The Jesus that I Know
We have reached the halfway point, that marked juncture in the year when our diverse little planet has completed the first half of it’s miraculous revolution around the sun. Half of the year is over but another half awaits- plump with promise.
July invites us to rejoice in the charms of Summer while also reflecting on the experiences we have known in part one of this two part series. She invites us to pause, to reflect and ultimately, to welcome hope into our winter-sodden hearts. As the touchstones of July appear- silvery capelin, alchemistic fog, diving gannets- I gather in my reflections like a warm, patchwork quilt. This year, Jesus has become central to my contemplations as we joyfully jump into PRIDE celebrations this week. Jesus and PRIDE. Yes. They are as connected as the sea and the sky, each reflecting the others beauty unconditionally, without a moments hesitation. I count Jesus as one of my closest friends, a loyal ally, a trusted confidante, a generous healer. We meet daily during morning prayer when I quietly ask for a few graces (please keep everyone healthy and happy in this day, please grant me the self control to avoid that box of Mae Wests!) Then, throughout the day, we bump into each other frequently, unceremoniously, in both the quiet and chaotic moments. We meet, of course, each Sunday at Mass as the week begins, when he presents himself wholly with great love. I imagine that were he here today, sitting beside me in these moss-coloured wooden chairs, on this ancient cliff, we would be having a light day, drinking tea with carnation milk and copious amounts of sugar, our bare toes casually grazing the cool early Summer grass.
We would be watching the boats going out and he would silently bless them while also inquiring about the price of crab this year and the success of the salmon and capelin runs. He would genuinely ask about the well-being of the people of the Cape Shore, eyes closed, soaking in the late morning sun. He’d laugh as I complained about the potholes between the Barasways and gently remind me to count my blessings. We would sit like this for hours, laughing drinking tea, praying and eventually making our way to the shop for a custard cone. Michelle would ask Jesus what flavour he’d like and she’d graciously hand him a rainbow twirl. That’s how I’d spend the afternoon with Jesus. There are a few things that I’m sure that we wouldn’t be doing during our Summer reprieve on the red point. Jesus wouldn’t focus on anything not infused with love. Instead, his words would float around the cove, coloured brightly with the energy of love and mercy. I know this because this divine son of God has been a central, centering part of my life for over four decades. He has been at my side through loss and heartache as often as he has held my hand through moments of tremendous joy and peace. So I feel like I know a little about him. He does not judge. He does not say, “ I love you if… “. He says, “I love you.” His teachings are not saturated with harshness or exclusion. He does not create boundaries or encourage division. I am not sure where this simplicity has gotten lost in the translation of religious texts. But it has.
At the Last Supper, Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” It’s hard not to feel that edict in your bones. He didn’t say, “Love one another if you are of the opposite sex” or “Love one another if you are married” or “Love one another if you can have children”. It was simply “Love one another.”
I do not come to this conversation lightly. I unabashedly call myself a religious person, a Roman Catholic. I believe that spirituality when intertwined with inclusive religion can be a great driver of happiness and enlightenment. So, when people use Jesus and his teachings as a weapon to exclude, I am left sad and confounded. In fact, I am offended that my friend has been used in that way. Jesus wants us to create a world and a church were being unconditionally inclusive is no longer remarkable. it is just who we are and what we do. I live in hope for a more inclusive, Jesus-reflecting, Jesus-respecting church. Taking his teachings and framing them in conservatism as a reason to exclude and other is like placing sautéed spinach on the table during Jiggs dinner. It simply doesn’t belong there. So today I sit here, alone, watching the layers of Summer unfold from our clifftop perch, drinking tea on this Earth as it moves just past it’s halfway point. Jesus hasn’t joined me yet today but I know that he’s busy.
He is quite likely sitting on that plane that’s flying overhead, it’s path creating a white zigzag across the expansive blue sky. He is smiling as he listens to the new husband and husband who are flying back to Newfoundland after visiting their relatives in Fort McMurray.
Or he could be in St. John’s on this July afternoon, sitting quietly with a transgender youth as she shares her truth with her family. He is whispering in her ear, “ I love you. I will be with you on this journey.” In another six months, when the Earth has almost completed its rhythmic circle around the sun, we will celebrate the humble birth of a child in a foreign land, a child who was born to dispel the darkness, a man who said , “I am the light of the world.”
A close and respected friend of ours once shared his true measure of whether or not ones words reflect Jesus. Ask yourself, he said, “What would the simple Nazarene say?”
During PRIDE week and in every moment, every day, every week of the year, he would simply say “Love one another.”
That’s the Jesus that I know.