The story of God become man can drive us away

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Most homilies on the Incarnation Gospel reading for December 20 and 21 Masses intone with great solemnity the loving act of God’s Second Person becoming man in the Blessed Virgin’s immaculate womb, as His first step in redeeming the world.

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Yet there is an oft-unspoken flipside to this epic message: For all our failings, human beings are good enough for one of us to become the divine Son of God.

In becoming the man Jesus, Christ did not obliterate humanity and replace it with divinity. Rather, He possessed both natures: the man Jesus is also God the Son. And in His life and preaching, Christ showed not just how man can love and serve God, but far more crucial, how the former can become the Latter.

Whoa. Man becoming God? Isn’t that pride, if not blasphemy? Shouldn’t we worship and serve our Father in heaven, hallow His name, and work for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done? So how in heaven’s name can puny earthlings become the Creator we critters bow to?

Answer: The way Jesus did. He was God, too, remember, yet He gave praise and glory to His Father, did the Almighty’s will though He preferred that the cup of Calvary pass Him by, cried out when He felt forsaken on the cross, and finally gave up His ghost into the Father’s loving hands.

All that praising, glorifying, loving, and serving the Father, and expiring into His hands didn’t make the Second Person any less divine than the First. Nor did sending the Third to do God’s will in the world make the Holy Spirit no longer God. Indeed, since the Blessed Trinity wants us to love and serve one another, the Three Persons rightly set the example and do the same toward One Another.

So worshipping, loving, serving, and depending on God doesn’t mean one cannot partake of His nature. In fact, knowing, loving and communing with the divine are not unlike how Father, Son, and Spirit act toward the other two Persons.

Moreover, by opening our souls to His Spirit and accomplishing His will, don’t we become His face, His tongue, His heart and His hands in the world? And that is not too different from Christ being God with us — Emmanuel — the earthly form of the ethereal Supreme Being.

Sin’s the thing that keeps us from the King

Through two millennia of Christianity, however, the idea of God becoming man to redeem us from sin, has dominated dogma. Humanity is saved by letting the searing light of faith and the purging agony of sacrifice sweep away our wayward ways. Then the Spirit can flow in and create a new being in the mold of Christ.

This article isn’t questioning those fundamental and immutable doctrines. However, one wonders if the overarching stress on man’s sinfulness could be driving a wedge between us and God, making us think — wrongly and perversely — that there is hardly any good in us, and we must jettison our earthly nature and pour in the heavenly.

Wrongly, because as God’s creation, man is fundamentally good, just like the rest of created nature. The Creator Himself said so in the first chapter of Genesis with every new thing He brought into existence and at the end of six days of creation: “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.”

Wrongly, too, because Jesus embraced and cherished human beings, especially those disdained by society at the time: children, lepers, women, the poor and the powerless, and all manner of sinners. And He did so not just out of love and mercy for the suffering and the sinful, but also in affirmation and affection for the good in all men.

And perversely, because the doctrine of God’s loving sacrifice for man’s redemption from sin, which is supposed to bridge the chasm between us and Him, may actually widen it.

Just think: how in heaven’s name can the constant hammering of our sinfulness in the face of God’s perfection make us get closer to Him?

Does a pauper feel one with the tycoon who puts P100 in his begging cup daily, if the former is constantly reminded that his income is one-thousandth of the latter’s? Or a C-student being tutored by the valedictorian if their respective IQs are posted on the bulletin board they pass every morning?

A question of balance and completeness

Just to be crystal clear: the point here is not that the doctrine of man’s sin and God’s redemption is wrong or harmful, but that it needs to be balanced and indeed completed by the equally true and scripturally valid belief that there is much good and godly in man, having been created in God’s image.

So, going back to the Incarnation, it may just help bring creature closer to our Creator if homilists tell congregations that the monumental event we daily commemorate in the Angelus prayer expresses not just God’s mercy and redemption of man from sin, but also His affirmation and affection for our goodness, which He deemed worthy enough for His infinite perfection to assume our form and live with us.

Then we won’t see an insurmountable vastness dividing us from God. And we might just try harder to be like Christ, knowing that there is already much goodness in us. Indeed, we are like Him in everything but sin.

Amen.

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12 Comments

  1. Help.
    I can’t find the following words in the bible” “Blessed Trinity”, “Three Persons”.
    Thanks

  2. I have to agree that a constant drilling of human depravity in people mind does not facilitate intimacy with God and in fact it widens the gap relative to a person’s relationship with Him. This kind of message is akin to a child being told by his or her parents, day in and day out that he or she is no good and ugly. Unfortunately, it lingers and stays even to a person’s last breath. They are recorded in people’s brain and replayed over and over. Every time this same person fails or gets into trouble, what echoes in his or her mind is the confirmation that indeed he or she is really bad and ugly. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. So instead of a child developing a closer relationship with his or her parents, a child resents them for he or she has been brainwashed to believe that he or she can never do anything right. For the priest or pastor to preach that there is nothing good in people for them to merit salvation or God’s grace, Sunday after Sunday can be a disabling message. It incapacitates a person and if done in a bigger stage, this message disables a nation and it becomes a narrative and a script of a culture. Transcending one’s unfortunate situation becomes an exception rather than the rule because its people have been taught repeatedly that they can never succeed. Failure is encoded in their DNA. They are good for nothing instead of something. Perhaps a little bit of it is helpful but if done in a large dose can be fatal to one’s wealth being. Just like wine, taken in small glasses and far in between can do some good in a person’s health but done with impunity, it infects the whole body with toxins. But this message is blasted in a huge megaphone in all churches, Catholic or Protestant. I can only wish that those giving the homily will also remind church goers that they are not bad to the bones because in spite of really bad things we see around there is incontrovertible evidence showing that people are inherently good.

