Sunday, March 31, 2013

Jesus: The Revelation of Oneness

The Wild Reed's 2013 Holy Week series concludes with a fifth and final excerpt from Albert Nolan's 2006 book, Jesus Today: A Spirituality of Radical Freedom.

Along with excerpts from Nolan's book, this series has also included artistic depictions of Jesus which many people might consider unconventional, even challenging. Why? Well, as I discuss in Part 1, this is because many of us have become overly familiar with depictions of Jesus that are the product of the white American popular imagination. Seeing a non-European looking Jesus, such as the depiction above by an unknown photographer, has the potential to turn upside-down our thinking and perception of Jesus and, by extension, of those around us whom we might consider as 'other.'

With today being Easter Sunday, I thought I'd share an excerpt from that part of Nolan's book that focuses on Jesus' oneness with God and all creation. For the disciples of Jesus, the Easter experience was profoundly transforming. It made them aware, in a radically new way, of Jesus' oneness with God and with them. It is a oneness that encompasses all creation and extends beyond even death. I also think it's fair to say that this post-resurrection awareness was projected back onto the Jesus whom we read about in the gospel texts. That's how powerful and important the post-resurrection experience was to his friends and disciples.

Full participation in the spirituality of Jesus would have to include some experience of our oneness with the universe. Jesus' extraordinarily profound union with God manifested itself not only in his identification with all human beings, but also in his oneness with nature. Because he lived in a pre-scientific and pre-industrial age, he did not experience nature as a resource to be exploited or as a machine to be manipulated. Jesus experienced all of nature, including humans, as God's creation.

Nor would Jesus ever have imagined that God had created the universe in the beginning and then left it to carry on by itself. For Jesus, God was actively caring and providing for all of creation, every day. God feeds the birds, clothes the fields with flowers, lets the sun shine and the rain pour down on the just and the unjust alike (Mt 6:26-30, Mt 5:45).

. . . Oneness with God, with oneself, with others, and with the universe forms a seamless whole. Any attempt at union with God while remaining alienated from other people and from nature would be pure fantasy. Likewise, an experience of closeness to nature that excludes human beings and one's own personal wholeness would be incomplete and ineffective. A genuine experience of oneness with everybody and everything, however, would include oneness with God, even if one is not fully aware of God's presence, because, as [Jesus said] "whatever you do to the least of these you do to me" – whether we are aware of it or not.

What we are talking about here is one seamless experience of moving out of self-centeredness and isolation into union with all that is. It is a movement from separation to oneness, from selfishness to love, from ego to God. And while much of it may sound abstract, convoluted, and far removed from the problems and concerns of everyday life, it is in practice an experience of beautiful simplicity – the simplicity we see mirrored in Jesus.

The mysterious author of the Fourth Gospel was clearly a mystic who saw that in the final analysis Jesus was the revelation of oneness: his oneness with the Father, the Father's oneness with him and with us, our oneness with one another and with him and with the Father (Jn 17:21-23). Paul spoke of this too, albeit in a very different way, recognizing among other things its cosmic dimensions: ". . . through him [Jesus] God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven" (Col 1:20). "So that," he says in another place, "God may be all in all" (Cor 15:28).

– Albert Nolan

For the previous installments of The Wild Reed's 2013 Holy Week series, see:
Jesus: The Upside-down Messiah
Jesus: Prophet and Mystic
Jesus and the Art of Letting Go
Within the Mystery, a Strange and Empty State of Suspension

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
And What of Resurrection?
Jesus: The Breakthrough in the History of Humanity
Resurrection: Beyond Words, Dogmas, and All Possible Theological Formulations
The Passion of Christ (Part 11) – Jesus Appears to Mary
The Passion of Christ (Part 12) – Jesus Appears to His Friends
The Triumph of Love: An Easter Reflection

Related Off-site Link:
Easter Sunday: Jesus Is Risen! Alleluia!Bondings 2.0 (March 31, 2013).
Easter: The Celebration of the Sacrament of Transformation – Joan Chittister, OSB (The Progressive Catholic Voice, March 31, 2013).
To Practice Resurrection – Marcus Mescher (Millennial, March 31, 2013).

Image: Photographer unknown.

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