Lesson 50- The Passion of Christ
It should be clear from my last program that there is an intimate connection between logic and morality. In fact, we could say that sin because it misses Gods primary purposes is a violation of Gods logic, and Gods Logic, as John I in the Bible says, is Jesus, the Logos or Word to whom the Father gave the job of creating the universe. Thus every sin, because it deviates from the primary purpose of the universe, delays the Kingdom of God which is the ultimate conclusion of the Fathers Plan. And, since it is the role of His Logos to carry out this plan, then every sin adds to the burden which His Logos must bear in its struggle to bring the plan to completion.
In the Old Testament, the Messiah is referred to as the Suffering Servant of God and anyone who has seen Mel Gibsons The Passion of the Christ certainly saw how Jesus fits that description. However, I saw another dimension to what Jesus went through. I saw the Struggling Servant of God because, although the drama portrayed in the film certainly contained suffering, it was suffering intertwined with struggle as Jesus struggled to carry the burden of his Cross up the hill of Calvary. According to the Church, that burden was not just the weight of the Cross but, rather, the weight of the sins of the world both past, present, and future. How could this be?
How could our sins add to the weight of His burden? First we must see that the whole drama of his Passion and Death has a cosmic significance that goes beyond what happened in Palestine over 2000 years ago. As the Logos of God, He began a struggle, if the scientists are right, billions of years ago, to build His Fathers Plan step-by-step, atom-by-atom, creature by creature, event by event. His job from the very beginning of time was to struggle to bring creation to a point where a creature, made in the image and likeness of God, would freely cooperate in the creation of a supernatural order in which justice and peace would flourish upon the earth and men would willingly take their weapons of war and beat them into tools for farming. In other words, blind animal instincts ruled by passions would be replaced by enlightened rational thought ruled by truth.
That was the vision from the beginning of time and that was the reason that this Logos, who was in the beginning, eventually became flesh and dwelt amonst us. He had come, according to His own testimony, to show us the way to the Kingdom of God and His Passion and Death was the crowning point in His teaching because it visually illustrated the path that we had to take if His Fathers Will was ever to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Eastern religions, which lean more towards mysticism than Western ones, use mantras and koans to enter mystical states where intuitive knowledge is unlocked through symbolic fantasies. During the 1960s hippies in the United States began to experience the same thing through mind-altering drugs like LSD. A mantra is a word or phrase that one keeps repeating until the mind switches to an altered-state of consciousness and a koan is a picture or object which produces a similar effect by staring or meditating upon it. In Western religious practices, the Jesus Prayer in which one keeps repeating the name of Jesus comes close to being a Western mantra and objects like the crucifix, when meditated upon, become a Christian koan. One of the great saints, who was known for his tremendous spiritual insights, once said that everything that he ever learned he discovered by meditating on the Cross.
But how can one continue to gain additional insight and information from the same object? Doesnt the crucifixion of Christ have only one meaning? The answer is that there are layers and levels of meaning which reveal themselves when the same object or event is looked at from different points of view. Its like a diamond that reflects light in a different way every time it is turned and the light hits it from a different angle.
On the literal level, the passion and death of Jesus is about a Jewish man who was crucified by the Roman over 2000 years at the behest of Jewish leaders who accused Him of committing blaspheme by claiming equality with God. On the religious level, the event becomes the story of a man who claimed that He was the Son of God who had to die in order to save the world from sin. On a deeper and more symbolic level, the event becomes a Cosmic drama in which the Divine Word or Logos, who was with God in the beginning, became flesh to show the human race the way to eternal life by leading them out of the Kingdom of Darkness, ruled by the devil, the Father of all Lies, into the Kingdom of Light, ruled by Divine Wisdom, the source of all Truth. And how did He do this? By carrying a Cross up a steep hill where He was going to face the ultimate defeat of death, only to rise again to a more glorious state of being.
On this level, one has to reflect on the symbolism in order to understand the deeper meaning. Each term has a symbolic significance which must be explored and understood and then related to the other symbols. Questions like what does it mean when Jesus is referred to as the Word or Logos of God? What is the Kingdom of Darkness? Why is the devil referred to as the Father of All Lies? What is the Kingdom of Light and what is its connection to Divine Wisdom and Truth? Why did Jesus have to die and what is the significance of how He died? If He had been hung, or poisoned, or beheaded would it have had the same significance and effect that carrying a cross and being crucified had? Would statements like Pick up your noose and follow Me or Drink your poison and follow me or Lose your head and follow Me have the same impact and meaning as Pick up your Cross and follow Me? What is the symbolic significance of the Cross and how is it related to the burden of our sins? What is sin and why does it burden the Incarnate Wisdom of God? And how could this burden of sin involve all sins, past, present, and future? It is by meditating on these and other questions like them that we come to see the deeper meaning hidden behind the surface events. As Jesus said, Seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened unto you.
