BASICS OF CATHOLICISM: 7. THE INCARNATION
May 20, 2019
Part 3 – The Life of Christ in the world
In parts 1-2 of this section on the Incarnation, we considered details of the mystery of God in human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, including the very truth that God wills to take on our human nature in its fullness while remaining fully God, being born into humanity through the Virgin Mary. Now, we look at some basic details of Jesus’ life in the world, leading to and in accomplishing His saving works.
In the most general way, it is fitting to say that Jesus lived the fullness of a human life. He was born into the world in a natural human birth into a family. Though impoverished, the family of Jesus lived with needs for food, clothing, and shelter, with Joseph working as a carpenter or craftsman in order to provide. Much of Jesus’ childhood through his young adulthood remains hidden from us. However, it is clear from the Scriptures that Jesus grew in wisdom and knowledge, always remaining obedient to Mary and Joseph (see Luke 2:51-52). At the same time, as shown in the story of the Jesus being in the Temple in the
midst of the teachers, it is clear that Jesus is aware of His particular relationship with God the Father – in particular, in his statement “did you not know I must be in my Father’s house” in reply to Mary and Joseph after their search for him (Luke 2:49).
When the time for His public life begins, Jesus begins to show openly that which had remained hidden: that he is the Son of God. While his message often centers on the Kingdom of God and the call of the people to repent and believe the gospel, His revelation of His true identity (as God) includes such manifestations as were made visible at His baptism and at the Transfiguration. In addition, each and all of the miracles manifest His divinity (as only God has true power over nature to do good), while pointing toward the healing, forgiveness of sins, restoration, and the completion in the fullness of the Kingdom. Finally, His words themselves (recalling that He Himself is “the Word made Flesh”) reveal who He is and His purpose. Both the authority of His word itself to reveal the fullness of truth (as in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7), and in particular, the multiple times in the Gospel according to John where Jesus reveals himself saying “I am,” show Jesus to be no mere teacher or even prophet, but Almighty God.
As Jesus makes known His true identity and His saving works, we also see His union with all of humanity in His remaining subject to temptation and physical suffering. Likewise, there are expressions of Jesus showing human emotion recorded in the Gospels. Finally, we see times where Jesus goes off to be alone in prayer, and even moments when he is asleep.
All told, the earthly life of Jesus both reveals to us who He is as God and what it means to live the fullness of the human life. Each and every detail of the life of Jesus – even those which remain hidden from us – expresses something of “who” God is and “who” we as human beings were created to be. Having lived what might seem by our standards a short life, Jesus accomplishes this revelation of God to the effect that nothing necessary for our salvation remains hidden – though this revelation and the works of salvation are not complete until he undergoes his death, resurrection, ascension, and sends the Holy Spirit – each of which will be covered in the forthcoming installments.
For further reading: In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 512-570 reflect on the mysteries of the life and ministry of Christ in the world prior to His saving death and resurrection.