Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spirituality: Religion’s Two Senses

‘Religion,’ in Juan Luis Segundo’s understanding, has two distinct meanings – one typified by the religious authorities of Jesus’ day, the other by Jesus himself. The first arises from efforts to codify what is believed about God, and then develop practices believed to give privileged access to secrets at the heart of life. Designated authorities then ‘dispense’ they mysteries through institutional structures. In Segundo’s view two dangers are implicit in this form of religion: first, those who are not parties to it are likely to themselves ignored or discriminated against; and second, formal symbolic language and ritual tend to suggest that the mystery itself has been enclosed or domesticated to some extent, within creed and ceremonial.

Segundo sees Jesus placing relationships at the core of religion. His key relationships were with God, whom he addressed familiarly as Abba, and with a group of companions to whom he offered friendship and schooling in service…. For Jesus, the Temple and synagogue carried quite different meanings than those they represented for the religious authorities. Jesus was at heart a layman. Life in the fields and marketplaces was his central locus of discovery and teaching – but he showed also how life in these arenas might be illuminated and clarified by participation in public worship and prayer.

Adrian Lyons, S.J. from Imagine Believing