Jesus Christ – God become man (CCC 422-682)
At His trial, Jesus was asked if He is the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One? In response, Jesus echoed the words of God in telling Moses His name, “I AM.” (Mk 14:53-64) On other occasions, Jesus similarly declared “I AM.” (e.g. Jn. 8:58)
With these words, there are only three possibilities -- either (1) Jesus was rightfully condemned as a criminal for committing blasphemy by wrongfully taking the Lord’s name in vain and equating Himself with God; (2) Jesus was delusional and insane, thereby mitigating His alleged blasphemy; or (3) He is, in fact, the “I am,” that is, God.
Faith informs us that Jesus is the Christ, which is Greek for “the anointed one,” the one anointed by God. Jesus is the Son of God – God Himself – the Word (Logos) made flesh through whom the world was made. He is not only God in a spiritual sense, He is God incarnate, God become man. Fully God, yet fully human, united in one. He is one divine person with two complete natures, both human and divine, and two wills, with fully human freedom. Like us in all ways except for sin. He is Emmanuel, meaning “God with us.” (Mt. 2:23) He is not merely a pleasant story, he is not merely a nice philosophical idea, but an actual historical event. He is God entering into time and taking tangible physical and bodily form. And, as fully man, Jesus knows fully our human pain, suffering, fear, anguish, and sadness.
Why did He do this? Because God is Love and God is Truth.
(a) Because He loves us, as the name Emmanuel suggests, He wanted to be “with us,” like us, and among us – not only at a single point in time, but always and forever.
(b) He wanted to teach us, to give us a deposit of faith, and be a Light for us -- the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
(c) He wanted to “save” us -- to redeem us and repair the rift. Indeed, the Greek name “Jesus” (Yeshua or Joshua in Hebrew) means “God saves.” As the Son, consubstantial with the Father, Jesus wanted to reconcile Fallen Man to God, to bridge the gap that man had created and reunite us. Jesus is the culmination of salvation history.
(d) He wanted to sanctify us, to make us sharers in His divinity. Jesus assumed our nature so that He, made man, might make men gods.
And after fully revealing God’s love and truth, Jesus, the Son of God, gave us the grace of salvation and eternal life by becoming the spotless lamb who was sacrificed for sins, and whose blood would be sprinkled so that death would pass over, and we would be led from the bondage of sin and death to freedom and life. He is the innocent righteous man, the suffering servant, upon whom the Spirit of the Lord has descended, who is pierced for our iniquities, and who pays the ransom with His own life. By the transformative power of His love on the Cross and His resurrection, Jesus, the Son of Man, has defeated suffering and death and established His kingdom of salvation.
Because God transcends time and space, for Him specific points in time continue to exist forever. The Passion and Crucifixion were not isolated events in some distant past. Rather, His sacrifice is an on-going event. He is not crucified again and again, but is one sacrifice. He is perpetually being scourged, eternally on the Cross. Every sin of ours is another lash on His flesh, it is another pound of the hammer, driving nails deeper into His hands.
At the same time, to be one with Jesus means to be one with Him on the Cross. Although Jesus is fully man, and thus suffered greatly, He is also united with the Father of Love -- as He calls us all to be, and as we all can be -- and so that fully human and excruciating pain and suffering are transformed and overcome, and therefore made bearable. Through the Cross, even death is overcome, and He makes all things new. By uniting our sufferings with His, by offering them up to Him on the Cross, they obtain redemptive meaning. The martyrs could truly smile in joy amidst the flames and beasts that tore at their bodies because they too were one with Him, and so their agonies were transformed by love.
