Who is Jesus Christ to you?
Is he the same, gentle figure you met in your Children's Bible? The same healer your Sunday School teachers told you about? The same Messiah you wrestled with in high school? The same Divine whose nature you questioned when doubts first swirled through your head?
It's likely that, whenever and wherever you first met Jesus, he has changed.
Or rather, your understanding of Jesus - what he means in your life, what he means to the world - has changed.
Last fall, many people in my church read James Carroll's Christ Actually: Reimagining Faith in a Secular World. A year ago, he penned an op-ed in the New York Times titled "Jesus and the Modern Man." He wrote about the "intellectual obstacles to faith" in our modern age, and wondered what purpose Christ, and Christ's Church, had for us anymore.If you haven't read Christ Actually, read the New York Times piece. It will tell you a lot about James Carroll.
In Christ Actually, as Carroll the historian works out the meaning of Christ for the modern world, Carroll the altar boy, the seminarian, the former Catholic priest, the man of faith lingers in the margins, working out this same question for himself.
"I grew up during the Cold War," he writes, "on bases of the United States Air Force, where my father, an Air Force general, served as a member of America's nuclear priesthood." Following that childhood, Carroll sought out a different priesthood, absorbing the Jesus of Roman Catholic theology, and eventually (this being the Sixties), the Jesus of social change.
Carroll left the priesthood to become a writer. But he never left Jesus. Or perhaps, Jesus never left him.
After publishing nine novels and a memoir, Carroll suddenly started writing about the Church. He went on a quest to strip away centuries of dogma and tradition ... to reckon, as a person of faith, with the horrors of Auschwitz and 9-11 ... to look with rational, questioning eyes at irrational claims of a God incarnate ... and to figure out, for himself, who Jesus truly is.
Maybe you have been on the same quest in your own life. I know I have.