas are promulgated and wherever revolutionary actions might occur, not everyone will be prepared to accept or willing to change. Certainly many, if not most of the Jewish religious leaders were fundamentally opposed to the enormous paradigm shift that arose with the advent of Jesus Christ.

And despite the rapid expansion of Christianity subsequent to his death and resurrection, widespread opposition to his message has remained for over two-thousand years, with no immediate or short-term end in sight. The continuing struggle to eliminate even the worst of evils propagated by man – genocide, war, ethnic cleansing, and terrorism – are strong evidence that not everyone has heard or accepted his message of peace and love toward all of God’s creation.

Yet there is hope, hope that if we can take up the cross of Jesus Christ, that through him, with him, and in him we can and will radically transform the hearts of all men and promote peace and love for God, neighbor, and ourselves.

About the Author

Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator.

Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin.

He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is “Colloqui: A journal for restless minds”, a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated.

He is the author of two books: “The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence” which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and “Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories” which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love.

He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

5 Comments

  1. I’m sorry Deacon Chuck, but I disagree with your assessment of Jesus’ physical description. “Being a Jew, Jesus was most likely olive-skinned with dark eyes and was most likely fairly short in stature, certainly by today’s measurements.

    Why is this important? Primarily because our image of Jesus necessarily colors our ability to understand who he truly was and what he taught and that prevents us from seeing and knowing him to the fullest. Our ability to be his disciples, to truly believe in him will remain circumspect and limited as long as we hold onto an image of a man who is the embodiment of human perfection, an image that distracts us from the real Jesus and the radical nature of his presence here on earth.

    Rather we must envision an everyman, an imperfectly conformed human being, before we can have any hope of divining his divine perfection.”

    Jesus was a Jew. But, Jews don’t all look alike. Why would the son of God, i.e. God, look like everyman? He was extraordinary as He was “fully God and fully man. Have you ever met anyone like that? He was also born of a woman who was without the stain of original sin, a woman who was conceived immaculately. Ever met anyone like that? No. He could not therefore be “imperfectly conformed human being” unless you are disregarding His divinity. He was a perfect human being. If you don’t believe that how can you say you believe that he was God? In fact it seems that your entire article does not acknowledge Him as God.

    You make a point that He was a radical. And yes He was of course. But, He was more than that he was perfectly righteous and holy. There would be a vast difference between him and everyman and it would also be reflected in his appearance. That is not to say that he looked like a Hollywood model, as the definition of attractive changes through the ages. But He would have been undeniably attractive and a perfectly formed human being. He would have been quite frankly beautiful and this beauty (or handsomeness if you are more comfortable with that) combined with his wisdom worked together to gain him a huge following, so He was, in human terms extremely charismatic. This attractiveness was a contributing factor I would imagine to the jealousy that the Scribes and Pharisees experienced when they encountered Him. For who is to be more hated than a charismatic “nobody” that is both extremely attractive, loving, sincere, as well as supremely self confident, holy and wise? And also has the audacity to point out your “games (i.e. BS) in public?

    Anyway that’s how I see Jesus. A painting, statue or whatever depicting his beauty….cannot compare to how beautiful He truly is.

    God Bless,
    John

    • Deacon Chuck

      John, thank you for your thoughtful comments. It would appear by your remarks that you believe that physical human beauty (a human quality or attribute determined by the eye of the human beholder) necessarily defines what God would divine his incarnated humanity to be.

      The imagery of “everyman” which I utilized to describe Jesus was intended solely to remove from the reader’s mind an unrealistic image of Jesus as someone who lived among ordinary people and who, while certainly charismatic, righteous, and holy, did not necessarily outshine them in external human appearance. In other words, had Jesus “looked” so perfect as to be the divine image of God would anyone have dared to crucify him? If all anyone had to do was look upon Jesus to recognize his divinity who would have dared to oppose him? We are told in Scripture that no one can look upon the face of God and live, which further illustrates my point.

