This coming week is what we call in the Church, Holy Week. It is holy in that part of the definition of the word ‘holy’ means “set apart”. This time is truly set apart from the rest of the church and calendar year with the Easter Vigil itself being the highest point of all liturgies as we celebrate again what Christ has done for us and won for us in His Death and Resurrection.
Now I know this all sounds only too familiar to Catholic ears and is the kind of speak that can make us automatically tune-out…. but not if you really think about it.
Much has been said about Jesus both among Christians and outside of Christianity in both religious and secular circles. Some of it is true and much of it is but a mere human reduction of Jesus as just a man out of history. He has been called by some a fraud, a miracle worker, a preacher, a crazy man, a prophet, a good man, a great teacher and so many other things….. but not God. Creatures describing the Creator as merely created.
He has been seen, most especially in modern, politically correct times among the leaders and starters of the great world religions, as just another one of many leaders. Christianity, the religion Jesus founded isn’t even as old as several of the others so you’d think that if Jesus is THE ONE He would have been around far earlier, perhaps even from the beginning.
Truth is, He was from the ‘beginning’ and in fact infinitely and eternally beyond that. He is “God come from God, Light come from Light, True God from True God; Begotten, not made” as the Nicene Creed tells us. He is from God and He is God.
In the line up of all the leaders of the world religions none of them ever claimed to have come from God – except Jesus. Others said they were messengers or prophets of God and that they spoke for God but they never claimed to be God, save Our Blessed Lord. This is most significant for us Christians especially as we may feel drawn into the thinking of the world to reduce Christ to just another religious figure, a holy man.
Venerable Fulton Sheen in his 1958 book Life of Christ, which is still in print, makes the case for Christ right from the first words of the book: “Christianity, unlike any other religion in the world, begins with catastrophe and defeat. Sunshine religions and psychological inspirations collapse in calamity and wither in adversity. But the Life of the Founder of Christianity, having begun with the Cross, ends with the empty tomb and victory.”
- CHRIST WAS EXPECTED – PRE-ANNOUNCED
Sheen presents us with distinguishing truths making Christ distinct, the first being that He was expected. No one knew centuries before that the leaders of other world religions could be expected, except Jesus. In fact, all of the ancient religions and civilizations expected Him. Plato and Socrates even spoke of the Universal Wise Man “yet to come”; Confucius spoke of “the Saint”; the Sibyls, of a “Universal King”; the Greek dramatist, of a savior and redeemer to unloose man from the “primal eldest curse”.
- CHRIST’S COMING SPLIT HISTORY IN TWO
The second point Sheen makes is that when Jesus came He split history in two marking it as before His coming and after His coming.
- JESUS CAME INTO THIS WORLD TO DIE
Fulton Sheen’s third point is that unlike us whose goal is to live, Jesus came into this world to die – it was the goal of His life. Death is always an interruption to our plans but for Christ it was forever His intended achievement for our redemption. “Death was a stumbling block to Socrates – it interrupted his teaching. But to Christ, death was the goal and fulfillment of His life, the gold that He was seeking. Few of His words or actions are intelligible without reference to His Cross. He presented Himself as a Saviour rather than merely as a Teacher.
- JESUS DOES NOT FIT INTO THE CATEGORY OF A GOOD MAN
Sheen makes the point here that Jesus is not just a good man. If Jesus was not all that He said He was, then he is not a good man but a liar. Yet if He was all that He said He was then He is far more than what so many reduce Him to as a ‘good man’. He is either who He says He is or He is nothing at all and would be the worst of men. Jesus is God made flesh, from the eternal, heavenly realm yet born in time. “Born of a woman, He was a man and could be one with all humanity; born of a Virgin, who was overshadowed by the Spirit and ‘full of grace,’ He would also be outside that current of sin which infected all men.” He is not just a good man but the God-Man.
“But He was not only a man. He would have us either worship Him or despise Him – despise Him as a mere man, or worship Him as true God and true man. If He is what He claimed to be, a Saviour, a Redeemer, then we have a virile Christ and a leader worth following in these terrible times; One Who will step into the breach of death, crushing sin, gloom and despair; a leader to Whom we can make totalitarian sacrifice without losing, but gaining freedom, and Whom we can love even unto death.”