It’s All About Joy
I woke up last night to the sound of laughing and realized I’d fallen asleep with the TV on. I recognized Stephen Colbert’s voice but had to fumble around for my glasses to see who his guest was. Incredible! It was Jesus, in his robe and sandals, and there it was winter in New York City. His nose was bigger than I thought, his skin a lot darker, and his eyes more penetrating than I’d imagined. It was like light came out instead of going into them.
Stephen remarked about the rise of anti-Semitic violence and Jesus stared into his eyes, nodding his head while Colbert ticked off the recent cities: Pittsburgh, Poway, Jersey City, Brooklyn, Boston, Monsey, Los Angeles, Chicago. Jesus piped in, “When will it sink in? I’m a Jew–always have been, always will be. Jewish to the bone.”
“Why this upsurge in violence?” Colbert asked.
“People’s lives are in turmoil and they want someone to blame. They tune into news stations that tell them who’s right and who’s wrong and eventually they stop thinking on their own. They forget their essential values—they forget about the Golden Rule, and how to be neighborly.”
“You think it’s that easy?” asks Colbert, shifting to upright in his chair.
“Nothing’s that easy,” said Jesus. “The problems are complex, but you have to figure out how to be kind to each other before you will ever solve them”
“Do you think religion itself is responsible for some of the violence?”
“Sure! Religion is supposed to open the mind, not close the mind,” he said, moving to the edge of his seat. “Every religion should have one goal: open the eyes to see that all of creation is sacred–and I mean ALL– all people holy, all creatures holy, all this planet holy, all the rivers and seas, all the forests and trees, all the air, holy–everything we see is sacred. And if a religion is not saying that, it’s part of the problem.”
Jesus pointed at Colbert with his long, slim index finger as he listed the holy things, his sandaled feet peeking out from under his robe. Colbert looked like a third-grader learning something new and astonishing, his jaw hanging open, his eyes wide and round as fresh-baked pies.
“Wow! Anything else we’re getting wrong?” Colbert asked.
“Plenty, and this show isn’t long enough to get into them all, but I’ll mention a few,” said Jesus, holding up three fingers on his left hand. “One, I did not come here to save anyone. Nobody needs saving,” he said, tapping one index finger with another.
“Two, you are not born sinners—there is no such thing—and three, you are creating your own lives. There’s no Geppetto up there pulling strings. With your thoughts and your words, you make your world.”
“Well that’s pretty deep for a practicing Catholic,” said Colbert. “I don’t quite know what to make of that.”
“This is the world to be concerned with, not some other world or afterlife. This right here should be the focus of your attention: how you treat the people here, how you care for life on Earth. There is no other kingdom to be concerned with. This is it.”
“I almost hate to ask this,” said Colbert, changing the subject. “But what did you think about the impeachment trial?”
“Cowardice comes to mind,” said Jesus, crossing one long leg over the other and leaning in. “Congress was like a mirror to the nation. Right before our eyes, people betrayed values they formerly espoused. It’s going on everywhere in this country. Values are disintegrating because they’re not being lived.”
“What should we do?” asks Colbert.
“Stop saying ‘we’ and keep it personal,” said Jesus. “Move in accordance with your values. Say what you believe in short, kind sentences. Encourage others to do the same. Ask people you’re with how they feel, what brings them joy, what gives them hope. Good questions lead to good faith in relationships. Ask more, relate more,” said Jesus smiling as he turned to the audience. “Light up the world you’re in!”
The camera cuts to Colbert who announces a commercial break: “And we’ll be right back to hear some closing thoughts from our guest tonight, ladies and gentlemen, the Jewish prophet Jesus of Nazareth. Stay tuned…”
They were laughing about something when they returned from the break, Jesus stretched out in his chair, his lanky legs covered by his tunic, his feet now hidden under the desk.
“OK,” Stephen says, “Let me see if I got this right. There’s no bearded guy up there on a cloud. That God we talk about is the creation all around us?
“Think of that God as a verb, not a noun. Creation Unfolding—creation that you and I are part of, enmeshed in. We are in the Cosmos and the Cosmos is in us. All one. We are one with ALL THAT IS, capital letters.”
Colbert frowns. “I should be happy about this, right?”
“Yes! We are here for joy! That is all we should feel. To be on Earth, as humans, to be sensing all this beauty—to be co-creators of it—it’s like your Persian poet Rumi said, “The eyes are here for seeing, but the soul is here for its own joy.”
Jesus continues, looking directly into the camera again. “You are here for joy. I repeat, your mission is joy. Joy and human kindness. Over and out.”
“Oh my, that’s a whole new idea,” Colbert says, looking into the camera at his listening audience. “And lucky for you, my guest tomorrow is Neil deGrasse Tyson, one smart astrophysicist who can help you fill in the blanks if you have any more questions about the unfolding cosmos.”
The camera zooms in so closely on Jesus I can see the scar on his forehead. He’s smiling now and looking directly into the lens. His Middle Eastern face is brown and creased and his eyes are the color of sycamore bark. “Stop seeking,” he said, mouthing it out slowly and signing it with his hands. “This is it!” he announces, his fingers pointing up, down and in every direction. “I’m IT, you’re IT, the planet is IT—all God, all here and now, all unfolding every second in everyone.”
“Everyone!” he shouts as he lifts up off his chair and heads toward the awe-stricken audience. A camera follows him from behind and another tracks him from the side. Jesus is on a roll. “Everyone! Repeat after me: EVERYONE!” he shouts, and the crowd echoes back, “Everyone!”
“Republicans and Democrats, Everyone!” he says, his hand at his ear, waiting for their response.
“Republicans and democrats, Everyone!” they shout.
“Black, brown, white, all tribes, all colors, everyone!” he calls out.
“Black, brown, white, all tribes, all colors, everyone!” they repeat.
“Refugees from everywhere, everyone!” he shouts.
“Refugees from everywhere, everyone!” they respond.
“LGBT brothers and sisters, everyone!” he shouts out.
“LGBT brothers and sisters, everyone!” they call back.
The litany goes on…women from all nations, silenced women, abused women, prisoners, children, Jews, Muslims…The crowd and Jesus are one mind, one voice.
Colbert is transported. Time is up, he calls for a commercial. The cameras stay with the audience. The crowd is on their feet, tears of amazement flying everywhere. Echoes of “Everyone, everyone!” reverberate around the room.
Jesus holds up his hand. The crowd quiets.
“Never think for a minute you’re not part of this, and never exclude anyone,” Jesus says, almost in a whisper. He has their total attention.
“This is what Creation Unfolding looks like and feels like. It is alive and Sacred. And it’s YOU who have the whole world in your hands. So much to love, so much to cherish. So enjoy and protect your home!” he says, lifting up his other hand, as if in a blessing. He just stood there, blessing the audience, smiling that beautiful smile, lightning bolts of love pouring out of those dark, Jewish eyes.
What a night! What an unbelievable night!