      While I suggested that we “must envision an everyman, an imperfectly conformed human being,” I did not in any way intend or imply that Jesus was deformed, malformed, ugly, or repulsive in appearance. Rather I was attempting to convey an image of an normal human person (and remember, Jesus was “fully human” which in itself implies being normatively human which demands some imperfections however slight they might be) who walked and lived on this earth among other humans. God the Father sent his only Son as a human being to die cruelly on the cross in order to show the world how great was his love. St. Paul described it well in Philippians 2:7-8, “he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” The Gospels are replete with instances that show just how ordinary Jesus must have appeared, otherwise how do you account for the seemingly endless questions Jesus asked of his closest friends, the apostles and disciples, of “Who do you say that I am?” and their all too frequent puzzled responses.

      I fully understand your reluctance to envision Jesus as less than divine perfection and in the case of his divinity we are in complete agreement. Jesus was and is both fully human and fully divine. In his divinity he can be nothing but absolute perfection for God is perfection personified and Jesus is truly God. But human beings are imperfect creatures created by our perfect God and for God to be incarnate, to become fully human, he had to “be fully” human, warts and all. That does not mean that he had an unpleasant personality or was capable of sin but simply that he purposefully presented himself as a good and holy man who taught of love, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and truth. He was quite capable of righteous anger and unafraid to take on the establishment with blunt and biting words.

      As a Jew (born of a Jewish mother) the human Jesus would have certainly looked much like other Jews of his day. Yes, all Jews to do not look alike, but then few “humans” do. But most would agree that there are certain similarities that characterize any particular race of people. If Jesus had been born with blond hair and blue eyes or facial features endemic to China for example he most likely would not have been accepted by the Jewish people, would he? The people of Israel at the time of Jesus were normatively olive-skinned with dark eyes and short in stature. That is historically accurate. I would lay odds that Jesus was not over six feet tall and he most likely was not light-skinned or blue-eyed which is how far too many images have him portrayed, which is and was exactly my point. When we remove Jesus from his Jewishness and the time in which he lived, we diminish our understanding of who he was and is, and why he became human in the first place. Only God knows why he chose that particular time and place to send his only Son but for whatever the reason, I have to believe it was the perfect one. God chose to be born a Jew; who are we to question God?

      We ought not get too hung up on how we see Jesus, on what our mental image imparts. After all, we must always keep in mind the two and distinct natures of Jesus, human and divine. To be fully human means to be imperfectly human; to be fully divine means to be perfectly divine. A perfect human being would require a superhuman being and that heresy (Arianism) was anathematized long ago.

      I am not at all sure how you can state with complete confidence, “But He would have been undeniably attractive and a perfectly formed human being” since you have no physical evidence, no direct proof (e.g. photographs) that that was so, any more than do I with my description (other than a generalized historical one.) While I have no intention of comparing the divine Jesus to St. Paul, I should point out that St. Paul was understood to be a short, hunchbacked, not very attractive man with an often irascible personality, who began as a persecutor of the followers of “the way” and yet he was arguably, among the apostles, the most influential in building the early church. He was not divine, yet he was obviously very charismatic, righteous, and holy.

      Jesus is truly beautiful but then he is God. I cannot envision any image of God because it would be totally inadequate and beyond my frail human capacity to discern. We have all been created in the image and likeness of God and God loves all of his creation, each and every one of us, no matter what imperfections we might see in ourselves or others. What God defines as true beauty is for God to know and we to merely surmise, for we see but surface tissue while God sees the true beauty of the spirit of the soul.

      Again, thanks for your thoughtful and insightful comments.

