Eloy Roy
February 25, 2024

First of all, which Jesus are we referring to: the most divine Jesus glorified by religion, or the most human Jesus assassinated by religion?

A very dark night. A raging storm. A monstrous tsunami heading our way. Unstoppable. Jesus asleep, even as the boat is sinking. A guttural cry sprang from the disciples: “Jesus, wake up! We’re going to drown!”

But who is actually sleeping? Is it the flesh-and-bones Jesus who, in the last three years of his life, fought relentlessly against the dinosaurs among his people? Is it the Jesus who was constantly on the move, breaking molds, and standing up to his numerous adversaries? Definitely not, because that Jesus was quickly removed from his earthly path by Religion and placed “in the highest heaven.” The Jesus at whose feet we habitually murmur prayers is not the Jesus who questions the “established order” and shakes up our quiet religion. That is not the Jesus who wakes up, but rather a living, statuesque Jesus aloft in the clouds, basically as an ideal of consensus and peace for our tainted and troubled world.

The real Jesus, the restless, protesting Jesus, Religion locks away securely in tabernacles and golden monstrances. Every day, in front of rows of empty pews, it faithfully wraps him in shrouds of homilies dripping with orthodoxy, while a few hearing-impaired old men doze off, watching their watches. So much so that, out of some fear of displeasing him, we don’t realize that it’s not Jesus, but we who are sleeping.

For the real Jesus is not sleeping nor is he putting anyone to sleep; he who, during his brief time as a prophet, never ceased to clash with the religious authorities of his people. Could it be that this proud Galilean, an undeniable model of mercy, patience and tolerance, was also a formidable brawler? Supposedly very obedient, did he not persistently keep opposing God’s representatives on earth? If not, why did they hound him like a criminal, and why did the High Priests – probably in good faith, yes – why did they have him murdered?

In my opinion, they killed him because he was FREE. His liberty made people afraid. He challenged everything. He shook the pillars of the Temple and rattled the foundations of the religious institution. He stirred those who were sleeping. He awakened consciences. He opened eyes, loosened tongues, restored mobility to the paralyzed.

Even the Christian religion itself became scared of this Jesus who was raising people from the dead; the religion that was heroically following him for a time on his trailblazing path ended up deserting him. In order to “save” its institution that was constantly under threat, the religion hardened its resolve. It decided to take control of the situation by armoring itself with laws and commandments, and by concentrating its power in a single person, surrounded by a guard of unconditional supporters. It tightened the screws on everyone, gagged dissenting voices and got rid of dissidents. The rallying cry was: “UNITY!”

It was all about unity – one God, one Leader, one mind, one heart, one body, one teaching. In the meantime, he who had always been a (humble) carpenter from Nazareth all of a sudden became the Lord of Lords, with the mission of maintaining this framework of unity, with love and compassion, of course, but also with an iron fist in accordance with the law of God the Most High, the ultimate guarantor of stability, order and morality. In short, a lot to do with unity and discipline. But freedom, nothing. Or almost nothing.

During that time, the church – that is to say, the humble “gathering” of disciples who wandered about more or less painfully among the nations – that church was only meant to be leaven in the dough, but eventually became a kind of state within a state, and often greater than other states. Jesus was no longer simply Jesus, he was now Christ the Lord with an outstretched arm. The simple friend of the fishermen from Galilee had metamorphosed into the King of the Universe. Of the Jesus who washed the rough feet of his fellow pilgrims, there was nothing left but the soft, pre-washed and perfumed feet of the choir boys from Holy Thursday.

The Jesus who disobeyed the sacred authorities of his people, the Jesus who was hypercritical of the infallibility of the religious leaders, this free-spirited Jesus had become an embarrassment and frankly unbearable. Thus, Religion put things right. It reclaimed the Jesus who was so frank, clear-sighted, just, non-elitist, offensive to the bourgeois, contentious for the pacifists and unpalatable for the devout. Religion turned him into the grand enforcer of a new order of things upon which it sought to build a new empire, even while it cavalierly dismissed or ignored him. It anaesthetized this Jesus and plunged him into an eternal sleep. Once killed and buried, it was careful not to resurrect him.

However, the Jesus who was neither an anarchist nor a terrorist, that kindhearted and free-spirited Jesus did not give up. Thanks to his “gospel” (which we are now managing to reconstruct more accurately from studying mountains of religious teachings, dogmas and scholarly theses), that Jesus is alive and well, and is coming back to us. Stripped of all the disguises we dressed him in, he becomes one of us again. He is not sleeping, and asks his fellow travellers to keep their eyes open and walk with him. He is walking and remaining with us “until the end of the world”, firmly riveted to our World, “incarnate” within us, anchored to our flesh and bones, to our heart and destiny. He no longer has the rosy face of our First Communion pictures, nor the priestly mask of the imperial banners of our brave pontifical zouaves. He really looks like us. He is one of us.

I humbly reclaim that Jesus and cry out to him from the heart:
“Jesus, man of daring and passion, come out from the limbo into which we condemned you! Come out from the plaster, the monstrances, the hosts and haloes in which we imprisoned you; come out of the majestic icons where we are keeping you frozen. Liberate us from all those holy signs that were certainly useful and more than respectable at the time when we were beginning to open our eyes and taking our first steps with you. Those signs originated in a medieval world of ruling monarchies and imperial glory, and no longer hold meaning for us, yet sadly still stand in the way of your Good News!”

