Why Jesus Christ

Why Jesus Christ

 By Fr Habib Jajou

London 9/2011

 Introduction

 In the liturgy of St. Addai and Mari Mass, the celebrant confesses Christ as God and Lord, King, saviour, the giver of life, and the forgiver of sins. Why does the Church teach that all catechesis must be Christ-centered, and how Christology, the study of Christ, is essential to catechesis? I will try to answer the above question focusing on seven points: the early Church experience; the economy of God the Father; the Ultimate History; the Old Testament and Christ; the Christ’s titles; Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer; and finally, He been representative of the human being. In every point, I will analyze the objective from the information and how we reach it. 

Jesus of Nazareth is the source, the content, and the object of catechesis as the Fourth General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops stressed,[1] for the following reasons:

 

  1. The Experience of the Early Church

 

A large number of documents of Fathers of the Church have shown that their wisdom, use of Scripture, when praying or worshiping, and all their writings have centered on Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that nobody comes to the Father except through Him. (Jn 14: 60)[2]. Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, Justin the Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian of Carthage, Athanasius, Ephraim, Cyril of Jerusalem and other, all worked to present a faith testimony in Christ. ‘Jesus Christ our God’ said Ignatius of Antioch, and ‘Christ’s blood is as God’s blood’; the Epistle to Diognetus confirms that God the Father sent the Designer and Maker of the universe himself. By Christ ‘He created the heavens and confined the sea within its own bounds’.[3] Tertullian used the early church’s symbol for fish — ΙΧΘΥΣ (Jesus – Christ – God’s Son – Saviour)[4]. One finds a deep faith here that Jesus is the Son, the Logos λóγος who we have to follow on the journey of life. Their faith was, in the first and second century, far from philosophy or any systematic theology. They found Jesus like a saviour because He is Emmanuel. In the third century, they have baptized the Greek philosophy to defend the divinity of Jesus.

 

  1. The God’s Economy

 

The economy of God, quoted in 1Timothy 1: 4, points to God’s providence. It’s the way where God by Christ carry out His good desire for human being. This providence could not been fulfilled except through Jesus Christ. Any Christian Mission will not able to reach the ultimate goal of its massage without focusing on the Person of Jesus Christ. This economy has been revealed in the New Testament by Jesus Christ. By His Grace we may celebrate and live this providence every day. This is when we practice the gifts of the Holy Spirit who has been received through the Father and the Son as the Nicene Creed announced: ‘We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.’[5] The seven Sacraments of the Church all have been established by Jesus Christ. His words and deed has a salvific action. ‘The sacraments are an efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions.’ (CCC1131)[6]

 

  1. Jesus Christ gives the Ultimate meaning of the History (CCC668)

 

Only by Jesus Christ and with His Grace by the Holy Spirit, the faithful are able to recognize the signs of times and the ultimate and the truth of the history as Pope John Paul II said ‘received the gift of the ultimate truth about human life’.[7] Christ centricity means that Christ is the “centre of salvation history”, presented by catechesis. He is indeed the final event toward which all salvation history converges. He, who came in the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), is: “the key, the centre and end of all human history”.

 

The catechetical message helps the Christian to locate himself in salvation history and to insert himself into it. This is by showing that Christ is the ultimate meaning of this history.[8] His suffering on the Cross opened a door of hope to all human suffering. ‘Not only does history reach its end in Jesus Christ, but it also finds its new beginning in Him.’[9]  He is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end (Rev 22: 13) Jesus Christ is the historical One and the Universal redeemer. ‘His universal role means that through Him the deadly forces of evil are overcome, sin is forgiven, their contamination purified, and the new existence as God’s beloved, adopted children has been made available.’[10]

 

  1. The Scriptures

 

