Sunday, October 30, 2016

Signs of the Times?

1. "But you cannot judge the signs of the times" (Matt 16/­3). The times? There is "the time of the weather". But then there is also the time of duration--like number of months or years. There is the time of history. 
2. The Bible gives us a sense of time which is historical--there is a beginning and there is an end. This history has passed through many centuries until our time. We now walk through this history as we establish new times. The Bible gives us stories of this history. It is a history of covenants--refusal and renewal of covenants. We can think of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and the prophets. Each moment in that history was marked by decision making. In the here-and-now of the persons involved decisions had to be made. Think of the big decision to leave Egypt, cross the sea and pass through the desert. For us, Christians, our decision is based on the Passion-Death-Rising of Christ. We decide to stay vigilant and renew our conversion regularly. Each day we "die" to our egoism to "rise again" in a new life. Each day is decisive. 
3. Now we look at our social realities. The Social Doctrine of the Church is a way of looking at--"reading"--the actual social conditions. So the Rerum novarum of Pope Leo XIII was born out of its reading of the social conditions of industrial laborers. Years after that new experiences arose. There was the dominance of economics, the ideologies of socialists and communists (and capitalists), the rise of new technologies and the consequent threat to humanity (such as nuclear threats). There came the question of human rights, the question of violence and war, the question of economic development. Pope Paul VI once noted that the social problems of the world has become truly global.  
4. So with the flow of history the Church situates herself as she also addresses new events and new situations. The Vatican II council has thus affirmed that ""the Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel" (Gaudium et spes #4).
5. The same document continues to say that "the people of God believes that it is led by the Lord's Spirit, who fills the earth. Motivated by this faith it labors to decipher authentic signs of God's presence and purpose in the happenings, needs and desires in which this people has a part along with others" (Gaudium et spes #11).  So there is an invitation to discern with the Spirit. To read the "signs of the times" we look at our world--at our societies. We look at daily life, for example. We discern what is there--we interpret with the whole Church what is going on. 
6. We are invited to see the "signs of the times" of divine reality. What could be the plan of God as history happens to us now? Our faith tells us that the Spirit acts with us in history--God is acting within history. 
7. Who discerns the signs of the times? Well, it is the person who is on the path of faith touched deep within conscience and awakened by the Spirit. It is also the whole Church, the communion of persons discerning. It is the whole "people of God". 
8. Let us start with the "little ones" of society--the poor, the humble, the marginalized. As Christ himself said, these "little ones" see better than the wise and bright guys. As the Beatitudes show, they are the pure in heart, thirsting for justice. Jesus has placed them in the line of prophets!
9. Of course there are the communities and groups--including religious congregations! They have a voice and they help the whole People of God to discern too. Very often they too are prophetic.
Of course we do not forget the priests and Bishops and the Magisterium. They elaborate concrete documents of what we now call as "social doctrine". 
10. Let us include people of goodwill--even those who are not members of the Church. They too have their discernment. There is the human conscience belonging to each and every human person that is touched by what happens in the world we live in. This conscience is led to the good and to constant conversion. 
11. Today we also talk of the ecological problem. That too is part of the "signs of the time". What is God calling us all to do? What response is God asking from us? 
12. The Church has always tried her best to respond to what she has discerned. Events happening in history has made her respond like demanding development of the total human person in front of very restricted political-economic conditions. The Church has opted for peace in the midst of war and violence. 
13. Do we have concrete ways of responding to the signs? Yes. We have values that unite us and keep us fraternal and in communion. We have services that we can do for each other, given the gifts and talents we have. The Scriptures show us the importance of being prophetic. The Psalms show us the wonder of crying and of celebrating. Jesus gave parables to guide us. He showed us the value of healing others, feeding the hungry, caring for the suffering. The Paschal passage of Jesus is a major resource for us. 
14. Gaudium et spes tells us to look at our conscience and see what happens there as we face our social realities. Are we stimulated to work for fraternity and communion? Are we triggered to work for human dignity? Are we disturbed by injustices going on around us? The Church herself is called to be sign. When found in the midst of society she too must be a sign--a "sacrament"of the Kingdom. She calls for response to social questions.
15. We might add and say that we can be signs of the Resurrection. In the midst of a very tough social world can we show that death, darkness do not have the dominance over life? We can be of good cheer in a world of sadness. As Jesus said, "I have conquered the world" (Jn16/33). 

