Holy Card Jesus & the Human Face of God

Who Do You Say That I Am? Lenten Series Post #3

Growing up a little Catholic kid, I collected holy cards: dreamy other worldly little pictures of Jesus and the saints. An ethereal and mysterious being, I recall Jesus appeared to be floating on a cloud, his feet barely gracing the ground. Holy Card Jesus was virtually untouchable.

The Baltimore Catechism pretty much backed this up. The answers to my questions were all right there in black and white. Question #79.

WHAT IS THE CHIEF TEACHING OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ABOUT JESUS CHRIST?

The chief teaching of the Catholic Church about Jesus Christ is that He is God made man.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

The Baltimore Catechism, #79, 1940

Mystical and mysterious, the Messiah came from “up there” in heaven and apparently, as the good sisters told me, once he got back “up there” he was always “looking down” upon us on earth.

By the time I got to high school I had pretty much left Holy Card Jesus behind.

The visage of Holy Card Jesus is derived from the Gospel of John, variously described as: “The Gospel that stands on its head” and “The Maverick Gospel,” because it is so different from the other three. It’s an icon of Jesus inspired by John’s poetry. The gospel without a birth story, without parables, without a Last Supper. No Beatitudes or Sermon on the Mount. John’s gospel is the last to be written down — late in the 1st century — two generations after Jesus actually lived.

He was a very divine sort of Jesus who seemed to have very little to do with me, Joani, for a very long time.

Until I got to Catholic University, in a Biblical Literature class, and I read those other gospels — Matthew, Mark & Luke — for the very first time.

And wow! How did I not know that….

Jesus broke bread with prostitutes and tax collectors; that Jesus was accused of being “a glutton and a drunkard”; that Jesus told tales of the Kingdom: the Prodigal Son, the Workers in the Vineyard, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Mustard Seed; that Jesus preached from a mountain (and also on a plain😊): Blessed are the poor, the merciful, those that hunger for justice and thirst for peace; that Jesus taught his friends to love their enemies, to turn the other cheek, to love their neighbors, and even to love themselves; that Jesus wept at the death of a friend; that Jesus got angry, lonely and tired.

Well, this is my kind of Jesus – a very human face of God.

The Human Face of God is a book by John A.T. Robinson, a British bishop and New Testament scholar from the 1960’s. He was the Bishop Spong of his day. Radical in its time, when I read it in the 1990’s, I just loved this book. Here was a Jesus that made sense to me. A Jesus who got down into the muck and the mire with us. God in the flesh, with a human heart and human hands. A carpenter’s son who asked us to follow him to Calvary.

A Jesus just as human as you and me. Just like the rest of John’s first chapter testifies to, that part that the Baltimore Catechism seemed to have left out.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth… From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace… No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

John 1: 14-18

That’s the kind of Jesus I can wrap my head around: The Human Face of God.

Pax vobisum,

Joani

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The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog

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