Mon, January 24, 2022

RCIA: Jesus Human and Devine

Each Sunday when we pray the creed we profess that, “We believe I one Lord, Jesus Christ.” This profession of faith is at the heart of all that we believe as Christians. The name Jesus itself means, “Yahweh is salvation. The word “Christ” is the Greek for the anointed one, when translated into Hebrew means, Messiah. This became the name of Jesus only because he accomplished perfectly the divine mission that the name “Christ” signifies. Thus, in saying “Jesus Christ” we are proclaiming is that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah sent by God and anointed with the Holy Spirit.
The most important source of the life, work, and way of Jesus is the New Testament and in particular the 4 Gospels.
The humanity of Jesus begins with his conception and so we will begin our reflection this evening by listening to the annunciation of his birth in Luke’s Gospel (Chapter 1:26-38.)
In this Gospel we are told that Mary is to be the mother of the Son of God, who will be conceived by the Power of the Holy Spirit. It means that this child will the Son of Mary, a young woman, fully human, and the Son of God, conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit.
We are told that Jesus went into the desert. There he remained fasting for 40 days and forty nights. At the end we are told that he was weak with hunger, and at this point of time Satan arrived to tempt him. (Luke 4: 1-13).
We are told of his grief at the death of his friend Lazarus. He sighed from the depth of his heart.
In the narratives concerning the passion of Jesus we are reminded of his suffering and the anguish that he experienced. We can think of Jesus’ anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Luke 22: 39-46)
Ultimately, we are told that he died on the Cross.
Although the authors of the Gospels intend to express the message of Christ and his promise of Salvation, all of these narratives in the Gospels describe the humanity of Jesus. 
Matthew 16: 13-20
Here we hear Jesus asking the disciples, Firstly, “Who do the people say the Son of Man is?” And then secondly, “But you, who do you say I am?” In response to the first question, they say, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
The title that Jesus uses to describe himself, is a title that would be assigned to a Messiah. However, although the people were looking for a Messiah, their idea of a Messiah would be a someone sent by God to bring about salvation and they would have expected to be saved from the tyranny of the Romans. And the response, in naming the great prophets would have reflected this understanding, that the Messiah would be a human being.
Peter’s response is entirely different. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This is the first time that a disciple has stated explicitly who Jesus is, and as Jesus explains it is only because Peter is inspired by the Holy Spirit.
This statement of faith, that Jesus Christ is Son of God gives expression to what is essential and specific to the Christian faith as a whole. It is the core belief of Christians. It is a statement of the divinity of Jesus Christ. This divinity is expressed in numerous places in the Gospels, the Baptism, the epiphany and the Transfiguration on the Mountain.
When we talk about the tradition of the Church we are looking at the teaching of the Church on Jesus since the earliest days. The teaching of the Church itself tends to take the form of proclamations made in opposition to heresies.
The first of these was the heresy of Arius. He taught that Jesus was not divine. In fact, he taught that Jesus was not really human either, but rather he was only human flesh. And so, in opposition to his teaching the council of Nicaea reaffirms the total humanity of Jesus. That he is human in both body and soul. This council of the Church also affirms the divinity of Jesus.
The next major heresy ascribed to Nestorianism. Nestorius argued, wrongly of course, that Christ is two persons, Jesus, a human person, to whom a divine person, Christ was united. This teaching was condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431.
At the Council it was stated that,
  1. Jesus is truly God, and therefore that Mary is the Mother of God.
  2. That the ‘Son of God’ is one with his own flesh, that is to say that he is at once God and Man.
At the Council of Chalcedon 451 the Church taught that
“…We unanimously teach to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man composed of rational soul and body, the same one being with the Father as to the divinity and one in being with us as to the humanity, like us in all things but sin. The same was begotten from the Father before the ages as to the divinity and in the latter days for us and our salvation was born to His humanity from Mary the Virgin Mother of God.”
The teaching on Jesus Christ, as Human and Divine has continued to be taught throughout the centuries at major Church Councils, including Vatican II the latest major document concerned Jesus as the Redeemer of Man.
Once again Pope John Paul in this encyclical explains that it is because Jesus, is both Human and Divine, the Son of God who became flesh, that he is the Redeemer of Humankind.
Questions for discussion
  1. Before this evening how would you describe your understanding of the humanity and Divinity of Jesus?
  2. What is your own image of Jesus?
  3. How important is the divinity and humanity of Jesus to our Salvation?

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