Experience and the Social Doctrine of the Church

1.     The Social Doctrine of the Church is composed of many documents. That may give us an impression that it is abstract. But remember what we said at the very start of our studies here regarding revelation. Revelation is accessed through Bible and Tradition. The Social Doctrine is a result of a dialogue with Bible and Tradition. But this dialogue is done because of the questions members of the Church raise in front of their social lives. So we can say that the Social Doctrine has, as its sources, Bible, Tradition and the experiences of the Church. For such a long time people have questioned about human rights, social inequality, war, cultural diversity, etc. Experience is a major source.
2.     Take the example of the time of Pope Leo XIII. In 1891 he published an encyclical, Rerum novarum. It means “new things” or “new experiences”. The encyclical was a reaction to the new experiences at that time. Industrial workers in Europe were in very miserable conditions. The shift from agricultural to industrial life made conditions very hard for many working people. Really there was an acute experience of social inequality. Owners of industries were reaping profits but without considering the working conditions in factories.
3.     Many persons and groups began to struggle with the problem and they asked the Pope to respond. The Pope was motivated by the request and even by the presence of poor laborers who came to Rome for pilgrimage. So it was a time of new experiences. The Pope then wrote his encyclical to insist on justice and charity that can put in place respect for industrial laborers. The Pope called for the rights of workers to form unions and have a voice in the negotiations with industrial capitalists.
4.     Let us take another example. In around 1930’s world economy was falling apart. Many people lost jobs. So Pope Pius XI, in 1931, published his encyclical Quadragesimo anno. The experience of economic crisis led the Pope to speak out in favor of State intervention in economics. Here the word “subsidiarity” became an important theme. The State had to help and intervene in the conditions of people suffering the impact of the economic downfall. If people cannot anymore rise from their misery, the State had to come in aid. That is “subsidiarity”. More of this will be said later in the semester.
5.     In the 1940’s Nazism and Soviet authoritarianism went to dominate many nations. World War II took place also. Pope Pius XII responded to that crisis. Much later in the 1960’s two Popes, John XXIII and Paul VI responded to the conditions of violations of human rights and the neglect of democracy. In 1965 the Vatican II council came out with two important documents, Gaudium et spes and Dignitatis humanae, responding to the modern problems of humanity. The council dealth with the hopes and dreams of people marked by the world wars, the shoa, colonialism, etc. The council emphasized human dignity and rights. The council affirmed human rights as required by the spirit of the Gospel given to humanity (see Gaudium et spes # 41).
6.     The Church participated in responding to the problems of modernity. The Church, with her social doctrine, supported the struggles for liberty and human dignity. The council was motivating. The Church became more and more active in the defense of democracy and human rights. Many Catholics came to oppose authoritarian governments, against military dictatorship, and other situations. Catholics became part of those who voiced out in favor of human rights and democratic governments.
7.     Of course we do not deny that there were people in the Church who also supported repressive governments, like in Argentina. Some catholic lay participated in the genocide in Rwanda. Let us not shut our eyes from these.
8.     But in general there arose a new awareness in the Church. It was an awareness based on experience. The Church in many ways has become a significant force for the promotion of human rights and dignity.
9.     Experiences added up over time. More and more today were are “planetary” and our social discussions touch on issues regarding the whole planet. Already in the time of Pope John XXIII international interdependence was recognized. The Church had to think more and more globally. Cultures show to be very diverse. Religions have become prominent. What is interesting here is the move to see the Church more and more global and not something emerging from Europe.
10.            Maybe it will be helpful to look at how the Church has evolved too over time. This is more of a topic in history but we can mention it here. The Church, for example, at a certain moment in history, was quite violent against those who were heretics and who left the Church. In fact torturing them seemed ok. At certain time too the Church accepted the practice of slavery.
11.            Yet the Church evolved thanks to new experiences. The Church saw, gradually, the horrible impact of torture and slavery. A deepening of reading and meditating on the Bible has helped too. Christian morality had to be based on a deep and intimate relationship with Christ. The Word of God is in scriptures and pre-eminently in Jesus Christ. Discerning social life had to be more and more done with the help of the Word of God.

