Fr. Isaiah Mary goes on mission to Hong Kong once a year with the St. Francis Xavier Lay Missionary Society. He is happy to offer his reflections about his and Tricia Bølle’s trip this past spring. This series will run from July through August. We hope you enjoy!
The Exotic Jesus
In Hong Kong, you are you allowed talk about politics and religion in polite company. Tricia, myself, and a mutual friend found ourselves proselytizing and entire coffee shop by having a really loud Bible study. And people looked up, smiled, and one person actually eavesdropped for a while. (In a few weeks, I’ll tell you about one of my person superheroes that live in this blessed Isle.)
Now, the reason is kinda funky. Yet, it makes a lot of sense.
In San Francisco, what are the trendy things that occupy us? New Age, yoga, food habits, Buddhism, Hinduism, and in some ways, Islam. By San Francisco standards, these are exotic, and new, and trendy. In Hong Kong, they already have Buddhism and Hinduism. Lucky Dragons and Money Cats are all over the streets. What they do not have is Jesus. Not really. The exotic thing for the Hongkongese is the very thing we take as granted, namely, Jesus. Fascinating.
The very story of Jesus is not truly understood. Ha! Then again, even for us in a Christian country, we don’t know the story of Jesus, though we think we do.
So here is the story, the Christian story, your story, my story, the Jesus Story: God became a human being, lived in a lower class neighborhood, and had many, many friends. He healed the sick, performed amazing acts, demonstrated the absolute quickest, surest way to flourishing. Yet, He also warned us that this way would not curtail suffering or humiliation, but rather, opened a door to it. He also founded, not a set of books, but a community of people who believed that the way of life He had exemplified is true, good, and beautiful. What He said threatened many people and they killed Him for it. Yet—and here’s the twist in the story—they killed Him, but He didn’t stay dead. After three days, He rose from the dead, and demonstrated a way to die to our own self-centeredness, our self-woundedness, our own ignorance and silliness, in order to live a life of honor, truth, and flourishing.
Christ is risen! Truly, He is Risen!
And this means something. If Christ really didn’t die and rise from the tomb, we are the grandest fools of all human history. Christ has risen from the dead. That means something. That means that we too can rise from our mortality. That there is something beyond the grave. That what Jesus said, what Jesus did, means something to you, right here, right now, wherever you are reading this text. Jesus rose from the dead. And that means something. It means that whatever struggle that we are going through right now—from a papercut to cancer—has been vanquished by a person that (physically, spiritually, and literally) died for you, personally, by name.
Christ is risen! Truly, He is Risen!
Because truly, do we live as a Risen People? St Augustine proclaimed, “We are an Easter people and ‘Alleluia’ is our song!” Is this at all true?
In many ways, this is paradigmatically exotic. How much more strange can the Resurrection be? How much more unique? Amazing? Mind-bending? Sure, granted, seeing images of deities with blue skin and ten arms is strange. But compared to seeing a man who died the way Jesus died, and is walking around with holes in His hands and feet and offering you the adventure of rising from the grave?
Is that not exotic?
Hongkongers see the figure of Jesus as strange and fascinating simply because no one has heard the Gospel message. The growing joke in San Francisco is that if a person is doing yoga, or something we would consider trendy, everyone would know about it because they cannot stop talking about it. Just the same way, a Christian in Hong Kong can talk about Jesus, Mary, the Sacraments and the Church because it is exotic, trendy and—by Hong Kong standards—strange. But Jesus rising from the dead? If that ain’t strange, then strange don’t exist!
May this be a time where we look at the oddness and awesomeness of the Resurrection and offer the strange, the beautiful, and the True, to all we encounter this week.
You are invited to be part of the mission! St. Francis Xavier Lay Missionary Society is a Catholic non-profit organization dedicated to evangelize to young adults in Asia. You can give financially via Paypal at www.laymissionary.org, giving a monthly or one-time gift of $50 or more; we are an IRS recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our EIN is: 46-2993509.