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Dear Friends,


Christ is the term we use to talk about the mysterious union of the human and the divine, matter and Spirit.


We talk about the Jesus of history, the flesh and blood human that walked and ate and loved and died as we do, and we talk about the Christ of faith, the Son of God, Lord and Savior.


Our belief in that mysterious reality that we call Christ is what makes us Christians.


It is my opinion that we do not have a very useful vocabulary for talking about Christ because we sort of jumble up the Holy Trinity into an all-purpose word and all-purpose concept that we call, “God.”


I use that term, God, all of the time without a good deal of precision or clarity.


That one word has come to be sufficient for a whole raft of experiences and ideas that, in reality, deserve to be given more thoughtful and nuanced consideration.


Through the last quarter of the 20th century into the first quarter of the 21st, the study of Christ and how our belief in that divine/human, matter/spirit mystery could be interpreted in the context of our actual experiences was taken off the table.


Pope John Paul II taught that he had the power to definitively interpret and teach what we believed about Christ so all other speculation and teaching about Christ was foreclosed on by his vocabulary and his experience.


The Church’s teachings about Christ became very didactic and shifted out of the realm of mystery and faith into the realm of moral certainty on a relatively few issues with the Church’s leaders assuming the roles of victims under assault by a hedonistic, secular culture.


The reality is more complex, of course, but the conversation that ought to exist between our faith and our lives as we live them didn’t happen in a very effective manner so our faith in Christ is a diminishing influence in how we actually shape their lives.


The characters that we have met and will meet in Mark’s Gospel these days are very much like us, very much like contemporary prosperous Americans.


This week’s Gospel story introduces us to two men concerned about their prerogatives, last week we met a sincere young man with no capacity to appreciate things of the spirit and with a codependence on “stuff.”


There is an increasingly explicit alliance between evangelical Christians and better educated wealthy Catholic men, both are concerned about male prerogatives and both put almost exclusive dependence on the acquisition and maintenance of “stuff.”


Evangelical Christians have no history of a biblically based theology of Christ as Catholics do, their Christ is a teacher of moral behavior and many better educated wealthier Catholics understand Christ only as a moral teacher.


The Gospel texts are not easily read as simply moral teachings, however, unless you take words and phrases out of their context and isolate them, which is not at all how the Gospel writers understood their compositions.


Culture warrior evangelical Christians and their Catholic counterparts are focused on behavior that is limited to personal morality, especially as viewed through the prism of sexuality and gynecology, but those concerns are very difficult to directly find to be concerns of Jesus in the Gospel texts.


That is not to say that there are not serious and significant moral issues relative to sexuality and gynecology but when these issues are extracted from their Gospel context and stand-alone it is difficult to understand their Christological significance.


The far more mysterious and complicated teachings of Christ about our need to trust, forgive, become non-violent in our relationships, find complete joy, and, especially, to lose our lives and die, have become fallow concepts that are not preached or taught with any consistency or enthusiasm.


The growing kinship between evangelical Christians of a certain type and better educated wealthy Catholics of a certain type is creating a more efficient understanding of Christ, easily channeled to serve narrow political purposes that maintain systems and policies that perpetuate real evil and try to suppress the inspiration and hope that proclaiming the Kingdom of God requires.


The absence of a vital and open conversation between our faith in Christ and the texture and rhythm of our actual experiences creates an institutional Church that is handicapped in proclaiming a meaningful theology of Christ that would lead to a more engaging and real experience of the People of God that are God’s people only because of Christ.



Father Niblick



The books I talked about at the 4 and 8:30 Masses last weekend are by Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire and How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.


The second book, How to Change Your Mind, deals with the very limited research being done in clinical settings using LSD to help terminally ill people deal with their sickness and death. Preliminary studies have found that therapeutic use of LSD with dying patients affords the patient an experience that they call spiritual or mystical and helps the person overcome to a great degree the fear that can make dying less human and fruitful that it might be.


LSD and related substances, apparently, “dissolve” (my word) the dualistic, binary consciousness of either/or thinking and make the person feel more grounded and a part of a bigger reality that some of us might call Christ.


Research with marijuana has a different application, although, increasingly the benefits of marijuana in dealing with a variety of afflictions and diseases are rapidly being appreciated and marijuana is increasingly in use.


Both marijuana and LSD and associated drugs have been politicized and criminalized for reasons that make their therapeutic use subject to suspicion and dismissal, not to mention, prison terms.