I Believe in Jesus Christ,
the Only Son of God, Our Lord
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
The second article
of the Apostles Creed is the foundation of our Christian faith. It is at
once a profession of our belief that God became man in the person of Jesus
Christ and that the Incarnate God is the Lord, who is the Master of our eternal
Who, then, is Jesus
Christ? He is the second Person of the Holy Trinity, whom the Father sent
into the world to save the human race from sin. Having lost the friendship
of God by sin, mankind could not regain this life of grace any more than a
man who is dead can bring himself to life again.
synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus professed His divinity.
So true was this that it was the main ground for His condemnation to death.
Caiphas the high priest questioned Jesus about His claims to divinity, I
put you on oath, by the living God, to tell us if you are the Christ, the
Son of God. Jesus answered, The words are your own (Mt 26:62-66).
However, it was
the apostle John who was the most emphatic in portraying Christ as, at once,
true man and true God.
humanity, John was refuting the Docetae, who disclaimed the Incarnation on
the premise that since matter was evil, God could not have become man.
is explicit about Christs oneness with the Father and His divine nature.
As a result, many so-called biblical scholars are reduced to dismissing Johns
writings as pious exaggerations superimposed on the simple message of the
One episode in
the fourth Gospel illustrates this principle. Jesus had just affirmed His
oneness with God the Father, and His unbelieving listeners reacted immediately.
Says the evangelist, The Jews fetched stones to stone Him, so Jesus said
to them, I have done many good works for you to see, works from my Father;
for which of these are you stoning me? The Jews answered Him, We are not
stoning you for doing a good work, but for blasphemy; you are only a man,
and you claim to be God (Jn 10:24-33).
As we move from
the biblical record to the Churchs infallible teaching, the defense of Christs
divinity becomes the cornerstone of Catholic doctrine. The first six ecumenical
councils concentrated on defending Christs true divinity united with His
By the year 451
AD, the Council of Chalcedon drafted what has since come to be the final classic
expression of faith on the person of Christ. It affirmed all the doctrinal
definitions of the Catholic faith on what we believe about the Incarnate God.
- We believe that Christ assumed a real human body. We believe that He assumed
not only a body, but also a rational soul. He therefore has a divine and human
mind, a divine and human will.
- We believe that the two natures in Christ are united to form one individual.
Christ is one person, the second person of the Trinity.
- We believe that in Christ, each of the two natures remains unimpaired. They
are not confused or changed in their respective properties; nor are they divided
or separated, as though merely existing side by side. We believe that in becoming
man, Christ was and remains true God, one in nature with the Father.
- We believe that even as man, Christ is absolutely sinless. He not only did
not sin, but He could not sin because He was God.
- We believe that since Christ is one person, whatever He did (or does) was
(and is) done simultaneously by both natures, although in different ways.
This applies not only to what Jesus was and did in first century Palestine.
It applies also to what He is and does in the twentieth century by His presence
in the Holy Eucharist.
The Incarnation as the Humiliation of God
From now on, our
focus in this conference will be on how we are to put into practice the mystery
of our faith in the Incarnation. Our plan is to cover the following aspects
of an oceanic subject: the Incarnation as the humiliation of God, the humility
of Christ Himself which He practiced during His visible stay on earth, Christs
teaching on the virtue and practice of humility, and finally, on what is our
Why is the Incarnation
the humiliation of God? Because whatever else humility is, it is most certainly
self-abasement, a lowering of oneself. Humilis in Latin is the adjective
corresponding to humus, black dirt. With the dawn of Christianity,
all the words of the pagan Roman vocabulary changed their meaning.
told the Philippians of his day, and is telling the Philippians of all times,
that the most difficult virtue for a human being to practice is humility.
Consequently, in the first century as in the twentieth century, the followers
of Christ must be powerfully motivated to practice humility. The deepest motive
that St. Paul, under divine inspiration, could give us is the fact that God
became man. He humbled Himself so that we proud creatures of flesh might be
humble. We are not naturally humble. And the primary grace we need to even
become humble, let alone grow in humility, is grace in the mind. We must see
more clearly and more deeply what we already believe: that the Incarnation
was God humiliating Himself, so that like Him, we too might be humble.
As far as God could,
He emptied Himself of all the glory that He had a title to. He could not have
become less than a human being. The lowest rank of creature that God could
become identified with was a man. By His Incarnation, God humbled Himself
to the limits of divine ingenuity.
