This week, I've been trying to simplify things when it comes to faith.
There is a lot of commentary that comes with following Jesus. A lot of books, articles, and posts that seem to feel the need to elaborate on what Jesus says. As if Jesus needs some help explaining himself. As if I somehow understand him better than others. As if someone has a better handle on Jesus.
I've seen it so clearly this week with the arrival of the Pope to America. As Pope Francis interacts with the American people, there are endless commentaries trying to help us all understand what he is doing or what he means by what he says. What many are doing is simply co-opting his message--or misunderstanding him altogether! I'd rather silence the commentary and just listen and watch and see who he is drawn towards. How he loves. Who he cares for.
There is also something powerful and moving about letting Jesus' words and teachings stand alone. Jesus said, "Remain in me." Paul described the mysterious reality of "Christ in you." When Jesus is the center, the conversation changes. But when the commentary around Jesus is the center, I've found it to be true that the center is not really Jesus. We co-opt his message with our own interpretations and elaborations.
Jesus often drew from the metaphor of nature. "I am the vine, you are the branches." I've heard others use a wheel to describe Jesus as our hub. Whatever metaphor makes sense to you, our rootedness, our hub, our center is Jesus. The person. Nothing else. Paul said it is Jesus that lives in me. Not the commentary around Jesus, but Jesus himself. The person.
My day starts to make more sense when I start from this center. His stories and teachings start to instruct me. His greatest commandment (to Love God and love others as I love myself) comes more simply and clearly. With him at the center, it begins to make sense that all three aspects of God, others, and self must be cared for in their own way. They are not independent of one another. And none are prioritized over the other. With Jesus at the center, his greatest commandment becomes possible.
The Pope doesn't need my commentary about what he is doing here in America. Jesus also doesn't need me to add to his words. When I read the Gospels, I find it sufficient to watch, listen, and see towards whom he is drawn, how he loves, and who he cares for.
That is challenging enough for me.