12.            The challenge for us is to see social reality with the guidance of our faith in Jesus and the intuitions of the Bible and Tradition. Also we need to ask ourselves if we still make sense with our faith inside the experiences of people today. Given the violence and migration of people, for example, do we have anything to share? How much of our Biblical reflections and how much of our faith in Christ have a role in our social interactions? In the name of our faith in Jesus we are called to get involved in social questions. Christian faith and life is not solitary. We need to be in-formed by Bible, Tradition and experiences. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Is there an authority in facebook?

     A long time ago the faith was transmitted vertically, ex cathedra, so to speak. There was the magisterium, the bishops, priests and at the end of the line, the laity. Among the laity there was papa, mama, maybe the lolo and the lola. They assured the transmission. Perhaps in schools there were the catechists who took charge of transmitting the doctrines of faith to children.
     It is quite different today. We have the computer screen. We have google and the facebook and twitter. Each of us can self-inform by searching, by “surfing” on one’s own. We can be quite Cartesian here: Let me take care of my own cognitive capacities in discovering the faith. My access to information about the faith is horizontal. There are a lot of websites to open and I can consider them equally valuable for my own spiritual growth. The horizontal, however, may need the vertical too.
     The vertical is that which tells us if our search is “right” or “wrong”, “good” or “bad”. But in a digital world who is going to tell us that? Is there a digital, cyber authority who will tell us to limit our search within the “”? I am grateful for the formation I had in college and in a bit of what came after that. I had “solid” teachers and I read “solid” books. Entering the cyber world I somehow feel I am “guided”. In fact there are important moments when I still return to the reading of nice smelling books, even if the papers have turned brown.
     The facebook is one area of concern, if at least for me. It is so horizontal. Each one puts in his or her content and that content is imbedded in a knot filled with “likes” and “comments”. Well, not all contents are lucky to be reviewed by “friends”. Some disappear swiftly down the screen without a trace of a “like”. But a half hour scroll of the facebook world reveals how all sorts of contents are available. Opinions vary, and the political ones tend to dominate.
     Now, is there a “vertical authority” who can tell us when we are “right” or “wrong”, “good” or “bad” with the contents we share? Is each one obliged to evaluate, in his or her own way, and decide which is “right” or “wrong”, “good” or “bad”?
     There is the “influencing” of the facebook. Some people post hundreds in an hour and I am not sure how they do it. Do they spend all day with the facebook? I was reading about ancient skepticism the other day and I learned that some sceptics held the strategy of talking too much enough to silence others. Overwhelm your interlocutor with all your talk.
     And I ask myself if those who put in hundreds of posts in half an hour follow this sceptical strategy. It will be rude to say they do. But they can formulate a kind of “vertical authority”. The many other posts disappear, they are neglected, they are swept away in the flow of posts as they are dominated upon by the “hundreds-of-posts” of singular individuals. These individuals get their “voices heard” all the more. They can then give the impression of “authority”.       

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Can we be a society free from all “bad things”? A lesson from Cain

