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Retreat on the Credo
Faith in Jesus Christ
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
In the second article of the Creed we say, "I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord." If in the first article of the Creed we found seven truths, in this one we find four. There are four mysteries locked up in this second article of the Apostles' Creed. They are Jesus, and Christ, and the Only Son of God, and our Lord.
Remember the parable of the Sower? where the one kind of seed - all good seed - fell on different kinds of ground. Only the last soil was good and produced fruit. The first of the unfertile kind of ground was the kind Christ says fell on the wayside. And, the Savior explained, these are the people who having received the word of God, failed to understand it. And because they failed to understand, the evil one comes along and steals the word of God from their hearts. I believe most people who lose their faith, as the expression goes, lose it because they don't understand what they believe. This is the main reason we are going over these twelve articles of the prosaic Apostles' Creed, to make sure that we understand what we believe and why.
These four facets are actually four titles for the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity made Man. Each title is rich in revealed meaning and each has profound consequences in our daily lives, provided we understand what we believe.
Jesus. We first of all say we believe in Jesus. This holy name means Savior or Redeemer. To say "Jesus Christ" is to say "Savior Christ." The name was revealed by the angel first to Mary and then to Joseph. Mary was told, "You are to conceive and bear a Son and you must name Him Jesus." After Mary had become with Child, Joseph caught in the dilemma was told, "Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a Son and you must name Him Jesus, because He is the One Who is to save His people from their sins." Note the difference. Mary was told to name her Child Jesus, Joseph was told why. Mary was not told Joseph was.
Jesus is therefore our Savior four times over. He saved us from the guilt we incurred from our first parents; He saved us from our own personal sins; He savesus for the grace He merited by His Passion and Death; He saves us for the heaven to I which we look forward in eternity. He is both Savior from and Savior for, Savior from the evil of sin and Savior for the grace we need on earth and the glory we are looking forward to after death.
Christ. The name Christ means in Hebrew Messiah, in Greek Christos, and in English the Anointed: all perfect synonyms. We ask ourselves the not strange question: how on earth or how in heaven is Jesus the Anointed One? The Church tells us Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One by reason of the Incarnation. In the Old Testament priests, prophets and kings were anointed, that is, covered with oil poured over their heads. In virtue of this anointing with oil they received special powers and privileges from God; priests to offer sacrifice, prophets to teach, and kings to rule the Chosen People of God.
The New Testament began the moment Jesus was anointed, that means the moment He was conceived in Mary's womb. What are we saying? We are saying that at the moment of the Incarnation Christ's human nature was anointed with the Divinity. No anointing ever before done on any priest, prophet or king was as total and complete as this one. The Man Jesus had, as it were, the Divinity poured over Him so completely that whatever Christ did as a human being was also always the action of God. When Jesus talked it was God speaking; when Jesus was silent, as He was for quite sometime: nine months in Mary's womb and for sometime after His birth, it was God. The Word of God that brought the world into being out of nothing, That was speechless. When Jesus walked it was God walking; when Jesus ate it was God eating. One of the most beautiful aspects of St. Francis of Assisi: Francis before He would drink a glass of water would look at it for a moment and tell himself, "This is the same water that my God drank." When he looked at the sun or the moon or the stars, when he walked the streets, he'd tell himself, "It is the same sun warming me that warmed Him, it's the same ground on which He walked, my God, with human feet."
In a word, Christ is simply God in human form. All of that is locked up in that so frequently used word Christos. The whole of that human nature was totally, hypostatically united, conjoined to form one being with God.
His Only Son. This of course refers to Christ as God, Who is the Only Son of the heavenly Father. The important word here is Only Son. Why is important to stress and why does the Creed contain the word Only? Why not say His Son? Why His Only Son? Well because though all of us are children of God by creation and the adopted children of God by grace, none of us is the natural Son of God. You see, only One Person has the same nature as God and that is the Second Person Who became Man. Only this One Person is coeternal with the Father, co-almighty with the Father. Only One Person like the Father is all-holy, all-perfect, all-wise, and all-good. This One Person became a human being and this One Unique Person is Jesus Christ.
Our Lord. This is the favorite term for Jesus in the letters of St. Paul. He is called Kyrios, Lord. And this refers not only to the Second Person, but more specifically to Jesus Christ. As God Jesus is Lord of the universe because He is its Creator; as Man He is the Lord of the human race because He redeemed it by His Blood. I found eight synonyms in the New Testament for the word Lord.
Because He is our Lord He is our King and we are therefore His subjects. He is our Master and we are therefore His disciples. He is our sovereign and we are therefore His servants. He is our Prince and we are therefore those under Him, we are His underlings. He is our ruler, let's make sure we are the ruled. By the way, the Latin word for to rule is either regere or regulare. We are only as ruled as we allow ourselves to be regulated. Who wants to be regulated today! As our Lord He is our Head and we are only His members. He is our Chief and we you coin the word.
As our Lord He is our Leader and we are supposed to be the led. He is our Shepherd and He wants us to be His humble, docile sheep.
