KNOW AND LOVE YOUR CATHOLIC FAITH 6: I Believe in Jesus Christ, the Only Son of God. Compendium nos.79-111
- What is the meaning of the name “Jesus”?
- Why is Jesus called “Christ”?
- In what sense is Jesus the Only Begotten Son of God?
- What is the meaning of the title “Lord”?
- Why did the Son of God become man?
- What does the word “Incarnation” mean?
- In what way is Jesus Christ true God and true man?
- What does the Council of Chalcedon (in the year 451) teach in this regard?
- How does the Church set forth the Mystery of the Incarnation?
- Did the incarnate Son of God have a soul with human knowledge?
- How did the two wills of the incarnate Word cooperate?
- Did Christ have a true human body?
- What does the heart of Jesus exemplify?
- What is the meaning of the expression “conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit…”?
- “…Born of the Virgin Mary”: Why is Mary truly the Mother of God?
- What does the “Immaculate Conception” mean?
- How does Mary cooperate in the divine plan of salvation?
- What does the virginal conception of Jesus mean?
- In what sense is Mary “ever Virgin”?
- In what way is the spiritual motherhood of Mary universal?
- In what sense is the life of Christ a Mystery?
- How did God prepare the world for the mystery of Christ?
- What does the Gospel teach about the mysteries of the birth and infancy of Jesus?
- What does the hidden life of Jesus in Nazareth teach us?
- Why did Jesus receive from John the “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3)?
- What do we learn from the temptations of Jesus in the desert?
- Who is invited to come into the Kingdom of God proclaimed and brought about by Jesus?
- Why did Jesus manifest the Kingdom by means of signs and miracles?
- What is the meaning of the Transfiguration?
- How did the messianic entrance into Jerusalem come about?
It is the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the “Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), who died and rose from the dead. In the time of King Herod and the Emperor Caesar Augustus, God fulfilled the promises that he made to Abraham and his descendants. He sent “his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).
From the very beginning the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Jesus Christ in order to lead all to faith in him. Even today, from the loving knowledge of Christ there springs up in the believer the desire to evangelize and catechize, that is, to reveal in the Person of Christ the entire design of God and to put humanity in communion with him.
Given by the angel at the time of the Annunciation, the name “Jesus” means “God saves”. The name expresses his identity and his mission “because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Peter proclaimed that “there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we can be saved” (Acts 4:12).
“Christ” in Greek, “Messiah” in Hebrew, means the “anointed one”. Jesus is the Christ because he is consecrated by God and anointed by the Holy Spirit for his redeeming mission. He is the Messiah awaited by Israel, sent into the world by the Father. Jesus accepted the title of Messiah but he made the meaning of the term clear: “come down from heaven” (John3:13), crucified and then risen , he is the Suffering Servant “who gives his life as a ransom for the many” (Matthew 20:28). From the name Christ comes our name of Christian.
Jesus is the Son of God in a unique and perfect way. At the time of his Baptism and his Transfiguration, the voice of the Father designated Jesus as his “beloved Son”. In presenting himself as the Son who “knows the Father” (Matthew 11:27), Jesus affirmed his singular and eternal relationship with God his Father. He is “the Only Begotten Son of God” (1 John 4:9), the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. He is the central figure of apostolic preaching. The apostles saw “his glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father” (John 1:14).
In the Bible this title regularly designates God as Sovereign. Jesus ascribed this title to himself and revealed his divine sovereignty by his power over nature, over demons, over sin, and over death, above all by his own Resurrection. The first Christian creeds proclaimed that the power, the honor, and the glory that are due to God the Father also belong to Jesus: God “has given him the name which is above every other name” (Philippians 2:9). He is the Lord of the world and of history, the only One to whom we must completely submit our personal freedom.
For us men and for our salvation, the Son of God became incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. He did so to reconcile us sinners with God, to have us learn of God’s infinite love, to be our model of holiness and to make us “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
The Church calls the mystery of the wonderful union of the divine and human natures in the one divine Person of the Word the “Incarnation”. To bring about our salvation the Son of God was made “flesh” (John 1:14) and became truly man. Faith in the Incarnation is a distinctive sign of the Christian faith.