1. Can we really get rid of violence? Can we eradicate it completely from society? Can we completely eliminate from our society crime, illegal drug taking, corruption and cheating? Many nations may show historical evidences of how they have reduced the occurrence of “very bad things” happening there. They may be proud of their low crime rate, for example. But in my opinion a complete eradication of “bad things” happening in society is a utopia.
2. The Church views us, humans, as marked by “original sin”. We are inclined to do evil, to sin, to do “bad things”. This is a notion from St. Augustine that emerged during his controversy with Pelagianism. We may agree or disagree with the way St Augustine formulated it, but one thing is clear to all of us: we really have evil inclinations. During mass we say, “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. The best explanation I heard about that came from Father Lahiff SJ, my former teacher in modern history. He said that when we pray that in mass we just do not mean that we ask the Lamb of God to remove this or that sin we may have done. He said that we pray that the Lamb of God cleanse us from the very capacity to do evil--to sin. We may have been so good for a whole week but we do not fully congratulate ourselves because this inclination for evil stays in our hearts. So at the end of the week we ask the Lamb of God to help us.
3. Christian life is also a daily combat against the daily inclination to evil. In Baptism the Christian is plunged into the water and loses breath to come out and breathe in a new breath. Original sin is said to have been “removed”. But the effects of original sin stay, and our combat continues. We may agree or disagree with this link between baptism and original sin but one thing is clear: Christian life is an option for the good and for the mission to make more evident the love of God in the world. It is what baptism has instituted in each baptized person. The baptized continues to lead a life with combat knowing that full restoration happens in the “fulfillment of time” or the “eschatology”.
4. Meanwhile we have to live with the fact of violence, crime, injustice, and all sorts of “bad things” happening. We are not in full eschatology even if it has been inaugurated by the resurrection.
5. People in authority who try to eradicate all the evils of society and claim that through their acts they will eventually bring an everlasting society of zero-crime tend towards totalitarian political behavior. This usually happens when people justify violence in view of peace. It is totalitarian, Utopian and unrealistic.
6. The Bible tells us a story of how the doing of violence, crime and other “bad things” can be channeled—not eradicated. The Bible gives us insight about God who realistically admits that the human heart has really opted to do “bad things”. The Noah’s boat story is a clear illustration.
7. But here I would like to talk about Cain. He killed his brother, Abel. Yet God continues to talk to Cain and even protects him from the violence of others. “So the LORD put a mark on Cain, so that no one would kill him at sight” (Gen4/15). Cain, the murderer, does not lose contact from the Lord God, he is even protected. Do we now see an end to other crimes? No. The son of Cain, Lamech, admits to having murdered someone else. “I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for bruising me” (Gen4/23).
8. Jesus knew this well; he knew the power of the inclination to doing bad things. He spoke of the unclean spirit leaving a man and then returning with seven more unclean spirits: “it goes and brings back with itself seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they move in and dwell there; and the last condition of that person is worse than the first” (Matt12/45).
9. Let us go back to the Genesis story. The Cain cycle ends with an interesting verse: “At that time people began to invoke the LORD by name” (Gen.4/26). Bible experts see in the Cain (and Abel) story a shift in the religious practices of the Israelites; from the ritual-sacrificial offering type of religiosity to the listening to the Law of God religiosity. We cannot go into this erudite discussion; we are not competent. But we can make one point: to guide the human heart, listen to the Word of God. There will be plenty of Lamech’s to replace the Lamech’s in our midst. Meanwhile we hold on to the WORD as we await a more definite eschatology.
10. In more Christian terms we can say that we are in the process—a continual process—of freedom. We are set free from sin, a daily combat, as we are oriented by the WORD made flesh to be free for God. This can be a bit more realistic that to expect a zero-crime and zero-“bad” society. We realistically admit how we are in constant transformation and how we need to vigilantly attune ourselves to the WORD. To claim that we hold a system to complete success can be dangerous. As we said above, it can be “totalitarian”.

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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Jesus Mediator: New Testament Insights

Jesus mediator in St. Paul and St. John

1.     Jesus is the mediator between God and us. This was expressed by the early Christians and we read this in 1Tm2/5-6: “For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as ransom for all”. Note the two main points in the confession of faith. First, there is one God. Second, there is only one unique mediator.
2.     The mediator is from the side of God. He comes from God—which is a “going down”. This mediator is also from the side of the humans thanks to the Incarnation. Now this mediator, Jesus Christ, gave himself as ransom for all. So we find in this confession of faith a Christology—the “who is Christ”—and a soteriology (salvation theology)—the action of Christ “for all”. In other words the mediator, Jesus Christ, has become our savior. His mediation is our salvation.
3.     In St. Paul this mediation “for all” is also a mediation “through” Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ came “for all” and “through” him salvation happened. Creation is understood in the light of mediation. Creation took place “through” Christ. We read this is 1Cor8/6: “…for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things are and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are and through whom we exist”. Notice the use of the two expressions: “for us” and “through him”. Through Jesus there is existence and through him we go to the Father.
4.     The letter to the Colossians has something explicit about this. “For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him” (Col1/16). Then we also see mediation in the prologue of John. Jesus is mediator in creation (see Jn1/3 and 1/10) and Jesus becomes mediator of salvation through the incarnation (see Jn1/14).

