I am Catholic By Pat Miron
Why friends, Did God choose to become “Just a man”
like us in every way EXCEPT sin?
FR. KENNETH BAKER, S.J.
“The Nicene Creed does not use the exact word “Savior” in speaking of Jesus, but it does state the reason why the Word of God became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth: “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven.”
“So the purpose of the Incarnation was to effect the salvation of all mankind
. St. Paul says in 1 Timothy (1:15) that “Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners.” In the Gospel of John we read: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world… that the world might be saved through him” (3:16-17). In the biblical use, “salvation” is related to redemption and liberation. In the book of Exodus, we read how God called his people out of Egypt, how he saved them from slavery under the Pharoah. When the Bible and the Creed speak of “salvation” they are talking about the liberation of mankind from the power of sin, death and the devil. We know from revelation, especially from Genesis and the infallible teaching of the Church, that in the beginning God created man in a state of innocence and friendship with himself. As a result of man’s rejection of God’s love, he lost his original innocence, came under the power of sin and the devil, and was subject to death. Having lost God’s grace, which was a pure gift to begin with and thus something to which he had no just claim, man became an outcast, unable to achieve the noble destiny to which God had ordained him.
Since man could not save himself from sin, could not by his own efforts regain the grace of God, God in his own infinite wisdom resolved to become man
. Thus Jesus, the God-man, was able to make satisfaction to God’s justice, for all his actions had infinite worth. Very succinctly, therefore, the Creed proclaims that the reason for the Word becoming flesh was to accomplish the salvation of men. And when the Creed says “men” it means “all men” without any distinction as to race, color or creed. God’s salvation is not restricted to the chosen people. In the writings of St. Paul we learn that faith in Christ was first offered to the Jews and then to the gentiles. Some Jews accepted it and some rejected it, just as some gentiles believed and some did not.
When the Church says that “he came down from heaven”, she is referring to the pre-existence of the divine Word that became man in Jesus of Nazareth. Thus the Person who is Jesus existed from all eternity in the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The meaning is that he did not commence his existence with his conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary. He began to be in his human nature only.
Father Baker recently was the Editor of
Homiletic & Pastoral Review Magazine, which I have read for quite a number of years. Now like me Father is retired. He is a brilliant and concise Theologian.
I seldom begin a lesson with the answer, but I wanted to share another solidly Catholic testimony to what we will be expanding on. Just WHY DID GOD ORDIAN to be a “man like us?”
The long-term goal of these lessons is to not only teach you our Catholic Faith, but also to give you sufficient knowledge to enable you to explain our beliefs and practices to others. Towards this end; using the bible as our primary guide as it is the only recognized authority [from my lips to our God’s ears], that many non-Catholics will listen to, even if not correctly understood or fully accepted by them. We will attempt to expand this beautiful explanation of Father Baker‘s.
This Prophesy dates between five and six hundred years before the birth of
Christ. Daniel 2:28-35
“but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnez’zar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be hereafter, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be. But as for me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living has this mystery been revealed to me, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind. “You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. The head of this image was of fine gold, its breast and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it smote the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces; then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth”
And this Prophesy from Isaiah dates to more than 700 years before the birth of Christ.
Isaiah 7:14 “
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
Obviously God has planned this from all time. But without a fuller understanding of Who and What God is, and understanding just what God for a time freely gave up, we shall never grasp the reality that humanity alone is a “Creation of God’s Own Want.”
Isa.43 Verses 7and 21: “every one who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” AND the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.”
I have often shared and used a brief but accurate definition of God. “God is every good thing perfected.” Not only is our God every good thing; but He is both the cause and the effect of every good thing.
Genesis 1: 31 “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.”
The first point to be aware of is how this effects humanity. Because God is already “perfect” and “perfect” cannot be made more “perfect,” so everything that God does, every thing that God commands, everything that God accomplishes, and everything that God suffers and endures is for the sake of His humanity. God reaps no benefit beyond the Fulfillment of His Divine Will.
When we express the truth that “God is all good,” what does are we saying? God is ALL EVERYTHING GOOD means and includes all of the following.
