The Mystery Of Christ, The Incarnate Word Of God
“And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory,
the glory as the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
The mystery of Christ is the second core concept listed in “Forming a People of Faith,”the lifelong-religious-education guidelines for the Diocese of Evansville. “Who do you say that I am?” is the question Jesus asked his disciples. It is the question that is asked of all of us who call ourselves Christian. Who is Jesus to you? What do you know about Jesus? Can you tell someone his story? What do we mean by the Incarnation? How do you explain Jesus’ miracles? Why did Jesus suffer and die? What is the resurrection all about? What is the difference between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith? Is there a difference? Why was Jesus baptized if he was without sin? How is Jesus present to us in the Eucharist and the Word proclaimed? What do we mean when we say Jesus is both human and divine?
These are only a few of the questions that are often asked about Jesus, especially by individuals wishing to become Catholic. They are questions that most of us who have been Catholic all of our lives continue to ask ourselves.
The guidelines identify three specific facets of the mystery of Christ concerning which adult Catholics should not only have knowledge of but also should demonstrate their understanding of in their lives. First, we should be able to articulate the meaning of the Incarnation. The Incarnation, celebrated on Dec. 25 each year, is the mystery of God assuming human nature, enfleshed in Jesus Christ. Jesus was born and grew to adulthood sharing our human experiences of tiredness, frustration, hunger and loneliness. The historical Jesus preached, taught and brought healing throughout Palestine. His message of the Kingdom of God was transformational. It was a message that called for a radical change in one’s life. As we hear Christ’s words proclaimed in worship and study them in classes or discussion groups, we must be changed by the message. We can grasp that message only through faith. The Incarnation is the “good news.” We are to integrate Jesus into our lives as both savior and friend.
We demonstrate our knowledge of the second facet of the mystery of Christ in our ability to speak with understanding of Christ’s life, death and resurrection as the distinctive sign of Christian faith. In our teaching, we call this the Paschal Mystery. We celebrate this mystery every Sunday at Mass. Then we integrate it into our lives through our experiences of dying and rising to new life, whether in crisis situations or in the ups and downs of contemporary living. We recognize the risen Christ in all our relationships and in the Church.
The guidelines suggest that the third facet of the Mystery of Christ is our recognition that through Jesus, God established a relationship of particular intimacy with us. Adults of faith develop a relationship with Jesus that is modeled on their experiences of human relationships. As we reflect on and live out our faith, we grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ.
This core concept concerning the mystery of Christ is fundamental to our knowledge of ourselves as Christians. Our belief in Jesus is what makes us distinctive from other religious forms and traditions. He is the essence of who we are as Church, as Eucharistic people. The guidelines in “Forming a People of Faith” help us to understand more fully both the Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery, and how their power impacts all aspects of our lives.
Who is Jesus for you? That is a central question of our faith.