Christ is not Jesus’s last name. I read this line in Richard Rohr’s latest book, The Universal Christ, and it blew me away. I mean, we kind of know that, but have you really thought about that? The word Christ is a term used to describe the Spirit of God being hidden in matter. As Thomas Merton says, “the gate of heaven is everywhere”. As Christians are fond of saying: God is omnipresent. But what does this actually mean? Could it be that God is actually present everywhere? Hidden in all matter in the physical universe?
Ordinary matter is the hiding place for Spirit and thus the very Body of God. Honestly, what else could it be, if we believe—as orthodox Jews, Christians, and Muslims do—that “one God created all things”? Since the very beginning of time, God’s Spirit has been revealing its glory and goodness through the physical creation. So many of the Psalms assert this, speaking of “rivers clapping their hands” and “mountains singing for joy.” When Paul wrote, “There is only Christ. He is everything and he is in everything” (Colossians 3:11), was he a naïve pantheist or did he really understand the full implication of the Gospel of Incarnation?Fr. Richard Rohr
When we speak of the Incarnation, we have been trained to limit this to the body of Jesus, thus believing God was physically present on the earth for only 33 years in all of history. In reality, the term incarnation actually means “the embodiment of a deity or spirit in some earthly form” (Webster’s Dictionary). In other words, Spirit embodied in matter. Just for a moment, I’d like for you to think past the body of Jesus, and notice the Incarnation present all throughout the Bible and creation.
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on its top….“This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”Genesis 28:17-18; 22a
“There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up… “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”Exodus 3:2; 5b
The bush didn’t suddenly spontaneously combust into fire. And the ground did not suddenly become holy. The bush was always burning; Moses just saw it for the first time. The ground was always holy. He realized what always was. Jacob’s stone was Christ. Moses’s bush was Christ. Everything visible is Christ because the Spirit is hidden within everything physical. Jesus was called “The Anointed One” because he revealed Christ in bodily form. He revealed the Spirit in every thing (including us!).
“The gospel has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven…the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.Colossians 1:23a; 26-27
That is the mystery of the gospel, my friends. Christ is in you. You didn’t have to believe it for it to be true. In Ephesians 3:3 Paul says, “The mystery was made known to me by revelation.” In verse 6 he says, “The mystery is that through the gospel [the revelation of the Divine hidden within matter]… the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise of Jesus Christ [the hope of glory].
God was pleased… to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach the mystery among the Gentiles.Paul in Galatians 1:16
Notice in Galatians 1:16, Paul does not say that God revealed Christ to him. Paul says God revealed Christ in him. Christ was already present within Paul. The Gospel was the revelation of this truth.
Neither shall they say, Lo here! or lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.Luke 17:21 KJV
Hebrews 10:19-20 tells us, “We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body.” His body is the veil that tore, revealing the Spirit of God dwelling within. “Whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” (2 Corinthians 3:16)
This why Jesus says in Matthew 25:40: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”. Everything created shares in the same spirit. Each body is a temple (1 Corinthians 6:19) of the Holy Spirit. Jesus didn’t die because God demanded a bloody sacrifice. Jesus Christ sacrificed his own body to reveal that we are all temples, and that within every one of us dwells the same Spirit. This is why you treat others as you do yourself: because what you do to others, you in fact do to yourself and Christ. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Do not mistake this for pantheism (everything is God). I’m describing panentheism (God in All).
There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.Ephesians 4:4-6
This is the point of baptism–to declare that you are one with everyone in the Spirit and you see no hierarchy. But Christians have made the whole thing into a hierarchy! I believe to be Christian is to see Christ in every thing.
In this light of Christ, we can understand John 14:6: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” No one comes to know God except through an encounter with the Spirit through the physical world [aka Christ]. This has been the gospel since the beginning of creation. We see the fullest revelation of the gospel in the body of Jesus.
By proclaiming my faith in Jesus Christ, I have made two acts of faith, one in Jesus and another in Christ. The times are demanding this full Gospel of us now.Fr. Richard Rohr
The cross reveals the truth of everything in the physical universe. Hidden in the horizontal (physical realm) is a gateway to the vertical (divine realm). Anything that can bee seen, touched or otherwise sensed in the physical realm is a gateway into the Kingdom of Heaven, just as Jacob and Moses discovered and Jesus fully revealed. Jesus “took away the sin of the world” by fully and finally exposing the lie that we were ever separate from God. The Greek word for this is metanoia, which means “to expand the eyes of the heart”. It is the first thing Jesus preached when he began his ministry: “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17). This is why Jesus says in Matthew 21:31, “The tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God ahead of you [religious persons].” I believe what he means is those who have come to the “end of their False Self” will more quickly be able to see the gateway to heaven in the physical realm than religious people. Addicts, prostitutes, or otherwise “sinners” often hit rock bottom faster. The ego is a very thick veil and religious people often have large egos. I sure did!
“I see Jesus in every human being,” said Mother Teresa, “I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.” She actually believed Jesus Christ was in everyone.
For me, Mother Teresa clearly saw behind the veil. She makes sense of Hebrews 10:2: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Notice the word angels in this verse. The same word is used Exodus where an angel appears to Moses in flames of fire from within a bush. The angels here are Christ. To put it another way, as a Catholic priest said to me, “There are many ‘anonymous Christians’: those who know and love Christ, but haven’t been told that his name is Jesus yet.” That which you do to your LGBTQ+ sibling, your immigrant sibling, your brown sibling, etc., you do to Christ Himself. It is He who suffers within them. Will that affect how you treat your neighbor (aka Christ)? The Good News for a hungry person isn’t a ticket into the afterlife. The Good News for the hungry is bread. The Good News for the outcast is unconditional acceptance.
“Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”St. Francis of Assisi
What Christianity offers the world isn’t so much the Resurrection as it is Incarnation. Resurrection (not resuscitation of a body) is the natural consequence of Incarnation because nothing ever really dies–it merely changes form. What we see in particular in the body of Jesus is our gateway into this absolute truth of Christ in every thing and every one. Christ was indeed the gardener, the stranger on the road to Emmaus and even a transgender angel.