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Feeling the Presence of Jesus


Question & Answer

Q: By Vicky

How can I feel the presence of Jesus in my life? Every time I want to know Jesus, I suddenly start having doubts he ever existed. Thank you for reading this.

A: By Rev. Irene Monroe

Dear Vicky,

Evidence of the “Historical Jesus” has been debated for millennia. Doubts about Jesus’s existence can be seen by many hard-line Christian conservatives as a sign of apostasy- resulting, at best, in harsh condemnation, and, at worse, in excommunication. With the lack of reliable early sources, the anonymity of the scribes, each promoting their gospel spin, and records of how soon after Jesus’s crucifixion his life was documented, the search for the ‘Historical Jesus” will go on for many more millennia. However, early sources do indicate that Jesus lived in the 1st century C.E. in Palestine. Each of the four gospels consistently depicts the type of man Jesus was: he walked fiercely in the face of danger; he spoke truth to power, and he demanded justice.

I feel the presence of Jesus in the work of social justice that takes place out in the world, like at soup kitchens, battered women’s shelters, and shelters for the homeless, to name a few. The foundation for my life’s work is the biblical mandate in Matthew 25:35-45 where Jesus said: “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger, and you took me in… In truth I tell you, in so far as you failed  to do it for the least of these, however insignificant, you failed to  do it for me.”

Social justice provides the foundation for a healthy and multicultural society which Jesus wanted.  Social Justice grows out of the sense that each person – regardless of their race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and religious belief  – is of equal value which we read in John 4:1-42  about the Samaritan woman at the well . And, social justice challenges us with the demand and moral imperative that we must provide all people with equitable opportunities and rights that do not truncate their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, which would enable them to realize their full human potential, and capacity to participate in society.

From the depiction of Jesus in the Bible, we learn that Jesus who – hung out with the wrong people, healed at the wrong time, visited the wrong places, and said the wrong things – was about radical inclusion. The Gospels are replete with examples of Jesus listening to the voices of the damned, the disinherited, the disrespected, and the dispossessed.

For me, the presence of Jesus is felt the most when our acts of social justice appropriately address the rights of the most disadvantaged in our society. Our job out in the world is to remember that our longing for the presence of Jesus is also inextricably tied to his biblical mandate in Matthew 25.

~ Rev. Irene Monroe

This Q&A was originally published on Progressing Spirit – As a member of this online community, you’ll receive insightful weekly essays, access to all of the essay archives (including all of Bishop John Shelby Spong), and answers to your questions in our free weekly Q&A. Click here to see free sample essays.

About the Author
The Reverend Monroe is an ordained minister. She does a weekly Monday segment, “All Revved Up!” on WGBH (89.7 FM), a Boston member station of National Public Radio (NPR), that is now a podcast, and a weekly Friday commentator on New England Channel NEWS (NECN). Monroe is the Boston voice for Detour’s African American Heritage Trail, Guided Walking Tour of Beacon Hill: Boston’s Black Women Abolitionists (Boston) – Detour.
Monroe’s a Huffington Post blogger and a syndicated religion columnist. Her columns appear in cities across the country and in the U.K, Ireland, Canada. Monroe writes a column in the Boston home LGBTQ newspaper Baywindows, Cambridge Chronicle, and Opinion pieces for the Boston Globe.
Monroe stated that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American, queer and religious studies. As a religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Because homophobia is both a hatred of the “other” and it’s usually acted upon ‘in the name of religion,” by reporting religion in the news I aim to highlight how religious intolerance and fundamentalism not only shatters the goal of American democracy, but also aids in perpetuating other forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.” Her papers are at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College’s research library on the history of women in America. Click here to visit her website.

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