CONFESSING JESUS AS THE CHRIST
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 JOHN 2:22-28; JOHN 1:19-28 ]
Today, the identity of Jesus is still on trial. Some think that Jesus is just a man, admittedly a great man. He could be considered as one of the great prophets. This was how His compatriots perceived him during His time. When Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” (Mk 8:27) They answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” (Mk 8:28) Others might even believe that He was the Messiah, the Anointed One of God. But this does not go far enough.
The confession of the Christian about Jesus is nothing less than this declaration of St Peter, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Mt 16:16) Indeed, this is what St John sought to testify to us about Jesus. At the end of the gospel, he concluded by saying, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” (Jn 20:30f)
Yesterday, when we celebrated the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, it was a feast not so much in honour of our Blessed Mother but of Jesus who was truly born of the Virgin Mary as man, even though He remained as God. In calling Mary the Mother of God, the Church wants to affirm that the Word of God is made flesh in Jesus. Jesus is one person who is truly divine and human. Jesus is the Incarnate Word. Hence, it is proper to call Mary the Mother of God, the Son who is divine and Jesus, the son of Mary. The person of Jesus is therefore the Eternal Word who, after the incarnation, remains as one person with two natures, divine and human.
For this reason, any confession of Jesus’ identity that falls short of declaring that Jesus is the God-Man in one person would compromise the identity of Jesus. This explains why St John says in the first reading, “The man who denies that Jesus is the Christ – he is the liar; he is Antichrist; and he is denying the Father as well as the Son, because no one who has the Father can deny the Son, and to acknowledge the Son is to have the Father as well.” To deny that Jesus is the Anointed One of God, the Messiah and the Son of the living God, would have far-reaching implications.
Denying the divinity of Christ would mean that we do not know the Father. As St John wrote, “The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard. He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.” (Jn 3:31,32, 34-36) Jesus speaks the Word of the Father and is identified with Him. He said to Philip, “ Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.” (Jn 14:10f)
And if we do not know the Father, we also do not know our identity as His children. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” (1 Jn 3:1) Only in Christ who is the Son of God can we share in His sonship by adoption, not by nature.
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.” (Rom 8:14f) Jesus is the One who reveals to us our identity as sons and daughters of the Father. Not only did He reveal to us our identity, He made it possible for us to share in the life of the Father. St Paul wrote, “When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” (Rom 8:15-17)
How, then, do we know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? St John the Baptist gives us the answer. Only because Jesus Christ is the Anointed One of God that He could anoint us with the Holy Spirit. That was why John the Baptist said to the people, “I baptise with water; but there stands among you – unknown to you – the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal strap.” St Mark elaborated further when he wrote, “I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mk 1:8) We are able to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God only because Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit. This was His promise when He told the disciples before His departure from this world. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” (Jn 14:16f)
Indeed, the Holy Spirit will lead us to Him because He is the Spirit of Truth. All of us who are anointed in the Holy Spirit will know that Jesus is Lord and God. “But you have not lost the anointing that he gave you, and you do not need anyone to teach you; the anointing he gave teaches you everything; you are anointed with truth, not with a lie, and as it has taught you, so you must stay in him.” This Spirit of Truth of course is given not primarily to the individuals but to the Church at large under the guidance of the successors of the apostles. “The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples’ supernatural discernment in matters of faith when ‘from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful’ they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth. It is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the word of God. Through it, the people of God adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints, penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life.” (Lumen Gentium 12a)
Most of all, we already have a foretaste of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us as a pledge of our salvation. “In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.” (Eph 1:13f)
In the final analysis, the real proof that we believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God is not by mere profession alone but by living the life of Christ in us. It is when we live in Jesus and He lives in us that we live the life of the Spirit in us, “Keep alive in yourselves what you were taught in the beginning: as long as what you were taught in the beginning is alive in you, you will live in the Son and in the Father; and what is promised to you by his own promise is eternal life. Live in Christ, then, my children, so that if he appears, we may have full confidence, and not turn from him in shame at his coming.”
So let us follow John the Baptist, seeking to point people to Christ the Son of the Living God. Sometimes we might appear to be that lone voice crying out in the wilderness, but our task is to point people to Jesus. We must be careful not to preach ourselves and make ourselves the focal point in our witnessing for Christ. Like John the Baptist, we must decrease so that He might increase. We are called to lead others to Him so that others can say, “The Lord has made known his salvation; has shown his justice to the nations. He has remembered his truth and love for the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Shout to the Lord, all the earth, ring out your joy.”
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
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