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Why God Became Man

Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Our present conference is on Why God Became Man.

This is no ordinary question, never was. But it is extraordinarily important to have the right answer today. There are certain mysteries of our faith that are fundamental to Christianity. No one should have any doubt that the most fundamental mystery is the fact that Jesus Christ is true God. In fact if you haven’t heard, and you will hear a lot in the years to come, people have coined nicknames for us. We are now being called Fundamentalists and the term is not a compliment. And I wish this opprobrious name had been coined by people outside the Church. A nationally circulating Catholic columnist is now writing about the newest and worst threat to the Catholic Church – the rise of fanatical fundamentalists in Her ranks. In case you don’t know that’s you and, pardon the grammar, me. We better then know, we better know what we believe when we believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of Mary, is the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father.

The Annunciation

For our context we shall take the Annunciation. And this morning before Mass and this homily conference, I took a copy which I was so pleased to find of the Latin bible, the Vulgate. Thanks Lord. And I translated in my own simplified English the narrative of the Annunciation. Let’s make sure nobody palms off on us some learned approximation of the revealed Word of God.

I quote:

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee called Nazareth to a virgin espoused to a man named Joseph of the House of David and the virgin’s name was Mary. The angel came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.” When she heard this, she became troubled at his words and thought to herself, “What might this salutation mean?”
So the angel said to her, “Do not fear, Mary, for you have found grace with God and you shall conceive in your womb and give birth to a Son and you will call His name Jesus. He will be great and He will be called the Son of the Most High and the Lord God will give Him the throne of David, his father and He will reign in the House of Jacob forever and of His kingdom, there will be no end.
Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I do not know man?” And the angel answering her, said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. And, behold, your kinswoman has conceived a son in her old age. And this is the sixth month for her who was called barren because nothing is impossible with God.”
But Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your Word.” And the angel left her.

Unquote. (St. Luke 1:26-38).

Before we go on, there are two words that have no other meaning except the one of the inspired text and they are the word grace – it is grace, nothing else – full of grace. And it is handmaid and nothing else – it is handmaid. And for my humiliation, in my hurry to translate this, I missed the word Elizabeth. The angel identified Mary’s kinswoman, Elizabeth, who was already in her sixth month. She, who was called barren.

There are two things I would like to share with you. First, briefly to get as far as our time will allow to the heart of the meaning of the Annunciation. And second, its profound and, I would add, demanding implications in our spiritual life.

Meaning of the Annunciation

First, the meaning. We began this conference asking the question why God became man. And the answer is one word – Jesus. God became man to become Jesus. He became man to save us from our sins. Every time we hear or read or pronounce the name, Jesus, let’s always realize He is Jesus for me, a sinner. There are some profound implications to what we are so casually saying. Let’s be very clear that God was on Earth long before the Incarnation. He had to be. No God – no world. God did not just make the world and then leave it to itself. Otherwise, the moment God would have stepped out of the world He made, it would lapse back into what it was before He made it – mathematically nothing. God made the world – we have to coin a verb – He continues making the world. Unless God were in the world, there would have been no Galilee, no Nazareth, no Mary, no Palestine.

Second, this God who had been on earth before the Incarnation, just as freely, just as voluntarily as He made the world out of nothing, then freely decided to become a man and like us enter the world. But He was already in the world – yes and no. He was in the world as God, He was not yet in the world as man. I have taught too many hundreds of priests, I have taught too much theology, I have read too many books, I have listened to too many confused priests, religious. Learned theologians who are not clear on this most basic truth of our faith – as a God Who had been on earth from the moment He created it, entered this earth as man at the moment that Mary said, “Be it done to me according to your Word.”

We go on. We, therefore, believe that is why God sent His angel, which means His messenger, to invite Mary to become His mother. Mary then, always say it, I repeat, I know too much theology, I know too many theologians, I am too painfully aware of the confusion, the blindness as so many I still hope somehow believing minds, not to insist that we have no doubt that, that young girl of Nazareth became the Mother of God. The child in her body was her Creator. Flesh of her flesh but the eternal Son of God of the Eternal Father. Consequently, the newly conceived child in Mary’s womb was true God and true man, full God and full man, real God and real man. And you don’t tamper with those adjectives, true, full and real without ceasing to be a Christian.

Why did God do this? He did this in order that God might acquire a new name – Jesus, which means Savior and there are two prepositional phrases we should always immediately identify with the name, Jesus. He is our Savior from sin and for Heaven. From the sin we inherited from our first parents, from the sins we have committed personally over the years, and from the sin, sin do I say, the ocean of sin into which we came the moment we were born. We came, my friends, into a sinful world. He is our Savior for Heaven. Hear it. For the Heaven we are to enjoy on earth. I hope you have heard this before. The experience of God’s presence, my favorite theological definition of Heaven provided as we trust we are in the state of God’s friendship, He is present – what a cheap verb – within us. So close, and the only thing that would be greater would be that we would become which we are not – divine. He is our Savior for the Heaven that awaits us in God’s vision, in the life to come. All of this is locked up in that divine treasury which has a name – Jesus.

Implications In Our Spiritual Life

Now some implications. Given the vastness of our subject and the impossibility of doing it full justice, let’s just choose three. Why did God become man? Because He loves us. So what follows? God loves us and He couldn’t have, mind you, this is the omniscient God, He could not have invented a more powerful manifestation of His love, than by becoming, literally, one of us. So, what are we supposed to do? Love Him! In order with His grace to become like Him. This is not a cheap twist of language. God became man so we might become like God.

Second implication – God become man because he wanted to teach us how we are to become like him. So what did He do? He taught us. He called Himself the Teacher. Well, if He is the teacher, we better be His students. And Christ coined a word – the word is disciple. Meaning what? Meaning one who has learned. Learned from whom? Learned from Christ what He, Who is God in human form has come into the world to teach us. We are, therefore, to strive with all the power at our disposal to learn everything we can from this Jesus Who is our God.

Finally, why did God become man? To show how much He loves us, to teach us the way to salvation from sin and for Heaven. But especially that He might give us the example so that behaving like Him as man, we might become like Him, Who is God. In a word, God became man. He, the Almighty, took on human virtues. You name them, He had them. So that by following His example on earth, we might possess his company in the world to come.


Let’s close with a short prayer: Lord, Jesus Christ, our God become man, we believe what you said with human lips because every word you spoke is the Word of God. We love you with our whole heart because we now know how much you love us and we shall follow you all the way from Nazareth to Calvary because in following you we are following in your footsteps, the footsteps of our God all the way from earth to Heaven. Amen. In the Name of Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Conference Transcription from a retreat that Fr. Hardon
gave to the Handmaids of the Precious Blood

Mother of Sorrows Recordings, Inc.
Handmaids of the Precious Blood
Cor Jesu Monastery
P.O. Box 90
Jemez Springs, NM  87025

Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica

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