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Lenten Reflection: Why does Jesus make us uncomfortable? Part 1



Growing up in my sleepy hometown in Bicol where Quaresma is a big thing at this time of the year, certain things were emphasized year-in, year-out. First, is fasting and abstinence. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday which is a 40-day season of reflection, repentance and spiritual growth. Fasting is abstinence or avoidance of meat particularly on Fridays leading to Easter.


Second, the Passion of the Christ during the Semana Santa leads to his crucifixion and resurrection. The 14 concrete stations around the parish church were supposed to remind us of the sequence of events that took place on Good Friday. At home, there were things or chores we could not do on that day. The main reason was fairly obvious – respect for the suffering and death of Jesus even if it was just a reenactment. Everybody would behave and be told to listen to the radio drama unfolding until we got to “Consummatum Est” when it was finished.


For example, we were to minimize (or stop altogether) hard labor, housecleaning, use of pointed or sharp objects like a bolo, use of bright colored-apparel, and to refrain from taking a bath after 3 pm. The buzz then, however, was that it was a good day/evening to hunt for amulets (anting-anting). And that I did, stupidly waiting until midnight sitting on top of a tomb waiting for some sign or ghosts to wrestle with. Looking back, some of these prohibitions were folklore or just plain superstitious beliefs.


Before the church began covering the image of Jesus nailed on the cross with a black cloth, I used to look up at the large, towering image on Sunday mornings with discomfort. Although I know that it was just a replica, being a blessed image displayed on the retablo I could not help but feel sorry for him. It was like Jesus was resurrected a long time ago, but the evidence of the crime is kept on display to remind Catholics of why he was murdered and left hanging up there to bleed to death, almost naked with just large nails keeping him in such an upright position.


It’s insane especially with what is happening in Palestine today. The killings are akin to modern rewriting of the Bible where Israelis were told by the god of Israel to kill all the Canaanites (or they will not have peace) except now, they are modern day Palestinians who descended from ancient Canaanites. Jerusalem is supposed to be split between the warring states. Palestinians have sovereignty over the eastern side where the Temple Mount is, while the Jewish people would have the Western Wall.


Imagine Jesus being present there today and trying to referee. He will be nailed again to the cross for meddling. This, in essence, is what Catholics do every year – relive the Passion of the Christ and let him die on the cross over and over, for “our sins.” Did he really die on the cross for our sins or did we just learn the wrong or incoherent thing as handed down by cultural traditions? Did the Father will the death of the Son to show God’s love and mercy and to atone for our sins?


Every year, we hear the same thing that God was incarnated into the human flesh as Jesus Christ to show God’s love for Planet earth that in the beginning, was highlighted by Adam and Eve’s rebellion. Jesus’ death restored life and the disrupted divine -human relationship so that “whoever believes in him will not perish and will have eternal life.”


Belief in Jesus begins in early childhood when baptized “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” So, does claiming that Lord Jesus Christ is our “Lord and Savior” will do the trick if we follow the practice of faith (going to church on Sundays and holy days of obligations, donating to the church, and following church traditions)? Or should we free ourselves from the doctrinal strictures and look at Jesus’ death and resurrection differently using other lenses?


We are sinful people by nature regardless of what people will say. One can go to church every Sunday, makes the confession/communion and will still be confronted by the seven deadly sins of pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath (anger), and sloth (laziness) because these sinful ways are inherent in all of us. We practice it every day, but we provide ourselves with waivers (ehem, excuses why we did it), bypass the Confessional and just go straight to Communion for the bread and wine.


“Eternal life,” is what drives us to Sunday service and observing Lent is one of the items on the salvation checklist. During the Holy Week that we took a vacation for, we understood that the Passion of the Christ is what makes the week holy, and observing it in street drama or processions, over the radio, or walking through the 14 stops heightens our understanding of faith. Does it really?


What if we change our paradigms about Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection? What if we stop thinking that God acts and thinks like humans with emotions (anger – punishes us; love – let Jesus die on the cross, or neutral – gives us free will to choose between right or wrong)? What if the real reason why Jesus came was to validate God’s kingdom? During Jesu’ short life on earth, he always talked about the Kingdom of God, according to the Apostles.


What if eternal life in the Kingdom of God is not up there or anywhere in the universe? Certainly, ancient people made us believe that heaven is up there, and modernity accepted such metaphysical assertion for lack of understanding. Peter holding the key to the pearly gates of the Kingdom of Heaven according to Matthew, conjures an image of Peter up in the clouds somewhere in the universe.


Heaven, according to the Bible, is a place of peace, love, community, and worship where all archangels and saints gather around God’s supreme court like a physical destination that we’ve been promised. Religious art clearly amplifies such perception with future saints always looking up (heaven, God, Virgin Mary). And we think of a God who is white, bearded, and with commanding presence while Jesus is seated on the right hand of the Father as co-equals. We’ve been told that Lucifer used to be part of God’s court until he rebelled and was sent down below to torment people on earth.


What if the Kingdom of God is here on earth and when we die, our body is buried here until the Final Judgement that nobody knows when it will be? So, the bottom-line here is that nobody really knows where God is and only Jesus took the human form here on earth. It makes a lot of sense that the reason Jesus lived with us is to make us see, feel, and hear him speak about the kingdom where he commanded an audience like he was a king. (To be Continued)

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