Jesus is inseparably true God and true man in the unity of his divine Person. As the Son of God, who is “begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father,” he was made true man, our brother, without ceasing to be God, our Lord.
The Council of Chalcedon teaches us to confess “one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, perfect in his humanity, true God and true man, composed of rational soul and body, consubstantial with the Father by his divinity, and consubstantial with us by his humanity, ‘like us in all things but sin’ (Hebrews 4:15), begotten from the Father before all ages as to his divinity, and in these last days, for us and for our salvation, born of Mary, the Virgin and Mother of God, as to his humanity.”
The Church confesses that Jesus Christ is true God and true man, with two natures, a divine nature and a human nature, not confused with each other but united in the Person of the Word. Therefore, in the humanity of Jesus all things – his miracles, his suffering, and his death – must be attributed to his divine Person which acts by means of his assumed human nature.
“O Only-begotten Son and Word of God you who are immortal, you who deigned for our salvation to become incarnate of the holy Mother of God and ever Virgin Mary (…) You who are one of the Holy Trinity, glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit, save us!” (Byzantine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom)
The Son of God assumed a body animated by a rational human soul. With his human intellect Jesus learned many things by way of experience; but also as man the Son of God had an intimate and immediate knowledge of God his Father. He likewise understood people’s secret thoughts and he knew fully the eternal plans which he had come to reveal.
Jesus had a divine will and a human will. In his earthly life the Son of God humanly willed all that he had divinely decided with the Father and the Holy Spirit for our salvation. The human will of Christ followed without opposition or reluctance the divine will or, in other words, it was subject to it.
Christ assumed a true human body by means of which the invisible God became visible. This is the reason why Christ can be represented and venerated in sacred images.
Jesus knew us and loved us with a human heart. His Heart, pierced for our salvation, is the symbol of that infinite love with which he loves the Father and each one of us.
This expression means that the Virgin Mary conceived the eternal Son in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit without the cooperation of a man. The angel told her at the Annunciation that “the Holy Spirit will come upon you” (Luke 1:35).
Mary is truly the Mother of God because she is the Mother of Jesus (John 2:1, John 19:25). The One who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and became truly her Son is actually the eternal Son of God the Father. He is God himself.
God freely chose Mary from all eternity to be the Mother of his Son. In order to carry out her mission she herself was conceived immaculate. This means that, thanks to the grace of God and in anticipation of the merits of Jesus Christ, Mary was preserved from original sin from the first instant of her conception.
By the grace of God Mary was kept free from every personal sin her whole life long. She is the one who is “full of grace” (Luke 1:28), “the all holy”. When the angel announced to her that she would give birth to “the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32), she freely gave her consent with “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5). Mary thus gave herself entirely to the person and work of her Son Jesus, espousing wholeheartedly the divine will regarding salvation.
The virginal conception of Jesus means that Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Virgin solely by the power of the Holy Spirit without the intervention of a man. He is the Son of the heavenly Father according to his divine nature and the Son of Mary according to his human nature. He is, however, truly the Son of God in both natures since there is in him only one Person who is divine.
Mary is ever virgin in the sense that she “remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to him, a virgin in carrying him, a virgin in nursing him at her breast, always a virgin” (Saint Augustine). Therefore, when the Gospels speak of the “brothers and sisters of Jesus”, they are talking about the close relations of Jesus, according to the way of speaking used in Sacred Scripture.
Mary had only one Son, Jesus, but in him her spiritual motherhood extends to all whom he came to save. Obediently standing at the side of the new Adam, Jesus Christ, the Virgin is the new Eve, the true mother of all the living, who with a mother’s love cooperates in their birth and their formation in the order of grace. Virgin and Mother, Mary is the figure of the Church, its most perfect realization.
