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Asking the Clergy: Why does the historical Jesus matter?

Father Thomas A. Cardone, S.M., Kellenberg Memorial High

Father Thomas A. Cardone, S.M., Kellenberg Memorial High School Credit: Father Thomas A. Cardone, S.M., Kellenberg Memorial High School

Archaeologists have long been searching the Holy Land in Jerusalem for historical evidence from the life of Christ. National Geographic magazine recently reported on these efforts, as well as some of the archaeologists’ illuminating finds. This week’s clergy discuss how some of these discoveries are relevant to their Christian faith.

The Rev. Thomas A. Cardone

Chaplain, Kellenberg Memorial High School, Uniondale

What happens at noon in the Catholic world of faith? At Kellenberg Memorial the sound of bells resound, and everyone stops whether one is in class, the cafeteria or engaging in a casual conversation. There is total silence. When the bells stop, everyone recites the “Angelus” — a prayer that commemorates the mystery of the Incarnation (Jesus becomes man). At one point the prayer leader says, “And the Word was made flesh.” Then all respond, “And dwelt among us.” Yes, Jesus, Son of God, becomes man and enters into human history. This is the Good News that touches the heart of believers. Think. If Jesus is merely an idea, then neither Jesus nor Christianity matters. On the other hand, if Jesus is a real historical person, then everything he says and does makes a difference. Over the years, some scholars have attempted to separate the Jesus of history and the Jesus of faith; however, there can be no separation. Pope Benedict agrees. If you get a chance, buy one of his volumes of “Jesus of Nazareth.” At one point he says: “But what can faith in Jesus as the Christ possibly mean, in Jesus as the Son of the living God, if the man Jesus was so completely different from the picture that the Evangelists painted of him and that the Church, on the evidence of the Gospels, takes as the basis of her preaching?” Yes, Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us. This makes all the difference.

The Rev. Gideon L. K. Pollach

Rector, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Cold Spring Harbor

The fact that God entered into history in Jesus makes God intelligible to us and the human condition intimately known to God. No more, no less. The historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth reveals what God’s hope for a human life empowered by God’s own Spirit of love and life looks like. Jesus reveals that the purpose of life is to love God and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. He also shows us how to do that. Jesus’ acts of forgiveness, healing and renewal show that God hopes the same for you and me. His fellowship with all reveals God’s dream of what society looks like free of attachment to privilege, status, wealth and honors. In short, Jesus shows us that loving God means living an ethically unselfish life devoted to making life better for others, not for our own advantage. Additionally, Jesus makes the human experience of pain and death intimate to God. Through Jesus, God understands and suffers with us. The miracle of Jesus’ resurrection, his rising to a new embodied life after death, reveals that God’s purpose for humanity is life, not death. We, therefore, can live without fear because, through God in Jesus, death is defeated. (1 Corinthians 15:20-27) Finally, Jesus reveals what all of scripture reveals: God seeks to renew and heal the world from within. In Jesus, God reveals that human lives can be holy and have meaning and purpose. Jesus shows us that this world is of great value, and that life lived in fellowship with God, as Jesus’ was, can and should make life better for us and for all.

The Rev. Henrietta Scott Fullard

Presiding Elder, Long Island District, African Methodist Episcopal Churches

The principles of history have always been the beginning point for the continuation of time. The moving forth of an era, a season, a legacy, an idea, a fact, etc., is grounded in how extraordinarily we can anchor the past. We build future promises and objectives on what we have learned from our experiences in the past. We need and depend upon what has been the established foundation for our continued growth and existence. Religiously, we need a solid foundation and a belief upon a faith that has proven to be built upon a power of an everlasting God. The historical Jesus as we studied His divine birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension into heaven, provides for us all that we need for this life’s journey. Jesus has provided for a promise of an everlasting life that is historically based upon his saving power through his death on the cross. Our faith in God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Precious Holy Spirit still rules and abides with us today. Jesus’ promise to us was that “in my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:2-3. The promises of Jesus were based upon his historical death and resurrection as the basis for life eternal beyond the span of time.

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