Thursday, February 10, 2011

Teddy Bear Jesus

William Barclay the renowned Scripture scholar once wrote that Jesus was not a "nice" man - he was more complex than that.  Barclay, who was a Scottish Presbyterian, was a fine commentator on Scripture with a gift for explaining what the text means with lively examples.  He was praised by many, including the Servant of God Archbishop Fulton Sheen.  He is correct when he asserts that Jesus cannot be reduced to being a nice man, yet for many Christians today that is the image they have of Jesus - nice, gentle, kind, loving, peaceful, tolerant, compassionate etc etc.  Yes, he was all these things, but much more.  And contrary to the prevailing wisdom he could also lose the cool and he taught hard lessons which certainly grates with the "Jesus the nice man" image.  

Fr Longenecker has an interesting post on his blog reflecting on such matters, I thought it would be good reading.  One of the problems we have in the Church today is the prevalence of this nice Jesus, or what some call the Teddy Bear Jesus.  As Pope John Paul II taught, Jesus is challenging, and this is part of the Gospel which we must preach to the men and women of today: you see, we are dealing with reality not a comfortable mythology.

Following up on our discussion on the new translation of the Missal, William Oddie over at the Catholic Herald Online (perhaps the best Catholic newspaper in Britain and Ireland) has a very good article on the whole issue.  He believes the new translation will help renew reverence for the Mass, I think he may be right, though if priests are determined to turn the laity against it for ideological reasons, then there will be problems.  If we approach it with open minds and tolerance (Aha!), we may indeed see that our liturgy is enhanced.

Just a few nights ago a priest friend and I were talking on the phone about the new translation, he began to read the First Eucharistic Prayer - wow, it was a moment of sheer beauty - the language is so rich, the references clear, it calmed the soul through its poetry.   The translation is not perfect, but it is beautiful, yes awkward in places, but yet it stands out.  This new translation is a movement in the right direction: from the banal to the beautiful, to what the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council originally intended.

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