We are reprinting an article from SIGN magazine, September, 1974 written by Father Paul Hennessy, a famous Passionist priest, who died on April 8, 2004. He was the former Editor of Sign Magazine.
Occasionally, I come across a sentence which leaps off the page and strikes my mind or imagination like a bolt of lightning. Recently, I encountered such a sentence in a book by a Protestant theologian, Bishop F. R. Barry. He wrote: "Jesus was a man, not a theological symbol."
Just the danger warning that we might turn Jesus into a theological symbol instead of letting him be a living Saviour should be enough to make a thoughtful person stop and ponder the meaning of such a phrase. Fortunately, Bishop Barry hurried on to unfold his thought more elaborately.
Of the Man Jesus, he said: "If his life and death are not related to the total field of human experience and to human nature in its heights and depths, if they do not interpret life as a whole, in its terrors as well as its caresses, if the gospel story does not satisfy all men's spiritual needs and hungers, including the deep unconscious needs of the psyche, then it cannot be the religion of mankind."
If there is one yearning common to the religious instinct of all mankind, it is a longing for if deliverance from some disruptive force which men find in their own hearts. There are perils of divisiveness among all human beings which shake and split and splinter mankind like an earthquake. The only world that men seem able to design under the impetus of their own egotism is a world resembling a city in shambles. There are rifts in human affairs where there ought to be cohesiveness. There are yawning death traps where there ought to be solid ground. There are fragmented egos where there ought to be whole persons.
It does not require a great gift of imagination to see that mankind has made a mess of its own world. We climb out of the pit of barbarism an inch at a time.
Yet the religion of Jesus Christ is a religion of optimism. He is the timeless assurance that God so loved the world-this messy, disrupted, mixed-up world-that he plunged his well-beloved Son into the very core of the maelstrom.
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