Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.
In the Gospel for the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (Matt. 16:13) This was the question from the very beginning of his public life. Who is this man who speaks with authority, goes right to the heart of the matter, is no respecter of persons and goes around doing good, healing the sick, cleansing lepers, forgiving the sinner and raising the dead to life?
Who is this man who has so captivated the people that the high priest says that this man must die because the "whole world has gone out after him?”
Obviously, he was human. He was like unto us in all things but sin. He ate and he slept, was hungry and thirsty, was angry and sad, suffered fatigue and temptation, he worked and he prayed, he suffered and he died.
But he was more than human. The same Jesus, who obeyed Mary and Joseph at Nazareth, commanded the winds and the waves on the Sea of Galilee. The same Jesus, who asked the Samaritan woman for a drink of water, changed water into wine at the Wedding Feast of Cana. The same Jesus who was hungry fed the multitude with five loaves and two fish. The same Jesus who walked the dusty roads of Galilee walked on water. The same Jesus, who sweated blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, was Transfigured on Mount Tabor. The same Jesus, who died on the cross, rose on the third day.
“Who is this man?” It took the first 400 years of Christianity and the first Four Councils of the Church to answer that question definitively. Arius contended that Jesus was not divine. He was condemned at the Council of Nicea in 325. Then Apollonius claimed that Jesus was not truly human but only had the appearance of a man. He was condemned at the Council of Constantinople in 381. Then Nestorious claimed that Jesus was two persons, a human person and a divine person and therefore Mary was not the mother of God, but only the mother of the human Jesus. He was condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431. Finally, Eutychus claimed that Jesus did not have two natures, but that his human nature was absorbed in the Divine. He was condemned at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.
Thus it was that the first four Councils of the Church spelled out definitively the answer to the question, “Who is this man?” Jesus is one person, a divine person, having a divine nature from all eternity, and taking a human nature in time from Mary. This classical expression of faith in Jesus has been professed in the Nicene Creed for centuries.
“Who is this man?” After 2.000 years of Christianity this question is still being asked today. The question is being asked in the terminology of the Historical Jesus and the Jesus of Faith. The Historical Jesus is human and the Jesus of Faith is divine. It involves the very same Christological heresies of the first four centuries. It is another example that if we do not know history we are bound to repeat its errors.
When the Gospels were written there was no doubt that Jesus was human. The people saw him and interacted personally with him. Or at least they knew someone who did. Therefore, the thrust of the Gospels was not to prove that he was human but to prove that he was also divine.
In the course of time the divinity was so over emphasized that people forgot that he was also human. It is necessary to keep a balance between the divinity and the humanity. Over emphasis on divinity leads to anxiety and scrupulosity while over emphasis on humanity leads to lost of respect, awe and reverence.
“Who do you say that I am?” This is the question Jesus asks each one of us every day. And our answer will determine what our day will be like, what our life will be like and ultimately what our eternity will be like. If we can answer with Simon Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” blessed indeed will we be.
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