Many verses in the New Testament which are Jesus’ words encourage us to search in the Old one. Researcher can easily find out prophecies like (Deut 18: 15) ‘Yahweh your God will raise up a prophet like me; you will listen to him’; (Isa 40: 3-5) ‘…prepare in the desert a way for Yahweh…’ (Mal 3: 1-3) ‘…and suddenly the Lord whom you seek will come to his Temple…’ The Torah and the Prophets testify Christ. ‘You search the scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf.’ Jesus said (John 5: 39) Catechists need to always return to the Scripture when teaching, they find Christ at the centre of the Old Testament, Fathers of the Church writings, and the Church Documents across the history; St Paul, for example, was father of the faithful in Corinthians, but how? In Christ Jesus through the Gospel (1 Cor 4: 15) 

 

  1. The Titles of Jesus

 

Jesus Christ Titles indicate why He should be in the centre of catecheses. Firstly, the word Jesus in the Hebrew and Aramaic Languages means: God is my Rock. He will save people from their sins. Secondly, the word Messiah means the anointed one who in the Old Testament is either Prophet, or a Priest, or a King. Jesus Christ been the Messiah deserves a greater glory than Moses (Heb 3: 3), Lord taken His seat at Yahweh right hand (Ps 110: 1), the supreme high priest who has gone through to the highest heaven (Heb 4: 14) Then, He is Son of Man which means Son of Israel and Jerusalem. It means also that Jesus is like us in all things but sin. Jesus represents the people of God, so He is the true Israel. In the New Testament, God, the Father and Jesus have the title: Lord. Jesus ‘demonstrated his divine sovereignty by works of power over nature, illnesses, demons, death and sin.’ (CCC447).

 

He clearly claimed his divinity (Lk 22: 70; Mt 26:64; Mk 14: 61-62), and according to the first letter to the Corinthians (15: 20-28), Christ has revealed his divinity by rising from dead. The Nicene Creed recognizes that as the Fathers of the Church announced that Jesus is God from God …true God from true God. This was to reconcile, save, redeem, confirm God’s love, being a model of holiness, and to join us to his divine nature. ‘Who, being in the form of God,…emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are;…and for this God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names;…so that all beings …should bend the knee at the name Jesus…as Lord’ (Ph 2: 6- 11). Finally, his coming is Good News for the world.

 

  1. Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer

 

We have mentioned above to the salvation and redemption of God. Scriptures shows different aspects of the experiences and practices of the people of God. Firstly, they were remembering His deeds when were saved from their enemies like Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Assyrians. Because they felt sinfulness, they were confessing their sins appealing Him for forgiveness, but all the rites of sacrifices, expiations and atonements were not able to make this salvation. Only by Jesus Christ, the world was reconciled, saved, and redeemed. People were far from the grace of God, slave to sin, not able to save themselves. People were waiting for the saviour. After the resurrection faithful deeply believe that Jesus has opened the door of the New Jerusalem, which is the new life, the new man/woman who has born again for this new life.

 

  1. Jesus Christ represents the Whole Human Being

 

St Paul said: “As in Adam all men died, so in Christ shall all be made alive’ (1Cor 15: 22). The goal of the incarnation is to justify all believers. However, Christ’s Mission is for all humanity since all have sinned and in need to be saved. This justification is from God, but, only by Jesus Christ. Only God’s suffering through Jesus showed how much is His Divine Love and why He became man (Emmanuel) for our sake. His life was to redeem us ‘for this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.’ (Jn 3: 16) As a result, there is no any human salvation without Christ. Human beings are in need to unite themselves, at least spiritually, with Christ. He was on the Cross for our sake, so there is no life outside of Christ. That is the reason why Christ is the centre of our life as it’s the centre of the Scriptures and the past, present and future of the history.        

 

Conclusion

 

We have seen why the Church teaches that all catechesis must be Christ-centered, and how Christology, the study of Christ, is essential to catechesis. Christ, His titles, the writings of the Fathers of the Church, and the Church Magisterium all shows clearly that He is in the central of God’s economy, the ultimate meaning of the history. And because He also represents the whole Human Being, His Words and Deeds are saving and redeeming them if they believe in the proclamation of the Kingdom of God.

