The auditorium was magnificently illuminated, three different projector screens displayed the noble logo of the Pontifical University, and the stage was donned with a Cardinal and five other eminent men of the church. What an impressive setting; it was clear that something huge was about to be revealed. Well, yes, something wonderful and awesome was presented, but I don’t think you could call it anything new. It has been 10 years since the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith promulgated its declaration “Dominus Iesus”, it has been 2010 years since the promulgation of the coming of the Kingdom by Jesus of Nazareth. Has Jesus changed in the 2000 years that separate his preaching and this declaration? Did you think that the Church you belong to today teaches anything different than what Jesus Christ came to teach? Although it is nothing new, it is the greatest truth ever that was discussed at a Congress held recently at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome. God came to earth as a human being. He didn’t come as an angel, or as an invisible spirit. He assumed human nature with its human soul and its human will, on earth in Palestine, he died a cruel death to redeem men from their sin, rose from the dead; and all this is testified to by human witnesses. Since it is the only true God that came down to earth to save us, salvation comes through him alone, in the Church that he founded.
Who is Jesus of Nazareth? He is the “only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father.” That is who the first ecumenical council of Nicea, basing itself on the tradition of the apostles, defined Jesus of Nazareth in 325aD. This is our faith. It has not changed in 2000 years and will never change. The truth is not something that shifts or varies, it remains. And since God himself is the one that revealed this truth, there is no threat of it being moved. Why would one fear it change? Why did the Church feel the need to reaffirm this eternal truth? It is because there are many who deny it. Non-Christians are not the only ones that deny this truth. Unfortunately there are many theologians in the Catholic Church that propose theologies which do not hold that Jesus of Nazareth is God. They give him a special place, a special vocation and predilection by the Father, but won’t allow him to be one with the Father nor equal to the Father. Most of these theologians propose this -less than God Jesus- so as to be able to uphold other theories that are in vogue in the world today such as religious pluralism. If Jesus is not God, then other religions can be seen as ways of Salvation in the same way the Catholic Church is. In that case any founder of any religion is just as special as the man that founded the Catholic Church, Jesus of Nazareth. This is very convenient for many, but it is not the Truth. The Truth is that God sent his only begotten son, second person of the Most Holy Trinity to become a man on earth in order to save us from our sins.
On the same day that this congress ended in Rome, the Holy Father spoke to priests in an audience and mentioned to them that “...the hermeneutic of continuity is revealing itself to be ever more important for an adequate understanding of the texts of Vatican Council II...” He said this in the context of seeing the priesthood is not something made up but that it “starting from Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ, and over the two thousand years of history, greatness, sanctity, culture and piety which the Priesthood has given the world, comes down to our own day”. The word hermeneutic basically means interpretation. Leaving aside the concrete element of the Popes invitation, what the Holy Father desire for theologians is that they interpret Sacred Scripture and Apostolic Tradition (which includes all the dogmas of the Magisterium of the Church) in a way that takes into consideration all of the history and tradition of the Catholic Church. That history and tradition begins with the creation of the world, God’s self-revelation to the chosen people, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and all that the apostles and their successors have taught up until today. That is a hermeneutic of continuation. The tendency in recent years has been to consider the Church after the Second Vatican Council as a separate Church, a new Church that has outgrown all the doctrine taught before it. This is a grave error that leads people away from the true Church, the Apostolic Church. This way of thinking calls dogmas of the past ‘fruits of a specific community of a specific time, society and culture of the past that no longer can be applied to today’s culture.’ If this is true, is there any Truth? Who has the truth? If you say that we, this society today has the truth, you must also accept that within 50 years it will no longer be true for the future society. It is essential to firmly believe and uphold that the fullness of the truth has been revealed in Jesus of Nazareth who is God Incarnate and founded a Church on earth to give continuity to his mission of preaching the Kingdom of God.
This leads into another essential point of the declaration Dominus Iesus; the apostolic mission of the Church. In his encyclical Redemptoris Missio, John Paul II states: “The kingdom is the concern of everyone: individuals, society, and the world. Working for the kingdom means acknowledging and promoting God's activity, which is present in human history and transforms it. Building the kingdom means working for liberation from evil in all its forms. In a word, the kingdom of God is the manifestation and the realization of God's plan of salvation in all its fullness.” And that “The Church is effectively and concretely at the service of the kingdom. This is seen especially in her preaching, which is a call to conversion. Preaching constitutes the Church's first and fundamental way of serving the coming of the kingdom in individuals and in human society.” Dominus Iesus quotes Redemptoris Missio 18 times. Why? Because the missionary vocation of the Church is as urgent as it was just after pentecost. But when the theory is held that the post Vatican II Church is beyond past dogmas, the missionary vocation of the Church also ends. What do you preach to people if you do not uphold that the fullness of truth was revealed to us in Jesus Christ. John Paul II writes the following as his reason for writing the encyclical Redemptoris Missio: “My direct contact with peoples who do not know Christ has convinced me even more of the urgency of missionary activity, a subject to which I am devoting the present encyclical.” Who is Jesus of Nazareth for JPII? He is the Savior of the world, the Word of God made flesh in order to redeem us from our sins and bring us to eternal life with him. And Christ left that same redeeming mission in the hands of his apostles. And, as Jesus prayed “"I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word.” (Jn 17:20) He prayed for us who have received the Word from the apostles; “that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (Jn 17:21) This desire of Christ that we all be one in faith is also the command he gave us as his disciples. He told the apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:19-20) We are the Church that Jesus of Nazareth, God, founded and we have a mission: that his kingdom be preached to all people so that they may receive the fullness of joy, happiness and peace. This mission is done in, with and through the Catholic Church. “With the coming of the Savior Jesus Christ, God has willed that the Church founded by him be the instrument for the salvation of all humanity.” ( Dominus Iesus 22)
So, great news revealed recently in Rome, Jesus is God! We must say it without fear, Jesus of Nazareth is God. He walked on this earth, he spoke human language, he ate, he slept, he cried, and given his human nature he even died, but this man rose from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven. We have received a great treasure, the greatest treasure in the person of Jesus Christ. Rejoice at having received the grace of knowing the Savior of the world! But this incredible and most awe inspiring gift must be shared. The truth that God has revealed to us and that this declaration reminds us is that the mystery of the distinct second person of the trinity who has human and divine nature, not mixed but united, is the only way to salvation and must be made known to all people.
Ronald Conklin, LC studies for the priesthood in Rome.
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