Some further reflections on the application on these four great titles. Each of these four facets of the second article of the Creed contains many practical implications of our spiritual life. Lest I forget, you know the difference between an implication and an application? An implication you see with the mind, an application you use with the will. The secret is to put the implications into practice.
Jesus. The Holy Name of Jesus is the most sacred word of our faith. It is at once a title and a prayer and a mystery. It is the title of God Who became Man precisely that He might redeem the human race as a human being. He might have, had He so chosen to redeem the human race by an act of His divine will. But no; He wanted to redeem the human race by an act of His divine will and His human will, by His divine will in taking on human nature, and by his human will by voluntarily submitting Himself finally to the agony on the Cross, so that He would teach us. It is therefore the title of One Who is born to suffer, because it is by His suffering that we are redeemed.
Jesus is the single most powerful prayer we can say. At the name of Jesus demons are put to flight and in the Church's ritual of exorcism no single prayer is said more often or more efficaciously than the Holy Name. At the name of Jesus miracles are worked, as the first recorded miracle worked by Peter and John at the gate called Beautiful. Christ had foretold what wonders would be worked in His name. Peter was new in the apostolate, he had never put that into practice. The man asked for a handout; Peter figured: I might just as well try it now. "Silver and gold we don't have, but what we have we give you."(He probably glanced at John, "John, will you pray that it works.") "In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, get up and walk." Unless that paralytic had got up and walked there would be no Christianity today.
At the name of Jesus grace is poured into the soul, because those who invoked this name profess their faith in a Man Who is God. Everything, everything else depends on this act of faith.
Jesus is finally a mystery. The word mystery is the same as the word sacrament. It contains hidden within it the powers of the divinity and may be called a quasi-sacrament that confers the grace it signifies when spoken with a firm belief in Christ's words. Reread the last verses of the Gospel of Mark that are sadly missing from all Protestant bibles. "In My Name they will cast out devils, they will have the gift of tongues, they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison, they will lay their hands on the sick who will recover." Christ couldn't have been more clear or more emphatic than when He told his disciples and is telling us, "Whatsoever you ask in My Name I will do for you." Let's make sure we know what we are meditating on: on one condition: that we use His Name with faith.
Second implication: Christ. The name of Christ has become part of our own name; that's why we are called Christians. As such we too are anointed. Our anointing took place at baptism and without becoming divine, the expression the Church uses is that our human nature was divinized. As
Christians we are the specially chosen people of God; we have a dignity that we should respect and a sublimity that deserves to be better known. As Christians we have the power to do things that no one else but a Christian can perform. Because we bear Christ's name we have the duty to behave like Christians, which means Christ's, we belong to Christ; we have the duty to become more and more like Christ, and we have a claim on His grace that no one else shares: we belong to His family.
We profess to believe that this Jesus is the Only Son of God. I don't think it is too often we avert to the fact, but it should be emphasized that Jesus Christ is God because He is the natural Son of the Father, One in Being with the Father, and therefore equally to be praised and honored and adored. We are therefore to pay as much attention to Christ as we would to God Himself, believing as we do that this Man is Divine, ask mercy from Him, adore Him, pay Him homage, beg Him for what we need. In a word, God has become Man, He is NOW Man and He wants us no longer to just direct our attention or our affection or our adoration just to the invisible Trinity. Otherwise, as once He complained to Teresa of Avila, "Why did I become Man? Would you please adore Me." So she did. He Jesus is God, He IS God, no make-believe, He IS GOD.
Finally, our Lord. It is important therefore to think of Jesus as not only our Savior, which He is, but as our Lord, which He also is. One of the most unexpected definitions that the Church has ever made she made in the sixteenth century to answer the so-called Reformers. Here is what the Church defined: "When God became Man He not only became our Savior - Jesus, He also became our Lord." This means that we have commandments from God as God in the Old Testament; they are known as the Decalogue; but we also have commands from the God-Man and they are throughout the gospels but especially in the Sermon on the Mount and the sermon at the Last Supper. There is a series of imperatives from Christ telling us to be humble, chaste, obedient, poor, merciful, gentle, patient, peaceable, enduring, and above all charitable. I want to stress that these are commands.
Sometimes we suppose, and there is enough of what I call theological pornography seducing people from the truth to leave the impression that in the Old Testament God indeed gave precepts: Thou shalt, thou shalt not, but that something happened to God between the Old and the New Testament and all of a sudden in the New, Christ is giving us only exhortations. What a mistake! "If you love Me," Christ tells us "keep My commandments." This is the Lord of the universe speaking. Let's not be misled by the human voice: the authority behind it is God's. And just before His ascension He told the disciples "to teach all nations to observe all the commands I have given you." Don't you think this needs stress in these easygoing love this and love that days? Of course we are to love, but in the name of Jesus we are to love by keeping His commands.
Jesus, I believe that You are my Lord: You have the right to command me, and I have the duty to obey. Give me, dear Lord, the strength I need to obey You, and then command what You will. I love You, Jesus, and I wish to show my love by doing Your will, because You are my God.
Conference transcription from a retreat
Copyright © 1998 by Inter Mirifica
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