The almighty power of God. He can do whatever does not deny his nature or that is not self-contradictory. Since God is infinite in being, he must also be infinite in power. (Etym. Latin omnis, all + potentia, power: omnipotens, all-powerful.)”
God being simultaneously wherever he is, since he is present everywhere. The divine omnipresence is two-fold, by nature and by grace.
By nature God is present in all things by essence, knowledge, and power. This is the presence of a cause in the things that share in God’s goodness. By his essence, he is substantially in all things, including the created spiritual essences (angels, demons, human souls ) as the immediate origin of their existence. By his knowledge, he exercises his wisdom directly in all creation down to the least details. By his power, he operates with divine activity as the First Cause of everything that creatures do.
By grace, God is further present in the souls in whom he dwells as in a temple. Hence the creature is joined, as it were, to God’s substance, through the activity of mind and heart, by faith cleaving to the First Truth, and by charity to the First Good. He is therefore present by grace as the known is to the knower and the beloved is to the lover. This presence is more than a cause in an effect. It is the possession of God on earth similar to his being possessed by the angels and saints in heaven”
God’s knowledge of all things. Revelation discloses that the wisdom of God is without measure (Psalm 146:5). And the Church teaches that his knowledge is infinite.
The primary object of divine cognition is God himself, whom he knows immediately, that is, without any medium by which he apprehends his nature. He knows himself through himself.
The secondary objects of divine knowledge are everything else, namely the purely possible, the real, and the conditionally future. He knows all that is merely possible by what is called the knowledge of simple intelligence. This means that, in comprehending his infinite imitability and his omnipotence, God knows therein the whole sphere of the possible.
He knows all real things in the past, present, and the future by his knowledge of vision. When God, in his self-consciousness, beholds his infinite operative power, he knows therein all that he, as the main effective cause, actually comprehends, i.e., all reality. The difference between past, present, and future does not exist for the divine knowledge, since for God all is simultaneously present.”
By the same knowledge of vision, God also foresees the future free acts of the rational creatures with infallible certainty. As taught by the Church, “All things are naked and open to His eyes, even those things that will happen through the free actions of creatures” (Denzinger 3003). The future free actions foreseen by God follow infallibly not because God substitutes his will for the free wills of his creatures but because he does not interfere with the freedom that he foresees creatures will exercise. (Etym. Latin omnis, all + scire, to know.)
And PERHAPS most significantly to humanity? God is the personification and the perfection of LOVE itself.
Romans 5: 1-10 “
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, [BUT NOT FAITH ALONE!] we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man — though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. [If we actually “Know Christ” which infers the absolute need to accept and to do ALL that He taught and commands, and to follow those that Christ Himself choose to leave in charge.]
Luke 1: 26-35 “
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.”And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
What did God have to “give-up /forego to Bless us with His “human and Divine Presence?
Ps.148: 2“Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host! 4Ezra.8: 21 “whose throne is beyond measure and whose glory is beyond comprehension, before whom the hosts of angels stand trembling” PrAzar.1: 37“Bless the Lord, you angels of the Lord, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever“ Luke 2:10-14 “And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest,”
Humanity has long struggled to find words that describe what God gave up to become a mortal man. The image I use [completely inadequate though it is], is to think of Albert Einstein’s mind, intellect and freewill in an ordinary finite-earthworm. Even this image falls incomprehensibility short of what our Almighty Infinite God put aside willingly for a time to assume the Person we know as Jesus Christ. A finite human being, with all the finite-limitations including mortality, that we ourselves have. Then as if where not enough, God choose to be born in a cave; placed in a manger, a food trough, become subordinate to an aging carpenter, and a young virgin Jewish girl as His Mother. And finally to die and be laid to rest in a borrowed tomb. HUMILITY from the beginning to the end, so that we MIGHT learn the essential importance of this Godly virtue.
When the time came for Christ earthly-ministry He choose to dignify a marriage ceremony to provide the first evidence of His Divinity. He choose to change ordinary water in to “excellent wine.”