Mediation in Letter to Hebrews

1.     In the Old Testament we see that Moses was a mediator by the promulgation of the Law. Now, for the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, Jesus is the “new mediator”: “…he is mediator of a new covenant” (Heb9/15; see 12/24). This is a very important covenant made according as promised (see Heb8/6). The mediator makes the new covenant possible. God has taken the initiative to offer the new covenant while we are called to respond. Jesus Christ accomplished both—the initiative to “come down” and the response to “go up”. In other words, Jesus Christ was sent. He was a gift to us. In him we have access to God (see Heb7/25).
2.     The Letter to the Hebrews also mentions the priestly character of the mediation of Jesus. Christ is definitely the “High Priest”. Now, in the ancient times—the Old Testament times—the priesthood was already “mediating” between God and people. The priest communicated with God through rituals and sacrifices. The work of the priest then was a “going up” work; he was sending to God the aroma of sacrifices. Consequently the people will obtain blessings and forgiveness from God. The consequence of making the sacrifices was the “going down” of God to give blessings.
3.     In Jesus Christ something radically different happened. Although it was an ambition for ancient men to be High Priest, it was a matter of humility for Christ. For the ancient High Priest—being a member of society—it was necessary to separate from people through purification rites. When it comes to Christ it is not a matter of separation. Rather it is a matter of “solidarity” with humanity. Jesus then became High Priest of mercy and faith: “…he had to become like his brothers in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest” (Heb2/17).
4.     The ancient High Priest started with rituals and sacrifices—a “going up”. This was necessary so that the “going down” of God giving blessings can happen. With Jesus it was different. His being High Priest was due to his being Son of the Father. It was not the Son who glorified himself to be High Priest. It was the Father who assigned him as High Priest (see Heb5/5-6). So “from above” he went down and humbled himself and thereby established, for us, a communion with God (see Heb9/24-28).

Mediation as exchange

1.     What is this “exchange”? How is mediation an “exchange”? Let us call it an exchange of wealth and poverty. Jesus was rich. He became poor. By becoming poor he made us rich. “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2Cor8/9). He was a weak man put up to the cross. But then he has risen by the power of God. Now, we are weak too. But in Christ we will live also by the power of God: “For indeed he was crucified out of weakness, but he lives by the power of God. So also we are weak in him, but toward you we shall live with him by the power of God” (2Cor13/4).
2.     We can see the exchange between the fullness—the wealth—of Christ and our poverty. Christ “comes down” and humbles himself. In that humility he enters into solidarity with us and he fills us up with the fullness of God: “…the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph3/19). See the beautiful hymn of Ph2/6-11.
3.     Let us look at the core meaning of the exchange. Jesus Christ had the same human conditions. By the solidarity with us Jesus has opened the path that can make us move to God. We are, indeed, sinners and because of our sinfulness we have very horrible experiences. But through Christ we can become just. His crucifixion opens our eyes to our sinfulness.
4.     We see this Biblically. Yes, Christ underwent the same human conditions. He also experienced the curse of life—the hardship of the life of us, humans, sinners. By exchanging his “status” with our conditions, Jesus has offered us the access to the Father, “that we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Gal3/14).  Jesus has communicated to us his holiness—his seriousness—with his mission to tell us about the love of God—the Kingdom. He really went down and humbled himself to tell us about the love of the Father. Even with the violence of the cross against him, Jesus did not pull out. Consequently, as we see how human sinfulness can kill Jesus who came to tell us about the love of God, we are called to conversion. In the Acts we read that after the speech of Peter telling the crowds about how they killed Jesus who was Lord, the crowds were converted: “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, ‘What are we to do, my brothers?’” (Act2/37).

Mediation in Salvation

Let us place this discussion in the light of salvation. The mediation of Jesus Christ had two movements: from above (going down) and from below (going up). Jesus was from God and from us, humans.

From Above (going down)

1.     Because he is Son of the Father, he has accomplished the gift of God to us. Jesus, we say, is God with us. The retrospect to the prophets have made the early Christians see in Jesus the Immanuel. Jesus is Son of God who came so that we can have abundant life (see Jn10/10). This offering was rejected by sin. So the offering took a turn towards an offering of salvation. The gift had to be a gift of winning against sin.
2.     Indeed God so loved us that he sent his Son (see Jn3/16). Life in the fullness was given to us. Jesus came and live with us…dwelt among us. This “going down” to us in the Incarnation included the reality of death. The “going down” was a love “to the max”.

