April 10, 2000
volume 11, no. 71

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    Pat Ludwa, a committed lay Catholic from Cleveland, has been asked to contribute, on a regular basis, a lay person's point of view on the Church today. We have been impressed with his insight and the clear logic he brings to the table from his "view from the pew." In all humility, by his own admission, he feels he has very little to offer, but we're sure you'll agree with us that his viewpoint is exactly what millions of the silent majority of Catholics believe and have been trying to say as well. Pat puts it in words that help all of us better understand and convey to others what the Church teaches and we must believe.

    Today Pat breaks down other religions' rationale as to Who Jesus is and shows by process of elimination that their deductions come up short everytime. He illustrates how only Our Lord as the Savior and Son of God could accomplish what He did and procure salvation for generations from Adam through the Old Covenant into the New Testament times for all generations. He shows how it has been foretold for all time and though many religions share various beliefs, when it comes to the completeness of Who Christ truly is, only His Church that He founded can witness to Who, What, Why, How, Where and When the complete Second Person of the Trinity completes us as truly His disciples as John attests to in 1 John 3: 2, "...for we shall see Him as He is." That is the gist of his column today, Who "they" and "we" say He is!

    For past columns by Pat Ludwa, click on VIEW FROM THE PEW Archives   If you want to send him ideas or feedback, you can reach him at

Who "they" and "we" say He is!

        "Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?'" (Matthew 16:13).

        This is a question we must still ask ourselves today. Not only who other's say He is, but who do WE say He is?

        Pope John Paul II wrote; "Christ is absolutely unique. If He were only a wise man like Socrates, if He were a prophet like Muhammad, if He were enlightened like Buddha, without doubt He would not be what He is."

        Christ demands that we make a decision about Him. What do other's say about Him?

        Judiaism is where we should look first, seeing that Jesus was a Jew. Both Christian and Jewish scholars agree that much of what Christ taught is found in the Jewish Scriptures, the Old Testament. However, there's where it ends. To Jewish scholars He was an 'admirable Jew'. A prophet and miracle worker. To others He was an 'apostate' Jew whose name couldn't even be mentioned. There were OT references which could have been applied to Jesus, but they were later excised from Talmudic texts, brought about by the Sadducees at Jamnia. The reason was clear, the Temple had been destroyed, Jews were joining the new 'sect' called Christianity. In an effort to save their faith, certain measures had to be taken.

        Persecution made reconciliation nearly impossible. First, Jewish persecution of the Christians. "Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth against him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into Heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, 'Behold, I see the Heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.' But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen...and Saul was consenting to his death" (Acts 7: 54-59).

        "And on that day a great persecution arose against the Church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the region of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen, and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the Church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison" (Acts 8: 1-3). "But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem" (Acts 9: 1-2).

        "Eusebius places St. James at the head of the list of bishops of Jerusalem (History, II, 23). Besides his care for Jerusalem, St. James seems to have been assigned supervision over all converts from Judaism: he appears as their "cardinal protector" in his canonical epistle. While St. Peter exercised general supervision over both Jews and Gentiles, their special interests in the Roman Empire would seem to have been committed respectively to Sts. James and Paul. In keeping with his charge, St. James strove to conciliate the Jews by strict personal observance of the Mosaic precepts. A man of severe asceticism, he was respected by Jews as well as Christians. But though the Pharisees tolerated him, the Sadducees, led by the high priest Annas the Younger, stirred up a mob to stone St. James after his courageous confession of Christ (Josephus, Antiquities, xx, 4). His martyrdom seems to have occurred about 62, during a procuratorial interregnum between Festus's death and Albinus's arrival." (Catholic Church History; Pagan Imperialism (49 B.C.-313 A.D.); II. Foundation of the Church 8. The Kings Legates: Apostolic Missions (42-67) by Msgr. Eberhardt.)

        With this as a beginning, animosity between Christian and Jew seemed almost inevitable. This 'animosity' is still somewhat present (though not as prevalent). Rabbi Jacob Neusner, professor of religion and theology at Bard college and author of "A Rabbi Talks With Jesus" wrote: "Jesus demanded that to enter this Kingdom of Heaven I repudiate family and turn my back on home: 'Sell all you have and follow Me.' That is not what the Torah says." (Time magazine, March 27, 2000, pg. 57) The thing is, Jesus never said that. Oh, He did say what He's quoted as saying, but He never said to turn our backs on our family, only that we may have to make a choice between family and God! As for the quote Rabbi Neusner uses, this was in regards to a particular case. A wealthy young man who, we can presume, had no family to turn his back on.

        But, mostly, Jews today see Jesus as a prophet, at most, and an admirable and good man, at least. Problem is, if He was not Who He said He was, then He can't be either good, nor admirable. At worst, He would have been a false prophet. There's simply no middle ground, at least for we Christians.

