February 2, 2020

FEBRUARY 2, 2020


This Sunday we look forward to an annual sporting event that totally captivates our nation’s attention. That event is Super Bowl LIV (number 54 for those of you, like me, who are not very good with Roman numerals!). We also, as Church, celebrate the Feast of the Presentation.

Almost everyone is familiar with the Super Bowl but just what is the Feast of the Presentation? In today’s Gospel reading from Luke, we hear that Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him in the Temple as it was written in the law that every male child shall be consecrated to the Lord. Luke writes that there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon and he was awaiting the salvation of Israel. The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. So, while Simeon was in the temple, Mary and Joseph brought their child Jesus there to perform the custom of the law, the Presentation. Simeon took Jesus into his arms and blessed God saying, “My eyes have seen your salvation which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” Simeon recognized the child Jesus as being the long-awaited Messiah! Luke writes that Mary and Joseph were amazed at what Simeon had said about Jesus. Once they fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law in the Temple they returned home. Luke states that the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom and the favor of God was upon him. Jesus would grow, become strong and become wiser as each year passed. Just like every other human child

But the difference between this child Jesus and every other child is that there is another nature in Jesus. Jesus not only possesses a human nature, like us, but he also possesses a Divine nature. From the start, The Fathers of the Church taught that Jesus is fully human and fully Divine. Theologians refer to this as the “hypostatic union”. He does not possess some blend or fusion of these two natures, but rather two fully distinct natures. As time went on, humans, as we tend to do, came up with differing interpretations on a theme. (Sort of like what we do to this day among our political parties!) Contrasting philosophies developed about the “composition” of Jesus Christ giving rise to many heresies in the early Church with strange-sounding names like “Arianism” which is a belief asserting that Christ was not God like the Father, but a creature made in time and subservient to the Father. This diminishes the full Divinity of Jesus. It was condemned by the Council of Constantinople in the year 381. Our Nicene Creed which we often recite at Mass confirms our belief when it states that Jesus is in fact “consubstantial with the Father”.

Another variation on a theme is “Apollinarianism” which promotes the idea that Jesus had a human nature but not a human soul. Instead his divine nature took the place of a human soul. This diminishes the full humanity of Jesus. It too was condemned by the Council of Constantinople.

As a final example, at the risk that your head may explode since there are so many more to ponder, is “Nestorianism” which agrees there are two natures in Jesus but only because there are two persons in him. This is the kind of stuff that keeps heretics awake at night!

As Catholics I trust we feel confident in the existence of two natures present in Jesus Christ, fully human and fully Divine. So, I would like to focus on Jesus’ human nature for a moment and examine why it was absolutely vital that Jesus became fully human just like us. In today’s reading from the Letter to the Hebrews we hear “Since the children share in blood and flesh, Jesus likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the Devil . . . Surely he did not help angels but rather the descendants of Abraham; therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.”

With all that being said, let’s go back to the Super Bowl which is where we started. The only remaining deep theological question to be considered is: since Jesus has a fully human nature, just like us, does he want the Chiefs or the 49ers to win the Super Bowl?
Deacon Bob

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