What most people saw in Mel Gibsons movie, The Passion of the Christ was Jesus suffering for our sins. What I saw was Jesus choosing to struggle towards a goal which His Father had ordained for Him to do. They saw suffering which involved struggle; I saw struggle which involved suffering. There is a difference you know. Suffering without a goal is gratuitous because it begs for an explanation. When faced with it we immediately ask Why does His Father demand that He suffer? Suffering with a goal is meaningful because we understand that great goals often naturally involve great sacrifices and suffering.
The meaning and purpose of suffering has been one of the great stumbling blocks for philosophers as they tried to understand how a good God could create a world which contained it. Some, like Jean Paul Sartre, concluded that there was no answer because there was no God. Therefore, it was useless to expect that anything had any meaning or purpose. Others, like Schopenhauer, concluded that there was a God but that He was evil because He created a universe designed to torture us. Still other, like the Hindus, concluded that God had assigned a certain percentage of pleasure and pain, or good and evil, to the universe and it was impossible and useless to try to change the percentages. One just had to accept ones Fate or Karma by accepting things as they were. Some of the early Christians believed that any type of suffering had eternal value and inflicted various types of torture on their bodies. However, St. Paul saw the suffering which accompanied the struggle involved in bringing about the Kingdom of God as a way for making up for whatever was lacking in the suffering of Christ. Does that surprise you? Its in the Bible.
Does it surprise you that anything could be lacking in His suffering? Does it surprise you that we have the capacity and obligation to assume part of the burden of His Passion? It shouldnt because, since his suffering involved a struggle that was goal directed, it cant end until the goal is reached. And, since Jesus understood this, He created a Church, which was to be His historical body and gave it the task of reaching the goal of creating the Kingdom of God on earth. And how was this to be done? By preaching the Good News of the Gospel to the rest of the world and calling upon them to repent of their sins and reform their lives to the Will of God.
Thus in Western philosophy and literature, suffering became associated with a struggle towards a quest or goal. Cervantes would express this in Don Quixote and philosophers like Hegel, and even Marx, would conclude that the law of life was struggle. For believers, history became a stage in which God was working out the drama of life by using human beings as His agents. Through those human beings who were willing to follow the Truth, He was saving the world from its sins through reform movements which called for child labor laws, living wages for workers, open trials based on evidence, rules of evidence and cross examination of witnesses, humane treatment of prisoners of war, the elimination of torture, and the abolition of slavery. These and many others are reforms that Jesus, the Wisdom of God, would have done in His struggle towards the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth which were carried out by His Body, the Church, on earth.
But, if the law of life is struggle, then against what is it struggling? It is struggling against those forces which block or delay it from reaching its final goal of the fullness of life, and until those forces are overcome, the struggle will continue.
St. Thomas and the Scholastic philosophers, who liked to talk about causality, used to analyze it, which is what our left lobe does, by dividing it into different types of causes. Thus, they would talk about the First Cause, Intermediate Causes, and the Final Cause. They would have put the task given to Jesus, the Logos or Intellect of God, at the beginning of time, by His Father, the Will of God, into philosophical terms by saying that the First Cause, which is the Will of His Father, and the Last Cause, which is the fulfillment of that Will are the same thing. Translated into more simple terms it means that the vision of an ice cream cone in the mind of a thinker is the First Cause which pushes him toward the goal of getting it and the actual ice cream cone is the Final Cause which pull him towards it actualization. Thus if we were to compare the idea of the ice cream cone and the ice cream cone itself, they would be the same thing. In other words, the dream or thought has only potential existence but it is the motivating force towards its own actualization. Thus, as this philosopher would have said, the First Cause, the dream, and Final Causes, the actualization of the dream, are identical.
The idea or dream motivates the process by pushing from behind. It gives the marching order of go get it. And the actualization of the dream motivates it by pulling from the front by saying here I am, reach me. Looked at in theological terms, we could say that the idea is the Alpha or beginning and the realization of the idea is the Omega, or end, and, according to Jesus, He is the Alpha and the Omega.
At the beginning of time He, the Word or Logos, was given the marching order from His Father, the Will, of go get it, build the Kingdom of God, and since that time He has been involved in the actualization of that goal which has been saying here I am, reach me.
If this is so, why the delay? Why has He been struggling for over four billion years? Why hasnt He reached the goal that His Father set before Him? This is where the Intermediate Causes, which involve us, come in because they are the steps that must be taken to reach the goal and each step towards the goal brings it that much closer and each one away from the goal delays it that much longer. And, the longer it takes, the longer and harder is the struggle of Gods Logos because He must constantly repair the damage done by the deviations of the creation from the path that leads towards the Final Goal. In other words, He must make reparation. And, of course, these deviations which are missing the target or goal are just another name for sin.