[John chapter2]. He choose a marriage ceremony to heighten the importance that God Himself places on this age old act now raised to the level of a Blessed Sacrament, which is NOT TO BE SET ASIDE. [Hebrews 13:4] Jesus choose to change water into wine to show that He HAS the power to alter the very substances of nature itself. Prefiguring the soon to come: “miracle of miracles.” Christ wants to make clear who He is and WHAT He is. That “knowing” of Him is by itself insufficient for our salvation. Knowing Christ must mean, and obligates ALL to learn exactly what he taught, what He commanded, what obligations must be fulfilled, and recognize what he founded and launched to protect , to guide and to lead all men in our struggle for our possible salvation. Everything God does has a precise reason and a goal. Those who do attain their salvation will be those who learned, understood and then accepted and lived these “Eternal- Life Lesson’s.”
All of the many miracles, past, present and future are for the POSSIBLE benefit of mankind. Physical miracles are easy compared to Spiritual conversions. WHY? Because they require man’s own freewill assent to them.
If you were asked: “Why did Christ become man?,”
your answer likely would deal with the issue of salvation. And you would be
CORRECT. But my friend what does this actually mean? What does it entail, and what does in obligate and require of us?
The problem stems I think from our language limitations. The natural propensity to automatically apply the most common human understanding of terms which also have Divine applications.
“redemption” as “the act, process, or an instance of redeeming” and “salvation” as “ 1. a: deliverance from the power and effects of sin 2. liberation from ignorance or illusion .“ Father Hardon’s Catholic Dictionary defies these same two words, “Redemption” as “The salvation of humanity by Jesus Christ. Literally, to redeem means to free or buy back. Humanity was held captive in that it was enslaved by sin. Since the devil overcame human beings by inducing them to sin, they were said to be in bondage to the devil. Moreover, the human race was held captive as to a debt of punishment, to the payment of which it was bound by divine justice. …. On all these counts, the Passion of Christ was sufficient and superabundant satisfaction for human guilt and the consequent debt of punishment. His Passion was a kind of price or ransom that paid the cost of freeing humanity from both obligations. Christ rendered satisfaction, not by giving money, but by spending what was of the highest value. He gave himself, and therefore his Passion is called humanity’s Redemption. (Etym. Latin redemptio, a buying back, ransoming, redemption.)” And “salvation” as ” In biblical language the deliverance from straitened circumstances or oppression by some evil to a state of freedom and security. As sin is the greatest evil, salvation is mainly liberation from sin and its consequences. This can be deliverance by way of preservation, or by offering the means for being delivered, or by removing the oppressive evil or difficulty, or by rewarding the effort spent in co-operating with grace in order to be delivered. All four aspects of salvation are found in the Scriptures and are taught by the Church. (Etym. Latin salvare, to save.)”
The problem arises with the “tense” of the words. It is widely assumed that both words are BOTH and at the same time present and past tense. “Done Deals.” Fully accomplished acts; when the Divine reality is this. They are indeed an accomplished act. BUT Just what was [is] accomplished is what is so often not grasped, or understood?
For these terms to be taken as commonly understood would imply that every man, women and child is BOTH Redeemed and saved.
But if this were [is] true, why bother with the Church, the bible, hell or purgatory? There would be no sin, and no need for any of them. Yet they exist. Logically there must be a reason for this.
What is NOT made sufficiently clear in the use of our common biblical languages is just what precisely was, and is accomplished by Christ birth, life, death and resurrection.
What WAS accomplished and IS accomplished is a far as the East is from the West as an accomplished fact of salvation being assured. It is the difference between “COULD,” “WOULD,” and “SHOULD,” in the oft presumed idea of a completed act in saving souls. The correct answer evolves around GRACE, and how grace is always connected to “faith.” Grace being a free gift from God and OFFERED to ALL for the POSSIBILITY of our salvation, with TRUE- FAITH being our necessary response to this offer of grace just to make the reality of our salvation a possibility.
Wis.3: 9 “Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his elect, and he watches over his holy ones.”