Let me digress for a moment. Let’s not think that the modern world is not thirsting for truth. Perhaps more than ever it is searching for truth. As far as I’m concerned, that is not the problem. Rather, I see it as a matter of truth itself which no longer uses the language of the past. Its signs are new and are to be discovered in the extraordinary discoveries of our era; staggering quantities of discoveries. God’s own language, for example, his heart and soul found in the gospel are infinitely more purely reflected in the splitting of the atom and laser light than in all our most precious liturgical symbols put together. Can we really grasp and express something of the creative power of the Word of God without daring to mention what we know about the Big Bang? Can we refer to the fundamental need for communion among human beings without acknowledging – with all their dark ambiguities – that the internet, the smart phone, social media and artificial intelligence are extremely vivid signs of this need? In a fraction of a second, electronic waves take us around the world, and bounce us between the past and the future; at the speed of light we are transported to the most obscure corners of our physical and psychic reality, to the very heart of the atom and to the infinitely bright quasars of the most distant constellations. Before such a profusion of power, how can we not stand mute in admiration and see, as Isaiah did, “the train of God’s mantle”, filling the great temple of the Universe? (Isaiah 6:1) We need only consider in our modern era the explosion of music, dance, painting, architecture, and in all the arts: Would such an explosion of the most sacred standards of beauty be considered a sign of decadence and a return to chaos? Why not consider it instead a sign of rebirth?

The whole world is in turmoil, giving us glimpses here and there of unsuspected marvels, showing us fragments of the truth, beauty and power of the divine at work in human beings and in matter itself. Why would we not see in science and technology, which are pushing the limits of the possible every day, and in the great upheavals and astonishing discoveries of today, the grandiose miracles that are occurring in our time and will continue to multiply in number and splendor until the end of time? Why would we not hear the voice of Jesus, the prophet, rising up from the depths of our human consciousness, proclaiming, "Lift up your heads, open your eyes, open your mind, your heart and your arms: God is here!"

The mustard seeds of the Gospel will never cease to challenge us, but why would we deny that they are now on their way to becoming giant stars? Let's open our eyes and witness the odyssey of millions of immigrants flooding across the borders of rich countries. How can we fail to see in this phenomenon the heroic and fearsome rise of the poor, the despised, the exploited and the ignored, who from the four corners of the earth are storming to take their rightful place under the sun? Isn’t the world brilliantly unveiling itself like a gigantic burning bush on a cosmic scale? It's up to us to tame and master the new language of the new era, its rhythms, words, signs, codes, tones, different sounds and dazzling palette of colors.

I take up my cry again: “Jesus, man of daring and passion, may your angel with burning coals come to cauterize our antiquated way of thinking and speaking. May he also take our flamboyant Ku Klux Klan costumes, our albs, our chasubles, our mitres and our precious red sashes, and fold them and put them away in the corner with the wrappings of your resurrection! We thank them for their service, and they can now take their rest. But you, who are alive and free as a bird, break the seals of the golden sarcophagus in which they wanted to mummify you to better preserve you. Escape from our crystal barbwire and incense clouds that block the light! Wake us from our pious torpor! Awaken us!"

“Dislodge us from the clay of our devoutness! Save us from our religion which is too respectful, too muted, too stuffy, too sanitized, too cautious, too weepy, too bourgeois, too serious and too joyless! Take us away from our hymns, which are often so romantic, ever edifying, but sometimes so sad and guilt-ridden! Save us from the perfumed opium of any liturgy, theology or structure that would usurp the place of the Gospel!

"Save us from our unconsciousness and blissful self-satisfaction! Deliver us from all evil, especially from those religious barriers that are suppressing your gospel. Save us from ourselves! You'll never imbue us with too much of your mercy, tenderness and wisdom, but for heaven's sake, give us some of your boldness, your brazenness, your wrath against all our instincts to dominate or submit, as well as against the serpent who assures us that our religion has a monopoly on truth. Infect us with your faith in a God, not of laws, sacrifices and death, but of life, evolution and liberation. Empower us with the incredible faith you have in us! Energize (infect) us with your boundless creativity, your breadth of vision, your quick-wittedness, your humor, your freedom and your joy!"

“Connect us to the fabulous dynamism of your good news. Of course, the good news is peace, but it is also a sword. A sword that threatens not our freedoms, but our oppressions. A sword that, far from killing the life within us, unlocks it to march towards a fairer, fuller, deeper, more fulfilled and more real humanity."

“Jesus, it is not you who is sleeping, but us … You, man of daring and passion, man of sunshine and resurrection, wake us up to ourselves! Wake us up to who we are in the very depths of our being. For through you we have learned that we are not stillborn but, in truth, are sons and daughters of the One you taught us to call "Abba". He is also the Abba of every human being, good or bad, not by anyone’s merit, but purely by grace, that is, by the absolutely free Gift of his endless love.

Eloy Roy
Février 2024