 

This should cover all of the four pillars of catechesis: when promoting knowledge of the faith (GDC 53, 85)[11], when educating about liturgy and prayer ‘By the action of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit they (the Sacraments) make present efficaciously the grace that they signify’ (CCC1084); teaching morality, to imitate and follow Jesus; ‘Following Christ and united with him, Christians can strive to be “imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love” (CCC1694). 

 

 

References

  1. The New Jerusalem Bible, Pocket Edition published (1990), Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd.

  1. 2.       The Holy See (2007): Catechism of the Catholic Church, Geoffrey Chapman.

  2. 3.        John Paul II (1998): Encyclical Letter, Fides et Ratio, Para. 2.

  3. 4.        John Paul II (1979): Catechesi Tradendae, Catholic Truth Society, Para 5, P 8-9.

  4. 5.       ‘JOHN PAUL II’S CHRISTOLOGICAL CATECHESIS’ [online]. Available World – Wide- Web: http://www.vatican.va/jubilee_2000/magazine/documents/ju_mag_01101998_p-08_en.html: [8 April 2010].

  5. 6.       CONGREGATION FOR THE CLERGY, General Directory for Catechesis [online]. Rome: Holy See. Available World – Wide – Webhttp://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cclergy/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_17041998_directory-for-catechesis_en.html: [12 April 2010].

  6. 7.       O’Collins G. (2009): Christology, 2nd edition, SJ Oxford University Press, p. 315-316.

  7. 8.       ‘Divinity of Jesus Christ Invented by Constantine? Evidence from the Early Church’ [online]. Available World – Wide- Web: http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_article/64/Divinity_of_Christ_Invented_by_Constantine___Evidence_from_the_Early_Church_Fathers_on_the_Divinity_of_Christ.html [1 April 2010].

  8. 9.        ‘Church Fathers’ [online]. Available World – Wide- Web: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_Fathers: [7 April 2010].

  9. 10.    ‘Nicene Creed’[online]. Available World – Wide- Web:  http://www.ecatholic2000.com/pray/prayer7.shtml [April 2010].

  10. 11.     ‘Christ, the Meaning of All Scripture, Life and History’ [online]. Available World – Wide- Web: http://www.presenttruthmag.com/archive/XLIII/43-1.htm [April 2010].

 

 


[1] John Paul II (1979): Catechesi Tradendae, Catholic Truth Society, Para 5, P 8-9.

[2] The New Jerusalem Bible, Pocket Edition published (1990), Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd

 

[3] ‘Divinity of Jesus Christ Invented by Constantine? Evidence from the Early Church’ [online]. Available World – Wide- Web: http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_article/64/Divinity_of_Christ_Invented_by_Constantine___Evidence_from_the_Early_Church_Fathers_on_the_Divinity_of_Christ.html [1 April 2010]

[4] ‘Church Fathers’ [online]. Available World – Wide- Web: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_Fathers [5 April 2010]

[5] ‘Nicene Creed’ [online]. Available World – Wide- Web: http://www.ecatholic2000.com/pray/prayer7.shtml [6 April 2010]

[6] the Holy See (2007): Catechism of the Catholic Church, Geoffrey Chapman

[7] Pope John II, Encyclical Letter, Fides et Ratio, 1998, Para. 2.

[8] ‘JOHN PAUL II’S CHRISTOLOGICAL CATECHESIS’ [online]. Available World – Wide- Web: http://www.vatican.va/jubilee_2000/magazine/documents/ju_mag_01101998_p-08_en.html [8 April 2010]

[9] ‘Christ, the Meaning of All Scripture, Life and History’ [online]. Available World – Wide- Web:  http://www.presenttruthmag.com/archive/XLIII/43-1.htm [7 April 2010]

[10] O’ Collins G. (2009): Christology, 2nd edition, SJ Oxford University Press, p. 315-316

 [11] CONGREGATION FOR THE CLERGY, General Directory for Catechesis [online]. Rome: Holy See. Available World-Wide-Web: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cclergy/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_17041998_directory-for-catechesis_en.html : [12 April 2010]

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