Jesus and His Titles?

Darn it all! I’m angry, and I don’t usually get mad. For those of you who joined us last weekend, I gave a beautiful sermon about Jesus calling himself the “good shepherd.” So you went home, hopefully, peaceful and filled with imageries of shepherding.

Alas, this Sunday rolls along, and now Jesus calls himself a plant. All done in only one week. Will the one who sits at the right hand of God please make up his mind!

If I were Jesus, and I know I’m not, I’d stick with the shepherd shtick. We love it; as I told you last week and, ready for this, it’s a person. But a vine?

Ummph. I just don’t get it. Or, is that the point Jesus tried to make centuries ago and to us today. Jesus gathers the scattered. Jesus grows within our lives and then extends it outward, producing beautiful flowers of all colors. That’s our guy, Jesus Christ.

If your diet is purely watching MSNBC or FOX News, I’d strongly suggest you look for how many calories are absorbed into your brain and never within your soul. You’re getting fat by watching your own fat. There is no shepherding or vine-ing in either cable experience. It is only you being comfortably comfortable in the comfort and confines of your home. (That’s four correct “c” words in one sentence…I’m impressed!) And, therein lies the problem, “I am impressed.” As if to say, “It suits me and forget about the rest of humanity.”

When in our supposedly complicated lives was the “we” replaced with “me?” I say supposedly because our Catholic/Christian faith lays out for us that the only salvation, that singular redemption was not singularly sacrificed for you alone. It happened to and for us all, even for those outside the shepherd’s flock and those weeds growing along side the Divine vine.

Which Catholic newspaper do I read, I was asked recently. Are you a liberal or conservative Catholic? It’s part of our everyday conversation, whether spoken out loud or cataloged in our minds. And, politics we all know far too well.

How quickly we can dismiss the powerful image of Jesus Christ as a simple shepherd carrying each of us through all of life as quaint poetry but hardly living within the reality of this world. And, today, Jesus Christ is the beginning of an ever-growing vine that welcomes every branch into its deeply rooted vine.

Until I’m blue in the face, I will hold out for the Body of Christ. It’s not a cute priestly throwaway statement during a sermon; it is the core of our faith.

Division. Breaking up. Cutting up. Partitioning. Segregation. Splitting. Detachment. Seven destructive words. Not seven sacraments. Not exactly “churchy words,” don’t you think?

Division? Defines itself perfectly. Breaking up to bolster our own personal agendas. Cutting up to make ourselves look better. Partitioning to get the political votes we need to win. Segregation makes you and me, white folks, feel more comfortable and powerful. Splitting myself from another to exhibit how “informed” I am and how “uninformed” you are. Detachment? An attitude leading only to isolation and making violence possible.

Where is the sheep held safely and tightly around the shepherd’s neck? Where did the spiritual vine end and the weeds of selfishness and self-interest take over? When did the “we” of us become the “me” of me?

What can’t Jesus make up his mind about who he is? I think we all very well know who Jesus Christ is.

Is it us who keep conveniently denying who we are as the Body of Christ beyond these walls and pretend to live as one Body within these sacred walls?

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on
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