Why The JESUS Gallery, Part 2

After he had risen from the dead,

Jesus said to the eleven,

"Go into all the world

and preach the gospel to every creature."

Mark 16:15

 

After he had risen from the dead,

Jesus said to the eleven,

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,

baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son

and of the Holy Spirit.

Teaching them to observe all things

that I have commanded you;

and lo, I am with you always,

even to the end of the age."

Matthew 28:19-20

One of the analogies I use in telling Catholic friends about The Jesus Gallery is that of an Adoration Chapel.  Since becoming Catholic I've had many opportunities to make short and long visits to such chapels, and to witness the quick and not-so-quick drop-by visits of many others.  Those are holy encounters for us Cathoics, but real peculiarities to many non-Catholics and non-Christians.  But in addition to Jesus in the Eucharist we have Jesus in his Word, and the four Gospels are shared by all Christian traditions, and respected by all as the living, breathing, presence of Jesus himself: Jesus is present in his Word.  Thus, stopping at The Gallery for a short -- or not so short! -- visit might be as powerful an experience for a non-Catholic as a visit to an Adoration Chapel is for a Catholic.  It becomes another opportunity for a personal encounter with the living Christ.

In twenty-first century American culture, Jesus is too often relegated to church buildings and Sundays, but he came for all persons, every day of the week, wherever they happen to be.  The Gallery does not replace church in any way, but it seeks to provide an open, inviting, non-obligatory venue in which anyone will have the chance to meet, even if just fleetingly, the person who changed -- and continues to change -- the world.  The more opportunities we can help provide for the world to meet Jesus, the better this world will be!

Stopping to hear a bit or a lot of his Word therefore might offer similar value to Christian and non-Christian, churched and unchurched, especially if the space is welcoming and peaceful.  A specific and explicit purpose of The Gallery is to encourage folks to get involved in a church, but the Gallery itself will be very un-church-like: no worship, no teaching, no preaching, completely non-denominational.  No donations would be sought and there would be nothing for sale.

The concern that has me most hesitant in this whole concept is the sharp division between proclamation of the Gospel and direct charity.  As stated elsewhere, what would Mother Theresa and others like her say?  At the same time, this separation is perhaps its merit and strength: there is no better way to affirm the dignity of another human being than to share with him/her the person of Jesus.  There are many wonderful direct charity efforts in St. Joseph County, Indiana, and in most communities in the United States, yet race relations are still a local and national quaqmire, the troubles of our consumer culture are revealed by increasing drug abuse, and violence seems omni-present.  Too many of us humans do not see ourselves or others as “made in the image and likeness of God.”  Jesus is the answer, as he has always been, to such dilemmas.  And The Jesus Gallery is hopefully just one more small way to make Jesus more visible in the world at large.  He is too often relegated to churches and Sundays, but he came for all persons, every day of the week, wherever they happen to be.