On my way back from North Carolina I happened to meet a woman in the plane visiting her two week old, never ever met online boyfriend in Portland, Oregon. In the conversation that followed I learned that she teaches an Indian spiritual practice called Tantra, which is the worship of the god Shiva, a mythical figure. “Tantra deals primarily with spiritual practices and ritual forms of worship, which aim at liberation from ignorance and rebirth”. As we continued our conversation she said, “here you are a Christian Priest from India teaching of the great teacher Jesus, I am from the US teaching the principles of Spirituality of the people of India.”
Yes, who was Jesus to her and to many who teach the “Tantra, Mantra, Mudra” which are the “Technique of living, words or syllable for transformation, or a symbolic or ritual gesture, and many other forms of religious practices? This was the same struggle for the people of Israel at the time of Jesus. For them, the people of Israel, inspite of the fact that Jesus had clearly talked about his identity and proved beyond measure what that means, he was just an opportunist. Their hearts were too closed to understand and see God at work in this man. Because he was too common and his origins are known to everyone.
In his famous book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis makes this statement, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg–or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”
I want to add to this statement by saying He was the greatest human teacher and the tangible reality of how God would look like in human form amongst us. God had to take a shape that humans will understand and be able to identify. But mere resemblance of the human figure was not enough to recognize God in human clothing. The suspense was because they stopped seeing anything beyond what their naked eyes could see.
Several years ago The Radio Corporation of America, or “RCA,” created a lasting logo: the figure of a dog sitting before a Victrola record player, staring in wonder at the speaker. The caption told it all: “He hears his master’s voice.”
Jesus is giving us today the imagery of a sheep. A little animal that trains itself to understand the accent, inflection and the movement of a different species than itself. Because somewhere in its brain it has learned that this creature, we call the shepherd has the capacity to lead the sheep to shelter, security and sustenance.
The only way for us to know who Jesus is and was is by sitting in wonder at the mouth of God. Why did Jesus say Mary has chosen the better part? She listened not just sat lazy, as some people say, at the feet of God. Mary sat with her ears open to listen carefully, not simply hear what was being said, but was not said.
Coming to belief, not a set of dogmatic statements, but a solemn internal recognition of the identity of God, happens in the five senses of the body and the experience of the sixth sense of the spirit. Whether I accept it or not, in Baptism I am “Marked As Christ’s Own” for an eternity. Now that we have become the part of his fold, we have been given the opportunity to train ourselves to understand the accent of God, the intonation of heavenly music and the destination of His journey. Listen carefully and follow the staff of his leading to green pastures.
Why did they take up stones? Because what they saw or heard threatened them. The simplicity of his teaching was scary. Jesus conversation was all about the choice God had made about them, “no one will snatch them out of my hand” if they are willing to enter into the realm of God and the decision they have made.
Liberation from ignorance and rebirth is guaranteed to those who follow the Lord. Freedom for eternity is granted to those who have trained themselves to hear the voice of God and be lead by Christ to destination.
Liberation requires no magical syllables for transformation and no fanatical ritual practices. But they are helpful human actions to calm the body and the mind that we have come to embody in this world, and that we may listen carefully to the voice of God just like Jesus in human form.