What a lesson for
us! Where would you find a person, I dont say who accepts all the humiliation
that comes into his life, but goes beyond that in even wondering, How can
I become more humble? What is the most humiliating thing that God could do
to me? The most humiliating thing that God Himself could do was to become
one of His creatures, and not even an angel, but only a speechless Child.
The Humility of Christ
Everything in Christs
earthly life, from conception to the grave, everything was a manifestation
of that mysterious attribute of God: His humility. We do not even need to
be literate to be able to understand this kind of humility. He came into the
world as a helpless infant. And this is the almighty Word of God, by whom
the world came into being. He hid what He had and who He was. For nine months
He was hidden in His mothers womb. For thirty years He lived, as faith tells
us, in total obscurity. Then, in His public life, from the moment He began
to preach and proclaim the Gospel, He was not accepted, even by His fellow
Nazarenes. Remember? Small wonder that He had so few true followers.
The modern world
tells us if you want people to appreciate you, if you want them to recognize
you, the last thing you want to do is to go into hiding, and the last thing
you tell people to do is what they dont like to do. That is the central theme
of Dale Carnegies book How to Win Friends and Influence People. This
book has sold millions of copies. We almost want to say that Christ found
a way of making enemies and angering people, and He did so by the simple,
expedient of being Himself and telling people the truth. If you want a lot
of friends, do not tell them the truth.
Jesus taught the
apostles, His chosen followers, far into the night. What happened? They just
did not get it. I can speak from experience; the most humiliating thing for
a teacher is to see that His students do not grasp what he is trying to tell
opposition on all sides. What a contrast in the six days from Palm Sunday
to Good Friday! Hosanna, hosanna, the crowd shouted on Palm Sunday, and
on Good Friday: Crucify Him! One thing that Christ teaches us is the fickleness
of human praise. Christ was betrayed by one of His own followers, scourged
and crowned with thorns. Why did He allow it? Because He is God. He wanted
to make sure that we understand what it means not only to reluctantly accept
humiliation, but seek humiliation, sincerely welcome it when it comes.
Christ's Teaching of Humility
Christ taught first
of all by example. Remember when John the Baptist remonstrated with the Master
on the shore of the Jordan? John couldnt bring himself to do it. Look, I
should be baptized by you, in effect telling Christ, Please get out of the
water. And Jesus told him, No, thats the way it must be; thats the way
the prophecies about me are to be fulfilled.
He is to be a suffering
servant. We see His long years of subjection to two of His own creatures,
Mary and Joseph, holy people; but they were creatures.
And then there
is that unforgettable scene at the Last Supper. Just before He was going to
undergo His passion, the one thing Christ made absolutely sure, the last lesson
He would teach His apostles was a lesson in humility. He took a pan of water
and a towel and started with Peter. Said Peter, Not me, Lord; thats beneath
you. But, Peter, if I dont wash your feet, you cannot be my disciple.
Oh, all right, wash them.
Christ taught us
humility by His words: Take up My yoke upon you and learn of me,
because I am meek and humble of heart: and you shall find rest for your souls
(Mt 11:29). To follow Christ, to carry His yoke, to be His disciples, there
is no choice. Either we are going to be humble as His disciples, or no matter
what vesture we may have around us, no matter what name people may give us,
we are only as true followers of Christ as we are humble. Then he gives His
promise: and you shall find rest for your souls.
He is not only
talking about that final eternal rest to which we all aspire. I have yet to
meet a proud tranquil person. Proud people are worried; proud people are disturbed;
proud people are restless. What a task we have to examine our lives and to
ask ourselves: How truly am I a follower of Christ, judging by my preoccupation
with so many things? How little it takes to disturb me.
be greater among you, let Him be your servants; even as the Son of Man did
not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life as a
redemption for many (Mk 43:45).
superhuman humility in order to teach us that if we are going to grow in virtue,
we must start with humility. There is no virtue which is not weakened, which
is not diseased, which is not infected, unless that virtue is possessed in
I am in the midst
of you as He that serves (Lk 22:25). Human beings do not like to be beholden
or dependent on anyone. As all parents know, a child of three years can have
a stubborn will! We dont have to learn pride, we are born with it. It is
humility that we have to keep learning and relearning. And the great teacher
and master of humility is God become Man.
