Christians like Teilhard de Chardin, who not only believe evolution is a workable theory, but also strive to weave its implications into their faith-life, bask in the light of Sunday's three readings.
They're especially inspired by one line of Paul's famous Philippians hymn: "He (Jesus) emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness." The thought of Jesus completely clearing away all traces of His divinity and totally living as a human being reinforces their belief that no human should ever be ashamed of his or her humanity.
Instead of putting our human nature on hold while we go through life searching for "heavenly delights," Teilhardians believe that only by intensely delving into who we are right here and now will we ever uncover the heart of who we shall one day be.
Deutero-Isaiah fits easily into a Teilhardian mold (Is 50:4-7). Though one of Yahweh's most intense followers, this unnamed prophet ministers more than 400 years before any concepts of heaven and hell enter Jewish thought. If he's going to understand his calling, he has no choice but to reflect on what it means for a person to live in a deep human relationship with God. The prophet can't leapfrog over this world and escape to a supernatural next world.
That's why, in this third reflection on his ministry, Deutero-Isaiah not only ponders the nitty-gritty of his calling, but also things about the ways God has used his humanity. It's important to note that he believes his God-given, human gifts are bestowed on him only for the benefit of others. "The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue," he reflects, "that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them."
But it's also important to notice how the prophet defines discipleship: "Morning after morning, (Yahweh) opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back."
God's true disciples aren't people who spend their days reading catechisms or dogmatic theses þ or even Scripture. A disciple is someone who wakes up each morning with freshly opened ears, listening for God speaking in ways and through persons that they hadn't heard God speaking in and through yesterday. For Deutero-Isaiah, discipleship is synonymous with openness, a complete and painful openness to God and those around him. It's the same painful openness which we hear proclaimed in the Passion (Mk 14:1-15:47).
Always remember, Mark is more interested in describing Jesus' psychological suffering than he is in depicting Jesus' physical suffering. It's the same kind of psychological pain that any open, listening person faces every day of his or her life. Also notice that once the passion starts, the miracles end. Jesus never falls back on any superhuman power to relieve His misery. He suffers as we suffer: in our humanity. And whatever He suffers, He suffers because He's constantly open, listening to God on every level of His life.
Listen carefully to the criticism Jesus' closed-minded followers throw at the woman who anoints Him, to His betrayal by one of His closest friends, to His struggle with God's will, to the devastating desertion of His followers, to the misunderstanding of His teaching, to the denial of someone He's chosen to lead His community, to His being rejected in favor of a murderer, to His being viewed in death as just another common criminal. If He had been content just to read catechisms, theological books and Scripture, He would have died peacefully in bed.
Yet, as Paul reminds us, it was precisely because Jesus delved so deeply into His humanity, "becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross" that "God greatly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name (God) that is above every name."
Long before Teilhard, our Sacred Authors discovered that humanity isn't to be despised. Those, like Jesus and Deutero-Isaiah, who embrace and give themselves over to it, will reach a depth which those who avoid it never attain.