Monday, April 20, 2009

Jesus Christ According to Benedict XVI-III.

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was given at the proper time.” -Timothy 2:5-6

Descendit de caelis: He came down from Heaven. Why? To bring us God.

The Incarnation is the central creed of the Christian faith. The ancient Christological councils of the Church, notably the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. and Constantinople in 381 A.D. developed the Nicene Creed establishing the understanding that Jesus Christ is both God and man. Since the early Church, theologians have been reflecting on the drama of this event trying to more deeply understand the mystery of God and of man.

Benedict XVI expresses, "Jesus is the most human of men, the true man, and thus subscribes to the identity of theology and anthropology."

By becoming man, Jesus Christ unites himself with all the victims of sin and injustice in history. As mediator, the "Son of Man" brings God to man and man to God through his solidarity with men in his life and death. As a fellow man who has suffered the most horrific injustice, he truly knows man's plight.

Through the event of the crucifixion, the God-man becomes the ultimate sacrifice, the sacrifice to end all sacrifices and in doing so not only fulfills the Law of the Old Covenant but eternally unites and links himself to humanity.

As the Son, Jesus Christ is entirely obedient to the will of the Father. His example provides a way for men to follow him in his obedience. Obedience is a friendship. Jesus Christ knows what man wants and what he was created for: happiness. Communion with Jesus provides communion with God who is the origin of man's being and who is perfect happiness. Only Jesus brings happiness because only Jesus brings God. And Jesus brings God because Jesus is God.

Benedict XVI illuminates, “Jesus who himself died on the Cross, brought something totally different: an encounter with the Lord of all lords, an encounter with the living God and thus an encounter with a hope stronger than the sufferings of slavery, a hope which therefore transformed life and the world from within.”

It is in his rejection that God is glorified. It is in the weakness of man that God's sovereignty is established. It is in Christ’s earthly existence that he makes God’s heavenly existence present and known. "If God has descended and is now below, then “below” has also become an “above,” and the old division into “above” and “below” has been shattered.” His death is an act of self-communication. This shattering, this communication, is man’s redemption and it signifies the victory of love over death.

Thus, as Benedict XVI expresses, "Love is the ultimate reason for the Incarnation."

Benedict XVI posits that since the core of Jesus’ personality is prayer, then those who seek to understand him must actively participate in his prayer. He makes an excellent point by illustrating that, for example, medicine can only be learned in the practice of healing. Similarly, “religion can only be understood through religion—and the fundamental act of religion is prayer.” He logically explains that this is what is suggested in the Gospel when John writes “No one can come to him unless the Father draws him.” Without the Father, there is no Son and without the Son, no one can truly know the Father. Prayer then, is “the basic precondition if real understanding is to take place.” If this is true then Benedict XVI is correct in noting that genuine developments in the study of Christology and in theological understanding must be complemented by the “theology of the saints, which is theology from experience.” This experience has its source and origin in the act of love, which is prayer itself. It is this act of self-surrender (which Jesus accomplished so perfectly) by which Christians truly comprise the Body of Christ.

Early in his pontificate, Benedict XVI preached that, “the message of Jesus is completely misunderstood if it is separated from the context of the faith and hope of the Chosen People.”

The genius of the gift of the Lord’s prayer, the “Our Father” is that by praying “Our” Father, together as a community, “those who belong to Jesus participate in Jesus’ relationship to God," by sharing in his gesture.

This is, in a sense, a case for the Church.

Regarding the Body of Christ and its mysterious existence as the Church, Benedict XVI clarifies, “No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone.” This insight of Benedict XVI boldly addresses modernity’s current individualistic mentality. This mentality has penetrated even among Christians particularly by the emerging "house church" movement or more radically by those who claim to be Christians without "organized religion."

Theologians of Christology who view Jesus Christ through the mentality of individualism greatly miss the point. The Church is Christ's Body which is comprised of the unity of its members. Followers of Christ do not pray the “My Father” (only Christ could regard God in that way, according to his unique filial relationship with the Father) but the “Our Father.” Further, although Jesus brought an entirely new dimension to humanity’s access to God the Father, he did so within the traditional framework of God’s People, Israel. His dialogue with the Father was also a dialogue with Moses and Elijah as in the Transfiguration account. He did not abolish the Law, but fulfilled it. He did not destroy Israel, but renewed it. The result of which gave the nations "access to the Spirit of revelation and hence to God the Father, the God of Jesus Christ.” Thus, the “Church” truly became Universal, not just for Israel but for all mankind.

This understanding has imperative implications for those who claim to know Jesus outside of the Church. True fellowship with Jesus presupposes that “communication with the living subject of tradition to which all this is linked into communication with the Church.” This is the context given by which one must come to know Jesus Christ. Benedict XVI poses a challenge to denominations of the one Church by clarifying that even the “New Testament book presupposes the Church as its subject.”

It was and continues to be this context, the Church, which provides the understanding that Jesus Christ is “the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father.”

Jesus Christ is both man and “Other.” Benedict XVI writes, “Jesus Christ is he who has moved right out beyond himself and thus the man who has truly come to himself.” Thus, in finding himself in Christ, man is more himself the the more he is with others. (As Lorenzo Albacete would say, "We need community to be truly human.") In this way, man becomes more like Jesus Christ the more open he is to God—by moving “out beyond himself.”

It is precisely in this relation with “the Other” and concretely through others that Jesus Christ shows that the Faith is not primarily about the individual; for the salvation of the mere individual there would be “no need of either a Church or a history of salvation, an incarnation or passion.” Man is himself when he is fitted into the whole and thus the Faith, the encounter with Christ, must be understood in the context of the Church.

Being a Christian is not an individual but a social charisma.

The Christian Faith demands the individual, but wants him for the whole and not for himself. The Faith teaches us to be like God--who created us out of charity and who sent his Son to show us that.

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