Playing a "gay Jesus" figure in Terrence McNally’s passion play "Corpus Christi" for the past eight years has given me a deeply intimate and awesomely sublime connection to the teachings of Jesus.
This play brought me back to a faith I unofficially, and internally, denounced after being baptized, raised, and confirmed Catholic.
I couldn't give you an exact declaration as to why I denounced my faith, except to just say even at a young age, I despised being told how I was supposed to feel about something.
So I spent my own version of 40 days and nights searching for that feeling—40 days that actually tuned into a little over 20 years. In that time, I explored all the various stages of "coming out," went to some deep, dark suicidal places, and was re-introduced to the feeling of God as I watched my father slowly transition out of his body. Each milestone had its perfect place on my path, but none blew my heart as wide open as the day this play entered my life.
The iconic words I've spoken in this role for eight years have impacted my daily life in extraordinary ways.
I am not now, nor would I ever claim to be, a Biblical scholar. The quotes listed below are direct quotes from the play, and I hope that sharing these words and how they've impacted me will impart a little more extraordinary-ness into your life as well.
"Forgive your greatest enemy.”
When you read that statement I'm sure one thing, or some variation of it, comes to mind: Love those that have caused you pain, for they are in pain too. That's what I read for so long, and there’s certainly some divine truth in that. But then I delved more deeply into what "Enemy" really means.
I’ll go out a limb here—I don’t think Jesus ever conceived anyone as an "enemy," even those we may think He did. I believe Jesus lived with such a pure unconditional Love for All, there was no other feeling attached to anyone who's path He crossed. So if this is true, what could "enemy" really mean here? The answer: our ego.
Our ego is our "greatest enemy" when we allow the judgment, the negativity, the sense of fear, lack, or self-doubt to pervade our thoughts. The ego is what keeps us from being present. By "forgiving" our ego, we take that extra step of bowing down to it gracefully and reconnecting to the fiery soul of Love within, our I AM Presence, the very connection to our inner source which is the very connection to Him. This simple awareness not only allows more compassion to ourselves, it in turn allows the compassion to be spread to everyone around us.
"As you believe so shall you be."
Ooooo mama, this is a good one. Talk about being the ultimate "Secret," the ultimate, dare I say, "Creator" of the law of attraction. You have to believe it before you see it. Did you get that? Turn around an otherwise overused statement to actually allow miracles to unfold into your life.
I think Jesus would even argue the word "miracles," because He didn’t see, feel, or experience anything other than; He knew we were born naturally whole, happy, abundant and positively at One with Source. He also knew that connection to Source, God, Inner Being, and I AM, is still and always will be there.
Our mind clouds the way, but we have the power to part the clouds simply by believing, by living in a moment to moment co-created state of unshakable faith. Jesus didn’t heal—He only saw wellness in people. Jesus didn't magically create 5000 fish, he only saw abundance in the sea. We have the power to feel, act, and be the same. As you believe, so shall it be.
"Love thy neighbor as thyself."
We aren't just talking about the love you have when you walk over to your neighbor’s house for an extra cup of sugar (although that's pretty darn awesome if you can still do that). What I believe He's talking about is the Mr. Rogers' kind of neighborly love: digging deep into your soul to love everyone, and everything, around you.
But I venture to say before that could even ever be remotely possible, you must first love yourself. I had an acting teacher once tell me, "Don’t beat yourself up—there’s plenty of people out there that will do that for you." So true.
Be kind to yourself. Quiet your mind and learn to listen innately to your heart's desires. They are all so easy to hear if you allow them to be. And then by living from that space, you create more love around you so you actually never hear others "beating you up." Before we can ever begin to give, share, or be love with anyone or anything else outside of us, we must first take the steps necessary to love ourselves—and only you know what that means for you.
"I require mercy, not sacrifice."
This is a real juicy one because, for me, it’s all about looking deep within to acknowledge, accept, allow, and ultimately transform, our own inner pain. Here's why: Being merciful means showing the ultimate compassion towards someone in need, someone hurting, or someone in pain, even if we might not ever understand it for our selves.
It’s easier to first look outside of yourself to notice "wrong" in others, because it’s easy to recognize that which doesn’t match your perceived personal values. The deeper step is to look within for the same reason. Many spiritual outlets touch on this basic law: "Recognize the other person is you."
For example, from my perspective, Fred Phelps was filled with pain and self-hatred to be able to spew such words of vitriol on a daily basis. Feeling into that, my heart breaks open. I remember a time in my life when I felt an equal amount of pain and self-hatred—it manifested into me bullying as a teenager and eventually escaping into a haze of drugs. I tried everything to burn my light brighter, "sacrificing" a big part of my being along the way, and ultimately burning myself out.
Maybe Phelps never felt this pain, but that’s not for me to judge. By "requiring mercy," though, he has become a great teacher for me in my path toward loving myself more. Look deep within and confront the uncomfortable questions of self-imposed inner pain. By acknowledging them, being compassionate toward them, and accepting them, you’ve already squelched any power they could ever have over you. Don't compromise, or “sacrifice,” your connection to Source for anything less than "mercy" for your beautiful Being.
You are Jesus.
Read that again. And yet again. It's not a quote, it’s a truth. At the core of you, and of all living things, is the purest essence of love. It is the very same essence of God, the Divine Source, the Universe, the I AM Presence, the very breath of Life itself. It is the truest meaning behind Jesus' words, “The Kingdom of God is within you.”
When you plug into that supercharged connection to your Self, you are living joyfully in the present moment, which is your ultimate purpose for being. There is no one person, or group of people, excluded from that.
This, to me, is Jesus’ ultimate message. As an outsider Himself—He did preach a sermon that ruffled many a feather during that time—He spoke to the unspoken, loved the unloved, and feasted with those on the fringe. He not only recognized “All creations are children of God,” he knew they were more thirsty for Spirit, because by being “on the outside,” they had learned to love themselves already in new and deeper ways.
This love for self is the very foundation of Jesus' teachings.
Once you’ve begun to embody that, the Love just spreads wherever you go.
Go out and love some more.
Photo via flickr user Isaac Torrentera