The entire life of Christ is a revelation. What was visible in the earthly life of Jesus leads us to the invisible mystery of his divine sonship: “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Furthermore, even though salvation comes completely from the cross and the resurrection, the entire life of Christ is a mystery of redemption because everything that Jesus did, said, and suffered had for its aim the salvation of fallen human beings and the restoration of their vocation as children of God.
God prepared for the coming of his Son over the centuries. He awakened in the hearts of the pagans a dim expectation of this coming and he prepared for it specifically through the Old Testament, culminating with John the Baptist who was the last and greatest of the prophets. We relive this long period of expectancy in the annual liturgical celebration of the season of Advent.
At Christmas the glory of heaven is shown forth in the weakness of a baby; the circumcision of Jesus is a sign of his belonging to the Hebrew people and is a prefiguration of our Baptism; the Epiphany is the manifestation of the Messiah King of Israel to all the nations; at the presentation in the temple, Simeon and Anna symbolise all the anticipation of Israel awaiting its encounter with its Savior; the flight into Egypt and the massacre of the innocents proclaim that the entire life of Christ will be under the sign of persecution; the departure from Egypt recalls the exodus and presents Jesus as the new Moses and the true and definitive liberator.
In the course of his hidden life in Nazareth Jesus stayed in the silence of an ordinary existence. This allows us to enter into fellowship with him in the holiness to be found in a daily life marked by prayer, simplicity, work and family love. His obedience to Mary and to Joseph, his foster father, is an image of his filial obedience to the Father. Mary and Joseph accepted with faith the mystery of Jesus even though they did not always understand it.
105. Why did Jesus receive from John the “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3)?
To inaugurate his public life and to anticipate the “Baptism” of his death, he who was without sin accepted to be numbered among sinners. He was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The Father proclaimed him to be “his beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17) and the Spirit descended upon him. The baptism of Jesus is a prefiguring of our baptism.
The temptations of Jesus in the desert recapitulate the temptation of Adam in Paradise and the temptations of Israel in the desert. Satan tempts Jesus in regard to his obedience to the mission given him by the Father. Christ, the new Adam, resists and his victory proclaims that of his passion which is the supreme obedience of his filial love. The Church unites herself to this mystery in a special way in the liturgical season of Lent.
All are invited by Jesus to enter the Kingdom of God. Even the worst of sinners is called to convert and to accept the boundless mercy of the Father. Already here on earth, the Kingdom belongs to those who accept it with a humble heart. To them the mysteries of the Kingdom are revealed.
Jesus accompanied his words with signs and miracles to bear witness to the fact that the Kingdom is present in him, the Messiah. Although he healed some people, he did not come to abolish all evils here below but rather to free us especially from the slavery of sin. The driving out of demons proclaimed that his cross would be victorious over “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31).
- In the Kingdom, what authority did Jesus bestow upon his Apostles?
Jesus chose the twelve, the future witnesses of his Resurrection, and made them sharers of his mission and of his authority to teach, to absolve from sins, and to build up and govern the Church. In this college, Peter received “the keys of the Kingdom” (Matthew 16:19) and assumed the first place with the mission to keep the faith in its integrity and to strengthen his brothers.
Above all the Transfiguration shows forth the Trinity: “the Father in the voice, the Son in the man Jesus, the Spirit in the shining cloud” (Saint Thomas Aquinas). Speaking with Moses and Elijah about his “departure” (Luke 9:31), Jesus reveals that his glory comes by way of the cross and he anticipates his resurrection and his glorious coming “which will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).
“You were transfigured on the mountain and your disciples, as much as they were capable of it, beheld your glory, O Christ our God, so that when they should see you crucified they would understand that your passion was voluntary, and proclaim to the world that you truly are the splendor of the Father.” (Byzantine Liturgy)
At the established time Jesus chose to go up to Jerusalem to suffer his passion and death, and to rise from the dead. As the Messiah King who shows forth the coming of the Kingdom, he entered into his city mounted on a donkey. He was acclaimed by the little children whose shout of joyful praise is taken up in the Sanctus of the Eucharistic liturgy: “Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna (save us!)” (Matthew 21:9). The liturgy of the Church opens Holy Week by celebrating this entry into Jerusalem.