God’s plan for man does not stop at his redemption and salvation, that is, reconciling man to God, but continues toward our sanctification, that is, making men more like God. Jesus calls us to be holy and perfect in love and truth, just as His Father in heaven is perfect. He calls us to be true to the purpose for which we are made, to love and be loved in truth. To love God and love one another as Jesus has loved us, including extending forgiveness and mercy to others. And to help us attain that perfection, to help us love in truth, Jesus, promising to be with us always, to the end of the age, has established His Church and sent us His Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ and His Bride, the Church (CCC 748-962; 1113-1134)
Jesus said that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, that no one could come to the Father except through Him. (Jn. 11:25-26; 14:6) Jesus not only taught, He established the Church as His Holy Bride, two become one, and He gave us the sacraments, which are administered by the Church, so as to help us come to the Father and be redeemed and sanctified.
Man was created as a social creature, intended to exist in relationship, not in solitude. Thus, Christ also established the Church so that we might fulfill our purpose of being in communion with each other, as well as Him. To be one with Jesus means to be one with the one holy Church, which is also the Body of Christ. Accordingly, we see that Jesus Christ and the Church are absolutely necessary for salvation.
In establishing the Church, from the Greek word Kyriake, meaning “what belongs to the Lord,” which is also called an ecclesia in Latin, “an assembly set apart,” Jesus called certain men as apostles, from the Greek for “emissary.” To the Apostle Peter, who was the first Pope, Jesus gave a special supreme authority. The original Apostles later appointed successors, whom we know today as bishops, and assistants, such as priests, who have the authority and power of teaching and administering the sacraments in persona Christi. Each bishop is the spiritual shepherd for a specific area, which is called a diocese, and he in turn delegates certain authority to pastors over a smaller area, which is called a parish.
Before ascending to heaven, Jesus said that He would be with us always, to the end of the age. In the most obvious sense, Jesus is with us in the Eucharist. (Lk 22:19-20; Jn 6:48-58) The Eucharist is the source (beginning) and summit (end) of the Faith, inasmuch as this Blessed Sacrament is the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus, even though under the appearance of bread and wine. In the Eucharist, the substance is transformed, that is to say, the fundamental basis of its being. This genuine transformation is called transubstantiation. As described by Pope Benedict, Christ takes possession of the bread and the wine, and He lifts them up out of the setting of their normal existence into a new order. Even if, from a purely physical point of view, they remain the same, they have become profoundly different.
Through the Eucharist in the one Mass, according to His Word, Jesus is with us, not merely spiritually or theoretically or as a philosophy, but physically, such that we, as bodily creatures who experience things through our senses, can be united with Him bodily as well as spiritually.
In a profoundly intimate way, we take His glorified Body and Blood into our bodies. The encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist is not the encounter of a friend or a mentor or a teacher. It is a parental and spousal encounter. It is because the Eucharist is the Real Presence that such an encounter is the most intimate of intimate touchings. The person literally takes Christ within him- or herself both bodily and spiritually, so as to become one with Him in a mystical fashion, as in marriage, which also involves entering into another bodily and spiritually so as to become one in a communion of persons (unitive) and so as to receive life (procreative).
Only in this way is the totality of our person, body and spirit, able to be one with Him, Body and Spirit, fully and completely. Again, because we are creatures of both spirit and body, to receive Him in the entirety of our person, it is essential that we also experience the Body and Blood of Christ, which can be received only at Mass, in addition to His Spirit, which can be experienced at home. In this way, the Eucharist can truly be called Holy Communion.
The consecration of the bread and wine at Mass to become the Blessed Sacrament is not a re-sacrificing of Jesus. There is only One Mass, and there is only One Sacrifice, which is re-presented, that is, presented again. Remember, God transcends time and space, so that, not only does He extend across our concept of linear time, but for Him, specific points in time continue to exist forever. Thus, the Passion and Crucifixion were not isolated events in some distant past. Rather, His sacrifice is an on-going event. He is not crucified again and again, but is one sacrifice. He is perpetually being scourged, eternally on the Cross. In the Mass, in some mystical but true way, we transcend space and time and are made present at the Last Supper, we are made present at the foot of the Cross. And because we partake of His glorified Resurrected Body and Blood, so too are we made present at the Resurrection, and made One with He who rose to eternal life.