Thus, this Eternal Logos of God, this Suffering Servant, this Good Shepherd, This Logos leading creation out of the Kingdom of Darkness towards the Kingdom of Light, this Truth which is trying to set us free must bear the brunt of all those forces which stand in the way of the fulfillment of His Fathers Plan. In other words, every sin which is a deviation from the Will of God, adds to the burden that He must bear because the Kingdom can not come on earth as it is in heaven until sin has been eradicated.
In a previous talk, I mentioned the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, which is the Law of Entropy. This law says that the universe is running down from level of higher order to levels of lower order and ultimately will return the universe to the chaos from which it sprung. I also mentioned that there are certain things in the universe which seem to violate this law because, while everything else is running down towards chaos, these things are running up towards higher levels of order and organization. Life is one example, since from its inception it has been moving towards higher forms. In other words, life has been moving towards the fullness of life, of which we are its most recent and prominent example. Civilization is another example because, unlike primitive societies, which are more simple and less complex in their organization, civilizations are a higher expression of social organization. Primitive societies, because they keep repeating the same cultural patterns have chosen existence over development and are not involved in any struggle,- except the one to survive-, or quest. Civilizations, however, are characterized by growth and development. Thus, both life and civilization are said to be negentropic because they are running up against the tide of entropy which is pulling everything else towards chaos.
Now logic says that there is no way that anything can maintain this counter-movement against the forces of entropy unless there is a greater exertion in the opposite direction. In other words, no one can swim against a current unless he is constantly putting forth enough energy to overcome the pull in the opposite direction. If he doesnt put forth enough energy to overcome the pull, he will gradually lose ground and continue to drift in the direction of the current. If he just puts forth enough energy to match the force of the current, he will remain, as primitive cultures do, where he is, neither advancing, nor falling behind. In order to move upstream, he must exert enough energy to overcome the pull of the current. Thus, negentropic forces within the universe are involved in a constant struggle to move ever upwards while everything around them is drifting towards chaos and destruction.
Since Jesus, according to Christian theology, is the leader of the negentropic forces which are ever struggling towards higher and fuller expressions of life, then every sin which blocks or delays Him from reaching His goal, adds to the pain, suffering, burden and struggle which He must endure till His task is complete. By the same token, every positive and constructive act which cooperates with the Will of His Father reduces His burden. Perhaps that is why the Church calls for us to practice reparation for our sins which simply means to repair the damage that our sins have created. By doing so, we make up for what is lacking in the suffering of Christ and thereby reduce His suffering by reducing His burden.
Since Jesus is the leader of the negentropic forces, He, through His presence in our logical left brain, whose natural inclination is to organize, is responsible for all laws, order, government and civilization itself.
The beginning of the end for any civilization, as many historians will tell you, is when the philosophy of hedonism begins to spread throughout the culture. Since the very nature of a civilization is to be negentropic, and this implies a constant, disciplined struggle, then any movement which begins to undermine the ability of its members to struggle is a threat to its survival. Hedonism, as I mentioned before, is the philosophy which says whatever gives me pleasure is good and whatever gives me pain is bad. It is basically animal logic and it appeals to the artistic right lobe of our brain because it its predisposition to evaluate reality according to feelings.
At this point, it is interesting to note that it is the artistic community and artistic people who very often find themselves at odds with the moral principles of the general community. For all their creativity, or maybe because of their creativity, they have a problem with rules. Their attitudes is that of the billboard in London, which I mention before, that showed an artists easel, palette, brushes, and paints in the bottom right corner and, in the upper left corner, emblazoned in large black letter the words, There are no rules. Their motto is if it feels right, do it and there is no consideration for the logical consequences that might affect them or the general society in the long run. Like the right lobe which they favor, they are impulsive and creative.
They live in the subjective world of their own feelings and are annoyed by any outside interference that tries to hold them to an objective standard. That is why their archenemies are critics or censors who dare to evaluate what is personal and subjective to them. In this totally subjective world, a totally black canvas or one smattered with streak of color paint can pass itself off as a work of artistic genius and nobody can say different. Their response is always, Well, whos to say? or Its different strokes for different folks! In other words, its a world without objective standards or norms.
Like Pilate they say, What is truth? because, as far as they are concerned, truth is something that is based on personal feelings and varies from one person to another. In other words, there is no objective truth based on facts because everything in their world is subjective and based on feelings.
To Jesus statement I am the Way, and the Truth their answer is There is no one way, or truth. Its all a matter of personal feelings. Where Jesus says, Enter by the narrow gate because the way to perdition is wide they say, The path is wide and will accommodate many different and contradictory views because all ways are equal. There is no right way or wrong way, just different ways.
And to our own right lobes, which also operates on feelings, this is a very compelling argument because, without consciously stating it, we naturally use our own feelings as a yardstick as to what this statement means. And, as a result, we give our consent to this premise without full understanding its total meaning or content.
