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Any talk delivered from on high, so to speak, or ex cathedra, to use the stern Latin term, is fraught with dogmatic overtones. For many centuries, Christian places of worship reverberated with sermons that sounded more like tirades than talks, inculcating the congregation with a spell-binding sense of fear and anxiety as sins piled up by the minute. The pointing finger, the stentorian voice, and the beady stare of the preacher from the pulpit conferred reproach, punishment, and eternal damnation. Grace, Christianity’s core concept, never entered the picture.
Heavy-sounding authority makes us instinctively recoil. We may abide to it because we have to, but deep inside ourselves we revolt, pretty much like schoolchildren in a classroom run by an overbearing schoolmaster. We resent pompous persons who claim that they know better than us and pontificate their words of wisdom. But if someone were to address us in a low, peaceful tone, we might be curious to listen to what he or she has to say.
Jesus Christ, the Man who voiced the word of God, never spoke 'ex cathedra', that is, in an overbearing self pompous tone. What made Him immensely appealing to audiences, people from all walks of life, was His humble radiance, His utter lack of worldly authority. He spoke in parables so that even the most simple could understand Him.
The common folk, the unsophisticated, non-scholarly populace adored Jesus because they saw Him as one of their own; one who wore a plain garment and rode not on a splendid horse but on a donkey; one who soothed the adulteress and cured the sick woman who merely touched his cloak; one who washed the feet of his disciples and wept in front of the tomb of his friend, Lazarus; one who castigated the hypocrisy of the high priests and chased the traders and money-lenders out of the temple ― a brave, uncompromising Teacher who performed extraordinary things to show to those who doubted, the miracle that faith can work in our hearts. The Son of Man captivated an ever-increasing number of listeners who craved for the immediate healing effect of His preaching. They cherished His words of love, spoken in truth and directness.
The notions of Good and Evil, Virtue and Sin, Right and Wrong, become tormenting tyrants when taught in a rigid religious framework. They suppress and desiccate sensitivities, and they tie Christianity to the wrong anchor.
“It is the quietest words that bring the storm” writes Nietzsche. We need inner peace and passion to understand “the thoughts that come with doves’ footsteps and change the world”.
For the Christian, empathy is the passion of faith. Faith in the Man who dissolved all doubt in the heart of Thomas ― one of twelve handpicked disciples ― by the infinitely reassuring words: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me”.
Only through the eyes of Faith are we in a position to perceive Jesus Christ as the Agnus Dei, the Innocent Lamb of God who chooses to sacrifice Himself for our sake. Pointing to the good thief on the cross next to the Nazarene, Nietzsche writes “The criminal who while experiencing a painful death says: ― the way this Jesus dies without resistance or enmity, but in greatness and resignation, is the only way to die ― confirms the Gospel and goes to Heaven”.
We learn our Lord in admiration so that we can understand Him in love.
by Costas Nisiotis
Athens, Greece - firstname.lastname@example.org
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