St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

“Full of grace and truth” (John 1:18)

“Full of grace and truth” (John 1:18)

 

On the Incarnation of the Son of God                                               -Homily April 10, 2016

 

One of the mysteries most attacked nowadays in Christian Theology is the mystery of the Incarnation of the Lord. Of course, when the devil wants you to make a mistake, he will quote the Bible, as he did when he tempted Jesus. Many theologians say: “God ‘emptied himself’ (quoting Philippians, 2:6-11), therefore he is no longer God, but a man like we are.” This is of course wrong. St. Leo the Great says:

 

“He emptied himself; though invisible he made himself visible, though Creator and Lord of all things he chose to be one of us mortal men. Yet this was the condescension of compassion, not the loss of omnipotence […] He who is true God is also true man. There is no falsehood in this unity as long as the lowliness of man and the preeminence of God coexist in mutual relationship. As God does not change by his condescension, so man is not swallowed up by being exalted.”

 

1.  The reason for the possibility of this unity, which is beyond all human understanding, is that the principle by which a man subsists in himself is not the same principle by which he is a man (this is a little bit of theology, please bear with me). A man is man because of his essence, because of his human nature. That is what makes him to be a man. But he is, he subsists in himself by the act of being, by his being, which is something different. Essence and being are different. Jesus is truly a man because he has the essence of a man, like us. But he is at the same time truly God, because the being that makes that essence subsist in itself is the being of God, is the infinite being of the Creator of the World. In us, our being is created by God; in Jesus, that being is God himself. That is why he is God and man, without separation, but without confusion. He is one person in two natures. The man Jesus, and only the man Jesus, is truly God.

 

2.  St. Leo the Great says: “One nature is resplendent with miracles, the other falls victim to injuries.” Jesus can do both things in his own name, work miracles and suffer, because he has the two natures: a nature capable of working miracles, which is the nature of God; and a nature capable of suffering, which is the nature of a man. The person who works miracles is the same person who suffers, but because of different principles.

 

This is important in order to understand how serious the Cross is, on which God himself suffers for you and for me. But at the same time it is very important to understand the power of his mercy: Jesus can heal my body and forgive my soul because he is truly God. He rose from the dead and can raise my own body from the dead because he is truly God. The condescension of compassion is not the loss of omnipotence.

 

Let us always be careful of those books which speak about a weak Jesus, who was so much like us that he could not save himself, or he did not know everything, etc. St. Leo the Great, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (nn. 470-478), and the Gospel itself disagree with those poor theologies. Those theologians may have good intentions, and may be just confused, but it is not a service to our Lord to consider him a man like that. God humbled himself, and that was most kind of him; but it would not be very kind of a Christian to humble our own Lord, to underestimate our Maker. How do we feel when we know something very well and we are treated as ignorant? How do we feel when we are able to do something, and someone says that we are incapable of doing that same thing well? Who are we to say that Jesus did not know something that he did know, or that he was not different than us in his divinity and miracles? What would it be to treat Our Lord as just one more prophet, as one more hero and martyr of the human rights, or even as a very good fellow??? Some say, “No, no: the greatest hero, the greatest prophet.” We say, “No; not the greatest, but the only one; the only God, the Incarnate Word of God, the only begotten Son of God and the Son of Mary.”

 

May God give us a right understanding of the mystery of the Incarnation. Otherwise, who is the Jesus we love? A man who can do nothing for me? A good fellow? Another good prophet who died because they killed him? Jesus could have saved himself, but he preferred to save us. What killed Jesus was his love for us, not his lack of power to save himself. And by that same power, he escaped not his killers, but death itself after three days, because nothing is impossible with God. He deserves our love because he is alive, because he is good, and because he wants to make us sharers in his own resurrection. Dear friends, let us love Jesus with all our heart because he is our God, the real deal, the one who rose from the dead, and will raise our own bodies on the Judgment Day. –Fr. Andrew