      God bless you,

      Deacon Chuck

  2. Hello again Deacon Chuck,

    I still disagree with your statement that he was “imperfect.” For to be “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” the sacrifice, had to be without blemish. God only accepted the best from the flock for the Passover lamb. Jesus as the ultimate lamb that took away all sins….must have been perfect and remains perfect now in the Holy Eucharist. In a utilitarian way, for the sake of argument, I suppose Jesus could have been ordinary, but I highly doubt it. Form and function are heavily intertwined. The most symmetrical and beautiful, the most highly developed nervous system, mind etc is probably more perfect in function as well We celebrate this daily, weekly yearly. We are imperfect, but God is demanding a perfect sacrifice, and humankind after the fall, in the garden forfeited any hope of being perfect, until we reach our heavenly destination. In fact, purgatory is where most of us will become perfect so that we are able to enter the presence of the Holy God. God, did not create this earth and its inhabitants to be like it is now…he created a Paradise, but we through the fall have caused this “flawed condition” that you somehow equate with being “fully human” I am not speaking about some fantasy Aryan race of superior beings used to promote a Nazi agenda, I’m talking about a perfect person, whether he was olive skinned, probably, which is highly beautiful, or not. He would have had a quality of sublime aesthetic beauty due to his inheritance (via Holy Spirit Father~Virgin Mary Mother) that would attract people to Him. He would have a aura of being one of us, yet very different.

    A couple of other observations from your reply….you are confusing Aryan race, an invention of Hitler, with Arianism which is an early heresy that claims that Jesus was not God, and does not believe in the Trinity, started by the presbyter Arius(c.260-336 A.D), he was refuted by the Council of Nicea. He basically did not believe in the Trinity. As a result of that council, we have the Nicene Creed. The Aryan race, on the other hand is something invented by several persons to support radical racism, ethnic cleansing, i.e. Third Reich, in the late19th early 20th century.

    By the way, have you seen the Holy Face of Jesus reconstructed from the Shroud of Turin? Or have you seen the earliest images found in Sinai monastery” They show him looking rather Greek.

    The church has historically promoted the image and the substance of our Lord, otherwise, we would be Protestant. Gazing upon the Holy Art, the Holy images of Our Lord should lift our minds our hearts to Heaven. Who wants a Neanderthal Jesus?

    The world wants to bring Jesus down to the level of everyman in order to diminish his name, his profundity so that they may summarily dismiss Him as a good man with high ideals at best, at worst a delusional man who paid for his insanity with his life. Why would you want to do the same?

    Sister Faustina cried when she saw the image of Jesus created by Hylan in the Divine Mercy Image, because it did not reflect his true beauty.

    Here is what the world sees: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/a234/1282186/

    Here is what I see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=346&v=FBpoQ95Lx-g

    God Bless,
    John

    • Deacon Chuck

      John, let us agree to disagree on this. As we have no credible empirical evidence which could adequately and accurately show us the body and appearance of Jesus (and I must include the Shroud of Turin here), we will never know for sure, will we?

      As for your concern that I was confusing the Aryan race with Arianism: where on earth did that come from? It never crossed my mind nor did I infer or even mention Aryanism in my response. The heresy promulgated by Arius (thus known as Arianism) in the late third and early fourth centuries held that Jesus was not God but rather the Son of God, a unique and separate subordinate creation of God, a superhuman being greater than the angels and humans. This heresy was anathematized and Arius was excommunicated at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 and again at the First Council of Constantinople in 381. This heresy was precisely to what I was referring, certainly not Aryanism.

      Was Jesus good looking, tall, statuesque, buff, perfectly formed, without physical blemish, perfect teeth, and an aura that made everyone swoon in adoration, etc.? NO ONE KNOWS and quite frankly no one should care one whit. Why? Because God did not send his only Son, Jesus Christ (God himself) to win a beauty contest or to be idolized for his appearance. God sent Jesus to bring his gospel of love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness to all the world. God sent Jesus to die for our salvation and through his resurrection to open the gates of heaven for those who would follow him. God sent himself (Jesus, in human form) to reveal himself to us. If your singular focus is on his physical beauty (which must be subjective and can be but mere conjecture) then you are missing the best part, the most important part. As Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” (Lk 20:41-42) I personally don’t believe Jesus was speaking of his awesome appearance, do you?