You call me Master
and Lord; and you say well, for so I am. If I then being your Lord and Master
have washed your feet, you also should wash one anothers feet. For I have
given you an example, that as I have done to you, you do also (Jn 13:13-15).
May I suggest that
at least once a day you recall what Christ told His disciples and is telling
us every day. Whose feet, practically speaking, have I washed today? Before
whom have I allowed myself to be humiliated or lowered in that persons estimation?
for the following of Christ on its moral side is not only the practice of
humility, but growth in humility. Jesus Christ is our model and inspiration
for both the practice of humility and growth in this virtue. He is also the
source of grace that we need to be able to become humble.
The great St. Theresa
of Avila defined humility as the truth. There are two parts of this reflection
on the meaning of humility as truth. On the one hand, humility does not overreach
itself. Humility is the true estimate I have of myself, recognizing who I
am, and not making claims or boasts for what I do not possess. Unlike us,
Christ could not overreach Himself.
When is humility
truth? When we think and act like we really are, and we do not have any higher
estimation of who we are or what we can do than really and truly is the case.
To remain and grow in humility in following Christ, we must keep reminding
ourselves of who we are: we are creatures. God the Creator became one of
His own creatures in order to protect us from the folly of thinking more of
ourselves than we really are. We are, except for God, absolutely nothing.
Even as Christ
revealed His own dependence on the heavenly Father, He showed dependence on
Mary and Joseph, and dependence on the cruel Jewish Sanhedrin, who finally
brought Him to His death.
I strongly recommend
that you decide on what ways you can daily protect yourself from your pride.
We are all naturally proud. And the only way known to God and to man for lessening
our pride is to walk the hard, rough road of humiliation. Welcome the humiliations
in your life; cherish them; thank God for receiving them. Remember, the royal
road of humility is paved with the sharp stones of humiliations. We dont
have to go around asking people: I need more humility, would you mind humiliating
me? They may say, You idiot! And we should say, Thanks.
That is the first
meaning of our humility in the following of Christ, in not overestimating,
or overreaching ourselves. But there is another side to humility. Here again,
the Son of God in human form is our perfect model to imitate. Humility also
means that we do not under reach ourselves. Whatever we are, everything we
have is a merciful gift from God. We were nothing, but we are not nothing
now. We are children of God; we are loved by God; we possess graces and gifts,
talents and abilities that God wants us to put into constant practice.
The hardest thing
for many people is to balance these two forms of humility. Some people have
almost an instinctive problem with the first kind of humility. They do not
have much, but this does not protect them from finding something in themselves
to be proud of.
Other people, however,
do not under reach themselves with the gifts that God has given them. And
we may be such persons. God never gives us anything to be stared at or hugged
for ourselves. We are to be channels of grace for others. We may be gifted
people who do not put to use the gifts which God has given us, always for
His greater glory and correspondingly, for the good of souls.
St. Bernard relates
how on one occasion he was to speak to thousands of people. As he walked up
to the pulpit he said to himself: Bernard, get down. You are going to preach
this sermon so that people will say how eloquent Bernard is. For a moment,
he hesitated, then he told the devil, You liar. I did not prepare to speak
for my own glory, and I will not be silent because you tell me I am proud
of what people will think of me as an eloquent orator.
The more gifted
we are, the more talents and graces God has given us, let us not do what the
man in the parable did. He hid the one talent he possessed. Gifted people
have to work harder, much harder, to remain humble than those who are less
talented than they.
Christ, the living
God, is our perfect model for the imitation that we need to practice the humility
that God became Man mainly to teach us. God abased Himself to the limit, to
teach us, proud creatures, the meaning of humility. But Christ never allowed
anyone to doubt who He was, and what He should do. He did the will of His
Father, was faithful to what the Father wanted, even though it meant working
The Litany of
Humility was composed by the private Secretary of St. Pius X, Cardinal
Merry del Val. Anyone who knows the history of Pius X will appreciate the
depth of meaning and the ocean of grace that his secretary obtained for himself
and for the Vicar of Christ by living up to the invocations of this litany
which he composed.
Lord Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, deliver me, O Jesus
That others may be loved more than I, Lord Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Lord Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Lord Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Lord Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I go unnoticed, Lord Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Lord Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Lord Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
Copyright © 1997 by Inter Mirifica