Monday, December 12, 2011

Who is Jesus for You?

Who is Jesus?

Jesus is one the most fascinating figures in history. Despite his humble origins, short life, and very short public career, Jesus is the central focus of the world's largest religion and has meant many things to many people since his death over 2,000 years ago. But, who is Jesus Christ from a Catholic theological perspective?
When I was a child going to Catholic School, the good Sisters taught us that Jesus Christ is true God and true man. At that time, I just accepted the phrase as another one of those things that adults say to children that makes absolutely no sense what so ever. When I asked what exactly that meant, I was told “it is a mystery”. Well, that certainly clarified things for me. As an adult, I still don’t think I understand exactly what that means although now I know why I don’t understand. I think that the concept of the two natures of Jesus Christ is a hard concept to grasp. So, I guess an easier question is, “What should I as a Christian believe about Jesus?” I will attempt to summarize what I feel are the four major beliefs regarding Jesus.
First, Christians believe Jesus to have been a historical human being who was born of a virgin named Mary, in the town of Bethlehem, between 7 and 4 BC. The humanity of Jesus is perhaps one of the least controversial areas of Christology, but this was not always so. In the early years after Christ, some thought that Jesus' body, suffering, and death were merely appearances. He was not fully human, but only appeared to be.
Second, Christians believe Jesus is the Messiah, the "anointed one" predicted in the Jewish Scriptures. The word "Christ" comes from the Greek word for "Messiah". He is the Redeemer of the world, the Savior of all mankind and the Reconciler between God and humanity by dying for our sins. It is interesting to note that although Jesus appears to see Himself as the Messiah in the Gospels, He does not go out of his way to identify Himself as such, and those who do identify Him as the Messiah are commanded not to tell anyone about it.
Third, Christians believe that Jesus is the "Son of God." Jesus does not refer to himself as the Son of God in the Gospels, but the term is used in the writings of Paul and in the epistle to the Hebrews. The Gospel of John refers to Jesus simply as "the Son," which may have a similar meaning. Paul uses the term for both Christ and Christians. Christians become children of God by adoption, but Jesus is the rightful Son of God by nature.
Finally, Christians believe that Jesus Christ is God. This concept seems to be stated explicitly in the New Testament especially in the writings of the Gospel of John. In addition, some important titles and functions applied to Jesus in the New Testament indicate early belief in His divinity. The statement "Jesus Christ is Lord” is found throughout the New Testament and was one of the earliest Christian confessions of faith. “Lord" had come to be almost synonymous with God in Jewish thinking by the time of Jesus. New Testament writers apply functions to Jesus that are associated only with God. Jesus is the savior of humanity; it is appropriate to call on the name of Jesus in prayer and to worship him; Jesus reveals God directly “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).
What does this mean to me in my ministry? I think it is important to remember that Jesus is all of the above. There is not a choice of one over the other. It is also important to understand that Jesus became human out of love for us. He gave up His life for us as the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate expression of love. He is our God and Savior, but He is also our brother and our friend. Jesus is our gift of love, a God who loves us unconditionally.
I was reading a book yesterday called "Spiritual Direction-Beyond the Beginnings" by Janet K. Ruffing, R.S.M. In her book she states that "God longs for us as much as we long for God". "In the beginning of the spiritual life, we feel as if all the desiring is on our side. . . God's longing evokes and fuels our own. That God's own self initiates these longings."
If God loves us first, then the above statements make perfect sense. Our relationship with God is a mutual relationship of love. Jesus ministry to us was one of bringing us back into relationship with the God who loves us first. Think about that as you go through your day. How magnificant a gift we received from Jesus. His death on the cross was an indication of the length that God goes to let us know how much he wants to be in relationship with us. God's will for us and desire for us is not just that of an authority figure wanting subjugation from his servants. God's will for us is that of one who loves wanting the best for the object of his affection, us. This would also indicate that the desire of God is that we love him back. This for me was a startling realization.
So, who is Jesus? Jesus is the God who wants us to be in relationship with him. Jesus is the God who loves us first. Jesus is our ultimate Christmas gift.
As we go through this joyful season of Christmas, as we give gifts to one another, let us not forget the greatest gift that all of humankind has been given. We have been given the gift of God's love through God's gift of Jesus, the Christ. The true gift of Christmas is God letting us know that we are loved and that we are never alone. We celebrate the gift of the "servant" King. We celebrate the gift of being one with Jesus. We celebrate the gift that is love.

Merry Christmas!

May God's love and God's blessings fill you with the true Spirit of Christmas!

Peace and love,
Rev. Sue Provost

St. Valentine Faith Community
2670 Chandler Avenue
Suite 7 & 8
Las Vegas, NV 89120
702-998-2220 Church Office
702-523-8963 Rev. Sue Provost Cell
Mass: Every Sunday at 10am

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

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