John.1: 14“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. 16 -17 And from his fullness have we all received, [offers of] grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
Rom.3: 24“they are justified by his grace as a gift, [OFFERED] through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, “
Rom.4: 16“That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants — not only to the adherents of the law [commandments] but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, for he is the father of us all,”
Rom.5:1-2 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, [BUT NOT FAITH ALONE] we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.”
Eph.1:6-7 to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” [ACCEPTED and RIGHTLY APPLIED]
Eph.2: 8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God”
The summation of WHY Christ became man and just what he accomplished lies in the degree of 1. The amount of grace offered to each of us [always sufficient for our POSSIBLE salvation] 2. Our freewill acceptance of this grace 3. Then the right application [use of] this gift by us. 4. The degree of RIGHT Wisdom and Understanding that God permits each of us to possess. [These are gifts of grace that can and ought to be prayed for.]
Man can be assured of this because of what else Christ did, accomplished and intends for the salvation of His humanity. In an absolute sense there is a actual need for the Commandments, for the Seven Sacraments, for the Catholic Priesthood and for the Catholic Church and what she teaches in fulfilling God’s command. This too is one of the CRITICAL points to understand in just why God became man.
From the time of Abram on there is a constant, unchanging and everlasting continuity of teaching from God; both Yahweh and Christ, of belief in Only One God, in acceptance and living fully the One set of Faith-beliefs that they both taught, and always under the Divine Guidance and protection of God himself, through only One Church Organization. That was true in the beginning and it remains the singular TRUTH TODAY AND FOR ALL TIME.
[Mt. 16:18*19, Mt. 18:18, Mt. 28:16-20, Luke 1:33, John 20:19-23].
Matthew 28:16-20 “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” John 20:19-23 “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Simply and candidly stated, salvation is possible ONLY through the Catholic Church, because that was and is God’s OWN PLAN. God’s OWN Will for all of humanity. If you don’t absolutely KNOW that your sins HAVE BEEN forgiven, which can only be done in the Catholic Church [because Christ personally commands it be done ONLY HIS way], then friend, you cannot know and do not know that they are forgiven and your salvation is anything BUT assured. Luke 21: 6-8 ““As for these things which you see, the days will come when there shall not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And they asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign when this is about to take place?” And he said, “Take heed that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name, saying, `I am he!’ and, `The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.
Christ own Catholic Church; the only church and set of faith believes that are personally warranted by Jesus Himself [John 14:16-17, John 17:15-19] withHIS Sacraments particularly the Most Holy Eucharist, Jesus in Person, [Mt. 26, Mk.14, Lk. 22, John 6 and Paul 1st. Cor. 11]are the means, and the most likely way, to and for the GRACE that is just waiting to be used by us, as we control the flow of God’s Sacramental grace to us by our own good intensions, our faithful reception of, and our frequent use these Gifts from and OF God for the precise purpose to aid us in attaining God’s Will for us. OUR OWN SALVATION.
1Cor.2: 9 “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” “And those who love Him” are those who actually know Him, which requires know what he taught, commands, forbids and OBEY the authorities he personally has placed here to guide and teach us.
John.10: 16 “And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd”
Eph. 2:19-20 “ So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
Eph. 3: 9-10 “And to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; that through the church [singular]the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose which he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord”
Perhaps the most overlooked, and critically significant reason God became man IS so humanity could actually KNOW God personally.
To “put a face” with the voice from above, the Spirit which too is God, but is so much less accessible and “knowable” than a “human-God.” God desires, indeed the GREATEST desire of God’s heart, is that ALL humanity Know, Love, Obey and serve Him in this life, in the manner ORDAINED by our God and confirmed by our freewill choice to do so, putting aside the cost to us, focusing instead on the cost to OUR-God.
Luke.14: 7 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”
Matt.5: 19“Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. “ Matt.19: 17.… If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”
1Pet.4: 13 ” But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
Phil.1: 29“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, “
Heb. 2: 10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering
John.10: 16 “And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be [ONLY] one flock, one shepherd”
Eph. 3: 9-10 “And to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; that through the church[singular]the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose which he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,
I pray daily for God’s Continued Blessings for each of you.