For example, we think to ourselves, Well, we would never feel like doing that and neither would anyone else. Wrong! We have no idea the depths to which the human heart is able to descend. And yet, by agreeing with the premise that it is all a matter of personal feelings we have provided a carte blanc, an empty check, to be filled in for whatever amount the personal taste of others chose to write. By agreeing with this premise, we have completely obliterated the idea of normality because when norms are personal and private, then there are no norms because multiple norms on the same topic is an oxymoron. Its a contradiction in terms.
For that reason, we should be wary whenever artists, entertainers, or right lobed people start to dictate the direction in which society ought to move. They will appeal to our feelings and not our logic and, unless we are schooled in the discipline of logic, they will lead us down a slippery slope that will pull us into areas where we never intended to go.
I believe that it was the poet Yeats who wrote about how moral norms are eroded away by the process of gradualism. He wrote:
Evil is a monster of so frightful mien, (a word that means appearance)
As to be hated, needs but to be seen
But seen too often, familiar with her face
We first endure, then pity, then embrace
What the poem is saying is that if we saw evil- which as I previously explained is anti-life- in it full blown form, we would reject it immediately because we would see what an ugly distortion of reality it was. However, if little by little we are exposed to minor forms of it which are mixed in with good qualities with which we agree, we develop a growing tolerance for it. Each level prepares us for the next level until, when faced with the full horror of its appearance, our level of tolerance has been raised to such a point that we are no longer repelled by it. Its an example of being led down the primrose path by false shepherds who are pushing their own agenda not the agenda of objective truth.
We just dont know what to do when evil is mixed with nice, because nice sugarcoats the dosage so that we are not repelled by its taste. We begin to rationalize and excuse that which is irrational and inexcusable. We dont know what to do when we ourselves or those we like, or those whom we love are involved in what is objectively wrong. Because we cant separate the sin from the sinner, we place ourselves in the untenable position of all of nothing at all which, if we really thought about it, is a stupid position to take because it is interpreted to mean that the only choice we have is to accept others completely or not to accept them at all.
If, in the name of friendship, we must accept everything that either of us do, then what kind of friendship is that? If nothing else, it is a dishonest relationship because it requires each person to surrender his conscience and mind to the other and any hope of true communication or constructive criticism is wiped out.
At best, it would be like talking with yourself because all conversations would begin with the assumption of mutual agreement and at worse it makes each person an enabler of the defects in the other persons life. It says, anything you do is alright with me and Ill defend your right to do it till the death. It sounds lofty and liberal but it is really stupid. Would we apply this same rule to our children or to anybody whom we really loved? The true test of friendship is our ability to care enough to expect the very best and to reflect back to them a true evaluation of their behavior based on objective truth.
I ended my last program by suggesting that we are being lulled into inaction as our Judeo/Christian value structure is being slowly whittled away through a process of gradualism. Those behind this have been patiently implementing a long-term plan whose roots can be traced back to before the French Revolution. From generation to generation, this plan for the gradual elimination of Christianity has been passed down. And while its proponents have never rested, being content with little victories that later became the basis for larger ones, the Christian community at large has either been unaware of the Cultural War that is taking place or has been indoctrinated with the views of its opponents.
The proof of their success is seen daily as little by little elements of our Christian heritage are obliterate from our public life. History is revised, the original intent of the Constitution is distorted through judicial opinions, and new premises are put forward to replace those upon which this nation was founded. Those who remember these premises feel battered on all sides and begin to wonder just how far this can go. But that will change because in a few more generations, now one will ever remember that heritage and will accept as normal and historical the premises which are being established now.
Our problem is that we stand idly by as the norms of our Judeo/Christians heritage are attacked one by one until, what was once a majority view, is slowly becoming a minority opinion. These new premises, which will affect our children and grandchildren, will lead them down paths which we never thought conceivable.
The natural consequences of this are bad enough to consider as feelings replace facts as the standard for behavior and hedonism, the corrupter of all civilizations, replaces disciplined self control. However, if the Church is right about the supernatural, eternal consequences and thats a gamble none of us can avoid then these premises will become the basis for their eternal judgment. If sin really is sin then those who practice it have joined the anti-life entropic forces that are taking the creation back towards chaos and, by this fact, they have chosen to become the enemies of the negentropic forces which are led by Jesus, the Logos of God. In doing so, they have increased the burden that He must carry in His eternal struggle towards the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.
In its final analysis, all sin is a violation of logic and truth which are the basis for the laws of God. The ultimate decision facing all of us is contained in an old union song whose lyrics ask, Which side are you on? Which side are you on?
Its a decision that none of us can avoid because even no decision is a decision. How that question is answered will determine the future of our children, this nation, and, as believers, our eternal salvation.
Well, I see that my time is up. Heres Dom.