        For those followers of Islam, Jesus is a great prophet and revered as Isa ibn Maryam - Jesus, the son of Mary. Mary is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur'an (Koran). Today, we hear Christians doubting the validity of the virgin birth of Christ, but Islam teaches that the story is true, as was His Ascension. Something else some 'christian' scholars doubt occurred. According to the Qur'an, (Islam feels the New Testament is tainted) Jesus was born under a palm tree by a direct act of God. And that from the time He was an infant, declared He was God's prophet, but not His son, since Allah is above having a son. However, according to Islam, both Jesus and Mary enjoyed certain spiritual gifts the other prophets didn't have. They were both born, untouched by satan. That is, the Immaculate Conception (of sorts) and the sinless nature of Christ. Even Muhammad had to be purified before becoming a prophet. Though Mohammad never showed any miraculous powers or authority, the Qur'an affirms that Christ heals the blind, cures the lepers, and raises the dead (all according to the will of Allah, or, as we know it, God the Father) So far, very little separates Christians from Muslims. However, according to the Qur'an, Jesus doesn't die. Instead, He asks 'Allah' to save Him from crucifixion, and, answering His prayer, takes Him directly to Heaven. "God would not allow one of His prophets to be killed. If Jesus had been crucified, it would have meant that God failed His prophet." (Martin Palmer, director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture in Manchester, England)

        The thing is, the Old Testament shows how the "Messiah" (as Islam declares Jesus to be) must suffer and die in order to carry the burden of our sins. Abraham's sacrifice of his son Isaac, pre-figures God's 'offering His only begotten Son' for the sins of the world. "'Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.' He said this to show by what death He was to die" (John 12: 31-33) Without the cross, there is no redemption. No 'suffering servant' by whom we are healed. "Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; He had no form or comeliness that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.
    "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
    "He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so He opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man in His death, although He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in His mouth.
    "Yet it was the will of the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief; when He makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, My servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong; because He poured out His soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors"
    (Isaiah 53)

        Hinduism is one faith that seems very popular today, though many don't know they practice a sort of it. It was easy for Hindu's to 'add' Christ to their 300,000 local deities. It was easy to tell that Jesus snuck away from His parents (some think His 'uncle', Joseph of, Arimathea took Him) and went to India to 'learn' His divinity and then return to be a 'guru' to the Jews. Hindus profess that in India, He discovered His 'inherent' divinity, something we all can do. They claim that Christ's words, "the Father and I are one" confirms the basic Hindu teaching that by rigorous spiritual practice, we can all discover our own universal 'god-consciousness.' "Christ-consciousness, God-consciousness, Krishna-consciousness, Buddha-consciousness- it's all the same thing. Rather than "love thy neighbor", this consciousness says, "You and I are the same beings." (Deepak Chopra, Indian who popularizes Hindu philosophy for New Age westerners) There is one problem though, the notion of Karma. In Hindu philosophy, we all suffer the consequences of our actions - Karma. Christ's death on the cross means either He suffered for His Karma, OR that He was somehow able to overcome the principle of Karma and took our 'Karma' onto Himself.

        Different, but close, is Buddhism. Like Christ, Buddha was conceived without sexual intercourse. (At his birth, as the story goes, he immediately walked and lotus blossoms grew were he stepped). Like Christ, he goes into the wilderness and is tempted. (Unlike Christ, he was born into royalty and wealth). There are similarities. The Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, sees Buddha and Christ as 'brothers', teaching us the highest form of human understanding, universal love. But here we see another break. Whereas the Buddhist is supposed to try to achieve Buddhahood themselves, a Christian cannot become another Christ. Also, where Christ believed in God, Buddhists do not. Christ taught us to repent of our sins, Buddhists don't believe there is such a thing as sin. Christ did not teach compassion as a way to remove bad Karma, or that life was a cycle of death and rebirth. Buddhists do. The Dalai Lama said that trying to 'meld' Jesus into Buddha "is like putting a yak's head on a sheep's body."

        But above all these very distinct differences, the one thing that separates Christ from all these other faiths, is the cross. The Jews cannot comprehend a Messiah Who dies, let alone dies as a criminal as Christ did. The Muslims see His death as offensive to Allah. But the grave could not hold Him. The Hindu's see Him transported into a state of 'samadhi', a consciousness where the divine is all that really exists. And for that, appeal to any god will do. But there is only one God. The Buddhists just have a hard time with the cross. The image of the crucified Christ "is a very painful image for me. It does not contain joy or peace." (Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk) But before a seed can produce fruit, it too must 'die' and be buried.

        They cannot be blamed for their beliefs. This was how they were raised. According to how they were taught, it's incomprehensible to see Christ as the Son of God, Who became man, taught us, then suffered, died and was buried. Only to rise again. We see aspects of God in each of their faiths, and each follow Him as they 'know' Him.

        However, for a Christian to try and make their 'faith' more palatable by trying to make it fit other religions, "is like putting a yak's head on a sheep's body." Or as G. K. Chesterton pointed out, if we are to say that all religions are the same, we may as well say all race horses are the same. "...but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentile" (1 Corinthians 1:23). "'Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself' He said this to show by what death He was to die" (John 12: 31-33).

        "'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? ...All who see Me mock at Me, they make mouths at Me, they wag their heads; 'He committed His cause to the LORD; let Him deliver Him, let Him rescue Him, for He delights in Him!' Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet--I can count all my bones-- they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots" (ref. Psalm 22).

        "Then He said to them, 'These are My words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.' Then He opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things'" (Luke. 24: 44-48).

        And as His witnesses, that is Who we say He is!

    Pax Christi, Pat


April 10, 2000
volume 11, no. 71

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