Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Christology of Archbishop Alban Goodier

Archbishop Goodier (1869-1939)
PRAY LIKE THIS, and we shall lay the foundation on which sanctity is built. LIVE LIKE THIS, and sanctity will build itself DIE LIKE THIS, and we shall die “good and faithful servants.”
Archbishop Alban Goodier, S.J.
Archbishop Alan Goodier is known for his work on “Saints for Sinner”, he was the Archbishop in Bombay, India and later on became the Archbishop of Hierapolis Phrygia.
Writing Style
The sources of the Archbishop are wholly the gospels themselves and like the writers of the gospels he does not hesitate to quote the Old Testament liberally. He does not resort to any form of the critical methods available during his time rather his work is a theological meditation on the life of our Lord. His use of creativity is exemplary. He chooses to bring harmony to the texts from within the gospels themselves. He thus merges all the gospels chronologically. He also logically deduces the sequence of events. Thus the most important tool he uses is common knowledge. He also has a deep knowledge on the Geography of Palestine and traces the Journey of our Lord as he begins his ministry in the banks of the river Jordan and his various temporary destinations until he reaches Jerusalem. The compassion that the Archbishop has towards the poor is also visible in his writing.
The Christology of the Archbishop
The Archbishop gives due recognition to the two natures of the Lord. He takes a lot of effort in explaining the Humanity and the Divinity of our Lord. Since his concern is the “Public life of our Lord” he does not begin with his nativity rather interestingly begins with the testimony of John the Baptist. He does mention in places the mystery of the origin of Jesus but does not lay emphasis on it. Archbishop Goodier begins with the witness of John the Baptist the reason being that he gave him the credit for being the forerunner of Christ. Although he does not fully mention it he lays open the fact that Jesus might be heavily influenced in many ways by John the Baptist. Thus according to him, the public life of Jesus starts with the preaching of John the Baptist.
John the Baptist preaches repentance to various groups of people who journey past the river Jordan. He encounters the variety of people and they have mixed feelings towards him. Some consider him as a great prophet, others doubt if he was the Messiah himself while a great majority of the people think that he is Elijah. This led the controllers of religion to investigate. John is quick to point out their hypocrisy calling them a brood of vipers who think that they are saved because they have Abraham as their father. John also says that he is not the light in response to those who think that he is the Messiah rather he affirms that he is come to bear witness of the light and that he is the voice that in the wilderness that cries asking the people to make their ways straight for the Lord to come drawing inspiration from the Prophet Isaiah. He also famously says that he merely baptizes with water but the one coming after him is the one who baptizes Human Beings with the Spirit of God. The courage of John the Baptist is also visible when he is not afraid to point of the mistakes of King Herod. Herod is portrayed as someone who is fearful of John the Baptist.
When it comes to his relationship with Jesus, John the Baptist according to the Archbishop is aware of the mysterious circumstances that marked the birth of Jesus and he is already aware that he is greater that himself but is not sure that he is the Messiah. He is also very aware of his ministry and his purpose and thus he needs more than an external sign to know who Jesus really is nevertheless he acknowledges his inadequacy before him when he says that he is not worthy to baptize him. Jesus insists on his Baptism and John the Baptist reluctantly agrees. He is then a witness to the divine affirmation that Jesus is truly the Son of God he hears the voice from heaven and he witnesses the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus. He nevertheless keeps baptizing people and is joyous that Jesus keeps increasing while he decreases. One of the most important point stressed here by the Archbishop is that Jesus is relatively dormant in his first year of ministry because John the Baptist was still active but his real ministry begins after John the Baptist is cast into prison by King Herod. As he goes on ministering John the Baptist becomes more certain on who Jesus is and on more then two occasions points him out and declares that he is the one that the prophets spoke of and that he is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This inspires the first disciples of Jesus to follow him.
The temptation of Jesus
After his baptism Jesus journey’s into the wilderness to be in close communion with the father and while this happens he is tempted by Satan.
The First temptation: Here Jesus is asked to turn stone into bread. The Archbishop draws parallels with this temptation and the life of Moses. God performs an extraordinary miracle during those days, he sends Manna from heaven to feed the hungry children of Israel. Satan knows that God is the provider of all good things including material sustenance and tempts Jesus to test God by appealing to the immediate needs of his flesh. According to the Archbishop Jesus knew the scriptures well and he learnt the most important lesson that Moses learnt from his experience. The lesson Moses learnt was “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”. Thus Jesus meaningfully quotes scripture to overcome this temptation.
The second temptation: The second temptation of Jesus was to leap from a Hillock. Satan quoted the Psalmist who said “For he shall give his angels charge over….they shall bear thee in their hands lest you dash your foot against a stone”. Jesus again authoritatively quotes scripture saying “Thou shall not put the Lord thy God to the test”.
The third temptation: Here Satan agrees to offer all the kingdoms of the world to Jesus if only he would worship him. Here the Archbishop brings a very important notion that existed in ancient Judaic monotheism. YAWH was the only God and the Jews worshipped none other than him. Jesus being a Jew himself quotes from scripture telling Satan to flee and that only God alone is to be worshipped. This, the Archbishop says is the “triumph of Judaism against the paganism that existed in those days”.
He concludes this part by saying that Jesus submitted himself to the buffeting of the evil spirit and therefore ends up being ministered to by the spirits of good.
In his Christology the divinity of Jesus begins to surface only after his baptism when the Father testifies that Jesus is his Son. Satan also beings his temptation by saying “If you are the son of God…..” Jesus thus after the temptation was strengthened and began his ministry. The Archbishop adds that since the word became flesh, Jesus needed Human Beings to minister for him and the next part of his journey would be the choosing of the twelve.
The Disciples
After the temptation Jesus journey’s past the river Jordan where John the Baptist was preaching. When the Baptist beholds the Christ he cries out and says “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” and immediately two of his disciples follow Jesus. The follow his discretely for a distance until Jesus turns to them and says “What do you seek?” The Archbishop gives a detailed analysis on the way Jesus looked at people, calm, composed, certain but with soft authority. The Archbishop points out with his use of imagination that Jesus lived in a hut that was situated deep in the valley. His first disciples recognize him as the Messiah of whom the prophets spoke of and were quick to call their friends and their loved ones to meet Jesus of Nazareth. Most of the people invited arrive as skeptics, some like Nathanial even wonder how anything good could come out of Nazareth but after they meet Jesus they change their mind. Simon too arrives as a critic but is taken over by the very nature of Christ. Since the Archbishop deals with all the gospels including the gospel of St John as being in harmony he mentions the call of Simon Peter twice. Simon Peter also plays a very important role because in the saddest and darkest hour of the ministry of Christ he confesses that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God while the rest of the world did not recognize him. The Archbishop describes him as human, overzealous, imprudent, rash and timid. Jesus declares that this Simon is favored of God and it is upon him that Christ builds his Church.
The sons of Zebedee James and John are also called of Christ and they are the first disciples who willingly throw away their nets to follow Jesus when he promises to make them “Fishers of Men”.
Jesus and his Mother
There is a very important role played by the mother of Jesus in the public life of Jesus according to the Archbishop. It is she who inspires him to work his first miracle in Cana. She is aware of the mystery of her son and knows that he is the one chosen of God. After she requests him to do something about the scarcity of the wine in Cana, Jesus tells her “Woman, why do you involve me, my time has not yet come” The Archbishop immediately traces this quote to Genesis and talks of Mary as the new Eve. He also reveals how God favors the woman over the serpent. When Satan asked Jesus to turn the stone into bread Jesus was quick in his rebuke him but is pleased when the woman requests him to turn water into wine.
The Archbishop also uses his imagination very creatively to find another place for his mother in the Public life of Jesus. After reading the scriptures in Nazareth and declaring himself to be the fulfillment of these scriptures, the people of Nazareth were not pleased. They threatened to push him off a cliff, here the Archbishop said that his mother was present, she made her way through the crowd and was prepared to die with him.
Thus the Mother of Jesus played a very important role in his public life; she inaugurated the working of his signs and was present during his death on the cross.

