The Incarnation

Reason #1 why God became man: “In order to save us by reconciling us with God” (CCC 457)

Even before the birth of Jesus, the “angel of the Lord” announced Jesus mission of salvation to Joseph, who had decided to divorce Mary: “It is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this child. She is to have a son and you are to name him Jesus because He will save His people from their sins.” (Mt 1: 20-21)

Jesus made our salvation possible through His crucifixion and resurrection. What must we do to be saved? In the often cited verse, John 3:16, we are told, “whoever believes in Him may not die, but may have eternal life.”

So is it sufficient for me just to declare that I believe Jesus is my savior?  James, in his epistle tells us, “My brothers, what good is it to profess faith without practicing it? Such faith has no power to save one, has it?” He goes on to say. “You must perceive that a person is justified by his works and not by faith alone.” And, “Be assured then, that faith without works is as dead as a body without breath.” (Jas 2: 14, 24, 26)

Reason #2 why God became man: “So that thus we might know God’s love” (CCC 458)

What does God’s love look like? I get the most complete picture of His love when I look at the crucifix. God loves you – God loves me, that much! Wow!!!

Awesome, but what is love supposed to look like in my life?

“Love is patient; love is kind. Love is not jealous, it does not put on airs, it is not snobbish. Love is never rude, it is not self seeking, it is not prone to anger; neither does it brood over injury. Love does not rejoice in what is wrong, but rejoices with the truth. There is no limit to love’s forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure. Love never fails.” (1 Cor 13: 4-8)

Jesus gives us another picture of what God’s love looks like when He talks about the last judgment. He tells those who are to inherit the kingdom that they fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed strangers, clothed the naked, comforted the ill, and visited the imprisoned. “I assure you, as often as you did it for one of my least brothers, you did it for Me.” (Mt 25: 31-46)

Reason #3 why God became man: “To be our model of holiness” (CCC 459)

How did Jesus model holiness? It is tempting to just say: read the four Gospels and you will see. That is highly recommended, and will give you a complete answer, but in the next two weeks this section will summarize the key elements of how Jesus modeled holiness.

Jesus prayed – often. For example, after feeding 5000 and walking on water: “When He had taken leave of them, He went off to the mountain to pray.” (Mk 6: 46) Luke tells us, “He often retired to deserted places and prayed.” (Lk 5: 16) Even on the night He was betrayed, he went to the garden of Gethsemane and, “He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer.” (Mt 26:39)

Jesus participated in the Church. He was circumcised on the 8th day and was consecrated to the Lord in the Presentation on the 40th day. Granted, Jesus was too small to initiate those actions Himself, but it is clear that it was the will of the Father that these take place. It was Jesus custom to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath and went up to the Temple for Passover. And He instituted the sacraments so that we, by participating in the Church today, can receive graces to become more like Jesus, that is, more holy.

How did Jesus model holiness?

Jesus withstood temptation. We know Jesus was without sin, but it wasn’t because Satan didn’t try. We read that Jesus “was lead by the Holy Spirit into the desert for forty days, where he was tempted by the devil.” (Lk 4: 1-2) We are then told of three specific temptations where Jesus repels Satan. (Lk 4: 3-12)

Jesus read Scripture. We know this because he quoted from Scripture. The best example is the three temptations in the desert; in all three cases Jesus quoted Scripture to Satan. (Lk 4: 3-12) Jesus also quoted passages from the Old Testament that made reference to the Messiah to, hopefully, help the Jews (and us) connect the dots and see that He is the Messiah.

Jesus did the will of the Father. “I am not seeking my own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (Jn 5: 30) And in Gethsemane, “Father if it is your will, take this cup from Me; yet not My will but Yours be done.” (Lk 22: 42) And Jesus taught us to pray to “Our Father in heaven” that, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. (Mt 6: 9-10)

Reason #4 why God became man: “To make us partakers of the divine nature” (CCC 460)

Wow, this is a hard one to grasp. In the second letter of Peter we are told that God intends for us to “become sharers of the divine nature.” (2 Pt 1: 4) How can this be possible?

First, Jesus made it possible through His death and resurrection. Ok, what do we have to do to participate? The Catechism tells us it is through the power of the Holy Spirit. (CCC 1988) Where do we encounter this transformational power of the Holy Spirit?

The Sacraments are prime sources, especially Baptism and the Eucharist! “Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte ‘a new creature’, an adopted son of God, who has become a ‘partaker of the divine nature’.” (CCC 1265) And, “The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Lord said: ‘He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him’.” (CCC 1391)That sounds a lot like being a partaker in the Divine Nature.