      Jesus Christ, to me, is far beyond beautiful, not because I have seen his face, sat in his presence, or have a personally signed photograph of him, but because of who he is (God), what he taught us (love, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and redemption), and what he did (suffered, died, and rose for our salvation). I have never seen God, and even though I know that God exists beyond our poor ability to comprehend or understand, I know that he is beyond perfectly beautiful. I completely understand what Sister Faustina felt and why she would have cried because no artist can portray true beauty, because true beauty is not external, it goes far deeper than our skin, and it cannot be captured by brush or camera. True beauty lives within the soul and no artist can put to canvas the true spiritual beauty that resides within the soul. And then, how could Hylan, who had never been in the presence of our Lord, have ever hoped to capture the essence and beauty of God. So yes, I can completely understand why Sister Faustina cried, but I guarantee it was not because Hylan portrayed Jesus poorly or inadequately, but because no human being could or may ever hope to capture the essential essence and beauty of God.

      I love Jesus with all my heart and with all my soul and it is my fervent desire to be united with him someday when I can see him face-to-face. I have been a long-time admirer of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta for her simple ways of following Jesus and her tremendous insights into what it means to truly be a disciple of Jesus. She once told a friend, Marlene Elias, “Be Jesus to everyone you meet. And in everyone you meet, see Jesus.” If physical beauty is of paramount importance or an essential quality of Jesus, then I personally find the first part to be a practical impossibility and the second part extremely difficult to observe. Blessed Mother Teresa would have won no runway beauty contests but she exuded such incredible beauty every moment of her life just as I imagine Jesus did while here on this earth. And John, that I believe is the better part.

      Thanks for writing.

      God bless you,

      Deacon Chuck

      • Deacon Chuck,

        Beauty of soul and beauty of physicality are not mutually exclusive. For instance, I have a sister who is very beautiful, as beautiful as any Hollywood star, however, sir, her beauty outside is only a glimpse of her inner beauty of soul. Loving, generous, kind, even tempered, wise, a real worker, compassionate beyond what I find I could ever be, always willing to think the best of people, a true heart of gold. This is how I see Jesus. He has it all. (And, no I am not saying He is effeminate.) Plus He is God. I am not looking at a shallow actor; I am looking at the God of the Universe on that Cross. He came in human form, but I celebrate his difference sir, because my God is perfect. Sorry you don’t think so.
        He is beautiful both of soul and bodily, and did not trick us by coming as a homely man to fit in better. He was in essence seen, by “the world in his time” as a “beautiful nobody.” But, not some person, whose beauty creates narcissism, as that is a sin. Sin is missing the mark of perfection, literally. And He who is without sin, Jesus, was perfect both interiourly and exteriourly.
        If Christ was not beautiful, why all the art that depicts him as such? Since the church is founded by Christ Himself, and has been guided by Him throughout the ages, I am pretty sure that the depictions of him as attractive have some basis in reality. Was the art that decorates all the oldest of our cathedrals, just an attempt to glamourize a homely man that we worship as God? And to what end, to fool us into giving more money to the church? We are talking about the living God, not some Joe Schmoe.

        Who do you say that I am? In asking this he is not asking, do you see me as an attractive leader type? He is asking them if they believe that he is the Son of God? If a charismatic leader today asked you that, what would you say? Duh, no, I don’t care how pretty you are, blah blah, cause that is just crazy. That is unless you are afraid your head will roll for the wrong answer. The right answer in the days of Jesus on earth was blasphemy, a crime that would not go unpunished. Jesus kept asking because he was looking for faith in the hearts of his followers, faith that was stronger than their fear of death. He was looking for commitment, to entrust the kingdom on earth to those who recognized Him as King of Heaven.
        We are told that Satan, became the Devil because of pride, as he was the most beautiful of the angels, and quite the genius as well. If God deigned to give an angel such beauty, would not the Father impart even greater beauty to his only begotten son?
        Here is what St. Augustine says about the beauty of Jesus:
        Beautiful is God, the Word with God… He is beautiful in heaven, beautiful on earth; beautiful in the womb, beautiful in His parents’ arms, beautiful in His miracles, beautiful in His sufferings; beautiful in inviting to life, beautiful in not worrying about death, beautiful in giving up His life and beautiful in taking it up again; He is beautiful on the Cross, beautiful in the tomb, beautiful in heaven. Listen to the song with understanding, and let not the weakness of the flesh distract your eyes from the splendor of His beauty. (Comm. on the Psalms 44, 3)
        , John

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