|Jesus gave a number of important commissions at the Last Supper. This one about leadership seems to have gotten lost in translation.|
The following is from an article written by Jesuit Kenneth R Overberg for the publication American Catholic. The article deals with the alternative view of Jesus's death and resurrection. This is the view that has been present within Catholicism since the Gospel of John, but under taught in favor of the atonement view. In this alternative view, Jesus is not God's 'plan B' developed after Adam's sin, but Jesus is actually the purpose of creation and the reason for the existence of humanity. In this view, God wants to directly experience His own creation because He loves it like He loves all of His creation. For reasons of length, I have chosen the post the last paragraphs of Fr. Overberg's piece, in which he shows the difference this view of Jesus's mission can make in the lives of average believers. The entire article is well worth the read for it's discussion of some of the historical development of this view.
What Difference Does It Make?
For almost 2000 years, believers have found hope and light in recognizing the primacy of the Incarnation. God’s overflowing love wants to embody itself in and for others. Jesus is the first thought, not an afterthought. Does this remarkable belief make any difference in our lives? Absolutely, especially for those of us whose faith has been shaped by images of atonement and expiation.
First, the perspective of creation-for-Incarnation highlights the rich meaning of Jesus. He is not Plan B, sent simply to make up for sin. As Duns Scotus emphasized so well, God’s masterpiece must result from something much greater and more positive (God’s desire to share life and love). Jesus is the culmination of God’s self-gift to the world.
Second, the focus on the Word made flesh helps us to appreciate the depth of our humanness and the importance of our actions. Rahner’s marvelous musings on our life in a world of grace give us renewed understanding of the biblical phrase “created in God’s image”—along with many implications for how we treat all our sisters and brothers in the human family and the earth itself. (Jesus shows us how to be fully human, to touch and act from our own shared divine life, not necessarily to save us from our fallen humanity.)
Third and most important, our alternate view offers us a new and transformed image of God. Many people suspect that the dominant perspective of God demanding the suffering and death of the Son as atonement somehow missed the mark. (Ya think?)
Indeed, Rahner gently says that the idea of a sacrifice of blood offered to God may have been current at the time of Jesus, but is of little help today. Rahner offers other interpretations of how Jesus saves us, emphasizing that God’s saving will for all people was fully realized in Jesus through the response of his whole life.
Other contemporary scholars, including Walter Wink, are more direct. He states that the early disciples simply were unable to sustain Jesus’ vision of the compassionate and nonviolent reign of God. Overwhelmed by Jesus’ horrible death and searching for some meaning, the disciples slipped back into an older religious conviction that believed violence (sacrifice) saves. (This implies the early disciples never got the point of the resurrection, which is Jesus's culminating statement about the truth of humanity.)
The emphasis on Jesus as the first thought can free us from those images and allows us to focus on God’s overflowing love. This love is the very life of the Trinity and spills over into creation, grace, Incarnation, and final flourishing and fulfillment.
What a difference this makes for our relationship with God! We are invited into this divine dance. Life and love, not suffering and death, become the core of our spirituality and our morality.
“In the beginning was the Word...and the Word became flesh.” Alleluia!
I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about these two very different views of Jesus. They almost mandate two very different views of Church and priestly ministry. We've had 17 centuries of the atonement Jesus and have wound up with a very dysfunctional church in the twenty first century. Maybe it's time we organized around the Johanine view of Jesus and put atonement Jesus on the back burner. The truth is the Church has very little to lose, and might just regain it's soul.