3.     We can, in fact, discern salvation here. First, the “going down from above” is about Christ revealing to us who is the Father. The mission of Jesus was to announce the love of God in the Kingdom. God is a God of love, not of revenge. God is a God who wants our fulfillment—our joy and happiness.· Second, the “going down from above” is about Christ redeeming us. (Remember the go’el that we spoke about in your first year). To redeem is to pull us out of what holds us—pull us out of sin. We have been captivated by the slavery of sin and Jesus pulled us out. Today many theologians like to use the word “liberation”. Thanks to this redemption-liberation of Jesus we know what it means to enter into communion with the Father. In this communion we have become adoptive children of God with Jesus as the “eldest brother”. Third, the “going down from above” is about Christ “justifying” us. This word has been a source of many debates and misunderstanding. Usually it would lead us to think that the Father was looking for his justice. The Father wanted compensation from the hurt we (symbolized by Adam) have done him. But actually, justification means the act of God saying we are ok. We are ok in his eyes. We are “justified” in his eyes.

From Below (Going up)

1.     First, Jesus came in solidarity with us. This accomplishes our return to the Father. We welcome the gift of God—we welcome the Incarnation and solidarity of Jesus with us. So in turn we give ourselves as gifts to God. We are “married” to God; we say “yes” to God’s love.
2.     In principle this was happening with the first couple—Adam and Eve. In the garden there was a mutual self giving—a communion. God and human were giving themselves to each other. There was a communion, a “fraternity”. But then somewhere along the way a break was done. There was a refusal to stay in communion with God. Consequently it also meant the refusal to be who we really are—who we have been created by God. Of course we know that this story symbolizes our human condition. We are, in fact, really in communion with God. But we have rejected this.
3.     Christ, the New Adam, did not follow the same path of rejecting God. Whereas Adam disobeyed, Jesus Christ obeyed. How did Jesus do this? He offered himself as “sacrifice”. What was this sacrifice? It was the sacrifice of his solidarity with us. We experience the pain of being separated with God. Our human condition is marked by toil, anguish, struggles. Well, Jesus came to be one of us. He dwelt among us. He too underwent the same human conditions.
4.     The sacrifice of Jesus passed by the cross. On the cross he confronted sin. Jesus won! He was victorious over the claims of injustice, darkness, hatred—in short, sin. Jesus so loved the Father that he was willing to die for that love. We repeat: Jesus did not back out from his mission to tell us of God’s love even in front of the cross. The sacrifice of Jesus, his solidarity with us, went as far as his willingness to die on the cross. He faced death so as to show us the beauty of God’s love. (Note that it is a grave mistake to say that God put him on the cross.) The Father replied to this gesture of Jesus by rising him from death.
5.     We see how the human Jesus is able to say yes to God. We too can say yes and we know that there is always the rising again. It is possible. We can turn to God and offer ourselves to God. Just like Jesus we too confront sin. We enter into solidarity with those who are really experiencing the excruciating effects of sin and we are willing to struggle with them against the forces that enslave them. This is our sacrifice. (Note that we do not look for suffering. We look for love and justice and we want this fulfilled in our lives even if it means having a hard, suffering time.)
6.     In the New Testament we see words like “expiation” and “atonement”. These words have been so misunderstood that later on, in the history of the Church, other notions were added like “substitution”, “vicarious substitution”, “satisfaction”, etc. But now we see that the more appropriate word is really “solidarity”. Jesus was not a “substitute”. He entered in solidarity with us. His solidarity called us to conversion. It is a conversion of turning to God and living in solidarity with one another. This is salvation.
7.     Second, the going up “from below” form of salvation is about reconciliation. Of course God has always been wanting us to return to him. God has always wanted us to be with him in the garden. We really belong to the garden. The parable of the prodigal son teaches us a beautiful image of the Father.  With the solidarity of Jesus we can reciprocate with the Father. This is our act of “going up from below”. We accept God, we accept his love. We reconcile. This is so liberating. Consequently even our relationship with each other is really a matter of reconciliation. We live reconciled.

A unity

     Both the “from above” and the “from below” movements form a unity. Maybe we need to chop them into two as a default of our language. But both movements form a solid unity of salvation. Both have been accomplished by Jesus Christ. His life, his words, his actions all revealed God (“from above”) and have allowed us to return to God (“from below”). This mediation of Christ has accomplished the definite covenant between us—humanity—and God.