FAST FOOD (2014): Thirty-Sixth Helping

Again, “We adore God Who is love, who in Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, Who offered Himself on the Cross to expiate our sins, and through the power of this love, rose from the dead and lives in His Church. We have no God other than Him” (Pope Francis, 6/21/14)

FAST FOOD Helping Thirty-Five concluded with these words:

“Whether Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of Israel, or not can objectively have—because of the principle of non-contradiction— only one truthful answer: yes or no. However, any yea or nay an individual human being would give to that question must be a faith answer, a faith answer which is intimately interconnected with whatever it is that is her or his faith understanding of what kind of God God is and what God expects.”

In his Two Types of Faith Martin Buber distinguishes between the Hebraic emmunah faith: total trust and reliance on God, where one shows trust through actions. and St. Paul’s pistis faith: a more intellectual belief in the cognitive truth of something. Note, Buber attributes this pistis-type faith to Paul, not Jesus. Whatever else Jesus may or may not be objectively, He lives a life of unreserved, unswerving, unconditional emmunah-type faith.

Martin Buber is the most renowned Jewish theologian of the Twentieth Century. He says that at root the faith of Judaism is a relationship of trust (emmunah) in Yahweh. Without standing firm in trust in Yahweh, His word and His way there is no Abraham, no Moses, no Prophets, no Mary, no Jesus. Standing firm in one’s trust of the Holy One is the “imperative imperative” of the Jewish faith. Commenting on the necessity of this rock-like trust in God for faith he writes: “Only if a person stands firm in the fundamental relationship of his life (the relation of the person to the Power, the Source, the God from which his or her being originates and is sustained) does that person have an essential stability.”  But standing firm in trust in God always involves unknowns and possible dangers. Nevertheless, “the true Israelite trusts in the God who exists as a matter of course.” And, as one trusts, so he or she will be entrusted, e.g., Abraham, Moses, Mary, Jesus.

It takes only a little thinking, which still may be too much for too many, to see beyond the evil of the moment and perceive that there is universally running through the human condition a terrible and destructive power, which, can and does, century after century turn individual human lives into hellish cauldrons of misery and the world into a furnace of pain, anger, hate, enmity, deception, despair, cruelty, greed, callousness and death. It takes only a tad more thinking too see that there is no exit, no humanly conceivable way out the lock this power has on humanity. Both Jews and Christians recognize the reality and unrelenting intractableness of this pernicious power, whatever it is. Both also recognize that either Yahweh saves the individual, the House of Israel and/or the human race from the clutches of its iron fist or there is no deliverance from it.

Through its history Israel learns that salvation is not achieved through human culture or political institutions: salvation is achieved only through the intervention of Yahweh. It also learns that the obstacle to salvation is man’s refusal to accept it. Messianism precisely understood, i.e., with reference to a personal human agent of deliverance chosen by God, brings out the human factor in deliverance: while it is the work of Yahweh, it is a work in which man must share”  (Rev. John L. McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible @ Messiah, Messianism).

Pinchas Lapide, a Jewish theologian and historian, in dialogue with Karl Rahner, S.J. a Catholic theologian, said,

Jesus was utterly true to the Torah, as I myself hope to be. I even suspect he was more true to the Torah than I as an Orthodox Jew…I cannot imagine that even a single Jew who believes in God would have a single thing against Jesus as the Messiah. Should the coming one be Jesus he would be precisely welcomed as any other whom God would designate as the redeemer of the world. If he would only come!”

At one level what Lapide says is incontestably true. The Messiah is God’s choice, chosen for God’s reasons, whose purpose is to save Israel and through Israel to save all humanity. Messiah is not an office one runs for; it is a ministry one is given by God. So a believing Jew would have to say, “Amen,” to God’s choice—although perhaps he or she would have made a different selection, if consulted. But, “Amen,” does not necessarily mean, “Welcome!” It means, “So be it;” “So it is;” “So shall it be;” “So it must be.”

When we speak of the Jewish Jesus of the Gospels as the Messiah of Israel, we are always speaking of a Nonviolent Messiah. But, we are also always speaking of “the Hebraic emmunah based faith that is the only faith that Jesus knew and that is the faith of Jews in Jesus’ time and today. An emmunah-faith intrinsically calls forth total trust and reliance on God; where one shows trust through actions.” Jesus assertion that “Not everyone who says to me,’ Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Mt 21:7) is just a statement that is logically consistent with the emmunah faith in which He was raised.  In a pistis based faith, one can apparently sing with his or her lips until he or she is blue in the face,” He is Lord! He is risen from the dead and He is Lord. Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,” and trust the Lord only to the extent cultural common commonsense says it is reasonable to trust in Him. So, would a Nonviolent Messiah who would necessarily call forth that level of incarnational emmunah, which is reserved for Yahweh alone, receive a “Welcome,” or even an “Amen, brother,” from a community that knows faith meansemmunah and not merely lip service?

If as it seemingly is with having a pistis-faith in a Nonviolent Messiah, a believer can “praise the Lord and pass the ammunition,” well then, a Nonviolent Messiah would be more that welcome. But if one has an emmunah-faith and the Nonviolent Messiah teaches, “Stop biting the donkey back and forget the search for a faster horse because such are not the Way that the Father of all saves Israel and all humanity, then a believer in this Messiah has to wholeheartedly trust in the Messiah’s communication as truthfully presenting the Word and Way of God, AND he or she has put it, and nothing contrary to it, into action. We are here presented with two very different answers to the question, “How does the Messiah save?”

-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy                  (To be continued)

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