The reason I call myself a Christian is not because I manage to subscribe, at any given moment, to all the truths that the hierarchy of my church insists I believe in; let alone because I am a good person or a “good Catholic.” I call myself a Christian because I believe that, in a way I cannot fully understand, the force behind everything decided to prove itself benign by becoming us, and being with us. And as soon as people grasped what had happened, what was happening, the world changed for ever. The Gospels – all of them, including those that were rejected by the early Church – are mere sketches of a life actually lived, and an experience that can never be reduced to words or texts or doctrines. And the world as it was – as it still is – was unable to tolerate this immense occasion; and so Jesus was executed and the life more in touch with divinity than any other life was ended abruptly, when it was still achingly young. The existence of such a life was both so wondrous that it changed everything; and also so terrifying it had to be snuffed out.
The point of this incarnation was surely not to construct a litany of offenses by which we are to judge our own lives at any moment, to force us to thrash and writhe in a constant ordeal of self-criticism and guilt. The point was merely to be with us; and by being with us, to show us better how to be human, how better to embrace our lives by accepting the divine around us and inside us. By letting go, we become. By giving up, we gain. And we learn how to live – now, which is the only time that matters.