    • BRILLIANT REALIZATION ! Now there is an explanation for our flaws as a people. Makes one wonder if those claiming to speak for God are actually secret agents of satan.

  3. Saan kaya ang talagang katotohanan sa lahat ng nabangit dito!ito ba ay salita galing sa nakasulat o opinion ng taong naguguluhan?
    Nagtatanong lang? Sino ba ang gumawa ng lahat ng bagay? Sino ba ang nagbigay ng kapangyarihan sa taongsi cristo?
    Sino ba ang lumalang sa lahat?
    Ang totoong diyos ba ay may laman at buto?
    Ang dios ba ay may pinagmula?
    Ang pagsilang at pagiging panginoon ni kristo ay hindi ba ginawa at plano ito ng dios?ang architecto o ang imbentor ay siya rin yung ginawa nila?
    Saan kumukuha ng talino ang mga taong sumasadal lang sa sarili niyang palagay at opinion at iyon ang kanyang ipibangagaral!kawawang mga tao ang maililigaw ng ganitong kaisipan!
    Paano magiging dios ang ginawa lang?sobra ang pagsip-sip ng tao kay kristo akala nila ang. Sobrang pa puri na hindi batay sa katotohanan ay mas lalong nakakasama!
    Ang pagdagdag sa utos na hindi nakasulat ay daragdagan ng parusa ng totoong dios!hindi ba kayo nagaalala! Mang-gagawa kayo ng katampalasan,magsilayas kayo sa harap ko!!
    yan ang nakasulat

  4. Why did God banish the innocent Adam and Eve from Eden when He discovered that they had been deceived by the devil when they were the victims? Logic dictates that He should have dealt with the deceiver not the deceived. Why did He choose to drown all of mankind save for Noah’s Ark when He found out that His angels were fornicating with earthlings? Why did the Merciful God choose to make the victims suffer mercilessly instead of the wrongdoers? Im confused.

    • Ikaw naman!tinatanong ba yan o naninisi ka!sisihin mo ba ang magulang mo kong pinagsabihan ka na wag bumarkada at uminom ng alak para di ka mapariwara at hindi maisahan ng lalaki?
      Seyempre ikaw,!! Hindi ka sumunod!!wala mapapasama kung hindi ka lalapit at sasama sa masama!
      Parang gamo-gamo ang utak ng tao,alam na apoy lumalapit pa!

  5. Basta huwag matimbang sa atin ang sinasabi ng tao kaysa sa sinasabi ng Diyos na nasa Bibliya. Katulad ng,”For all our failings, human beings are good enough for one of us to become the divine Son of God.” Tao ang nagsasabi niyan, hindi ang Diyos.

    • “For all our failings, human beings are good enough for one of us to become the divine Son of God.”
      Like you Mr. Lim, this sentence also caught my eyes. It gives a wrong impression, it reverses the chronological sequence. Jesus was God before he became a man, not the other way around. Secondly, it sound as if being a man, he worked it out to become God.
      This is a very poor paraphrasing of God become man, it is not reversible, is not the same as man becoming God. For the reason that God has no beginning, we have.
      The intention is good. to encourage us of our calling to be children of God, but twisted the truth in the process.
      We become children of God because, he has given us his Spirit who give us the confidence to call God, Abba. the same Spirit in Jesus, imparts on us eternal life. The Holy Spirit is the eternal life given to us. Who then grants us everlasting life. Only God has eternal life.

  6. Very good, Mr. Saludo. As long as it’s clear to everyone who reads this that you are not advocating changes in Christian theology and the Catechism of the Catholic Church but that you are talking only about how Chrisitans–whether priests, nuns, laymen and laywomen–do their apostolate or teach religion in or out of school and parents too when telling their children about the Faith.

  7. When Adam and Eve were sent out to fill the earth with their kin and kind it was the first beginning of human kind. Man however became so sinful that the Creator exterminated mankind in the great floods and picked Noah and his family for a second beginning with a promise that never again will the Creator exterminate mankind. But man still became sinful but this time because of His promise He became man in Jesus to die in mankind’s stead. This is the third beginning but with the admonition of the Creator for mankind to “listen to Him!”. This is my understanding of what Jesus did to die for our sins. There will be a fourth and final beginning when Jesus comes again, the “Second Coming” otherwise referred to as the “Final Judgment”.

  8. Where did Writer Saludo get his theological studies? He has a better understanding of Christianity than JIL…. I encourage writer Saludo to start his own ministry. Luzon, of course, is the bigger market, but writer Saludo’s ministry should also be expanded to Mindanao.