The Unique message from the miracle of Cana
The Archbishop is quick to link the relationship between the turning of water into wine to the Eucharist. While in his first miracle Jesus turned water into wine, he would in the course of his life turn wine into something eternal and precious, namely his blood which is a part of the new covenant.
Jesus and the First cleansing of the temple
In this episode, Jesus is stated to have visited the Temple in Jerusalem, Herod's Temple, at which the courtyard is described as being filled with livestock and the tables of the money changers, who changed the standard Greek and Roman money for Jewish and Tyrian money, which were the only coinage that could be used in Temple ceremonies. Creating a whip from some cords, "he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. But he said to those who sold doves, "Get these out of here! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!
When the Pharisees and the priestly class questions his authority, Jesus challenges them saying “Destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it” They did not know that the temple that Jesus meant was his body and this would be one of the major causes for his death.

Jesus with Nicodemus and the Samaritan Woman
Nicodemus saw the signs that Jesus performed and acknowledged the hand of God in all that Jesus did. Since most of the members in his community were against Jesus after he cleansed the temple he had to meet him in secret. Nicodemus does not understand the deeper implications of the words of Jesus and takes them literally. Jesus is disappointed because although he is a great teacher in Israel he still does not understand the message of Jesus.
The Archbishop draws parallel between Nicodemus the Pharisee visiting Jesus under the cover of darkness and the conversation of Jesus with the Samaritan woman. While Nicodemus had to put his shame aside to associate with Jesus, Jesus had to redefiune his “Jewishness” to talk to the Samaritan woman.
Both Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman fail to understand the “language” that Jesus uses and interprets them in a very literal way but Jesus being patient and gentle does not take offence in their ignorance but lovingly associates himself with them and teaches them the ways of God. The Samaritan woman is quick to grasp the message of the gospel and announces the arrival of Christ to her community and all those who came and heard the words of Christ believed in him and thus the Samaritan woman become the first Apostle of Christ.

The Divinity of Christ
The Archbishop borrows extensively from the gospel of St John to emphasize the divinity of Christ and his eternal Sonship.
“He was in the world and the world and the world knew him not, he came to his own and his own received him not”
“These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God and that believeing you may have life in his name”
These quotes refer to the divinity of our Lord in the works of Archbishop Alban Goodier.
Conclusion
The Christology of the Archbishop is traditional and scriptural but his main contribution is visible in his attempt to write a Biography on the life of Christ with all the intellectual faculties of his age.

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