By Rev. Fr. B Joseph Francis –
The existential situation of the human being in sin or the meaning of sin
The Nicene Creed here has: “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven and by the Holy Spirit was incarnated of the Virgin Mary, and became man”. First in this chapter we shall briefly enquire into the reasons for the Incarnation. Why should God become human like us? We have to start with the reality of sin and how the human being misusing his intelligence and free will, instead of glorifying and obeying God chose to glorify himself. He became selfish and landed into misery which he cannot understand.
Paul in his letter to the Romans portrays this beautifully in chapter 7 towards the end (7.15-24) where he says he cannot understand himself. He finds that he is unable to do the good he wants to do and only succeeds in doing the wrong which he wanted to avoid. He has landed himself into many terrible situations; he suffers from guilt feelings; he has at times a poor image of himself and entertains thoughts of diffidence, inferiority complex or sometimes the false superiority complex. He is prey to thoughts of loneliness, perception of the meaninglessness of life and achievements and is filled with anxiety. A feeling of oppression due to rampant injustice, an imbalance of economic opportunities for all sections of people, caste-feelings, regionalism, ethnic tensions, and linguistic chauvinism envelops us. All these lead to suppression of some. Perhaps, this is also our own experience? But precisely seeing the helplessness of the human being, God himself took the initiative in rescuing, saving the human being.
God’s plan to rescue the human being from misery and make him happy again
He wished to identify himself with humans because he loved us so much (Cf. Jn 3.16-17). But if he has to enter human history and become one of us he has to have a human mother and be born of her, then only he can be truly human. She has to belong to some people; she cannot be rootless (Cf. Gal 4.4-6). So God began with Abraham from Ur in Chaldea, Mesopotamia making a covenant with him and his descendents.
Many centuries later on Mt. Sinai God raised this covenant to even greater heights: God became their God and they became his people, his special people whom he promised to care for and cherish (Cf. Exodus 19.16-25 + 20. 18-20 + 24.3-11). He fulfilled his promise by leading them on towards the Promised Land under the leadership of Moses and finally enabling them to enter the Promised land under Joshua and settle down there to begin their historical presence where after many centuries Jesus was to be born, live, work, die and rise again. These many intervening centuries were fraught with many adventures and misadventures by these his chosen people, chosen to bring forth the Messiah to rescue the nations (Cf. Book of Revelations chapter XII the woman in travail is portrayed as Israel that was in labour to bring forth the Messiah and the devil, the ancient dragon was waiting to devour the child!)
But these people throughout their chequered history proved to be faithless, worshipping false gods and goddesses and forgetting the God with whom they had made a covenant at Sinai. They were punished repeatedly and God sent many a prophet for them to remind them of their duty and invitation to repent and remove the multiple injustices: injustice towards God and injustice towards their neighbours; but it was a failure and finally God through their prophets began to tell them that he himself would take the initiative to transform them.
For example both Jeremiah and Ezekiel portray that the people are incapable and utterly broken, perhaps powerless to change. So God Himself would take the initiative, in the near future, to transform them and prepare them for new ways of walking in his presence: Cf. Ez 11.17-20; 17.22-24; 36.21-36 (notice carefully the number of times it is said …I…I…will in these passages); 37.1-14 (the vision of the valley of dead bones signifying that nothing is impossible for God); 39.27-29; Jer 31.31-34 (from the scroll of consolation. Again notice the I…I…I…that is found in the passage); 33.6-9; Is 54.11-14; 55.1-3.
The final stage of this plan of God
The Letter to the Hebrews (1.1-4) says that God who in the past spoke through the prophets now has chosen to speak to us through his Only Begotten Son who is in the image of God and his very “Icon”. The preaching of Jesus as summarized by Mk 1.15 is noteworthy in this context: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel”.
Observe the four elements carefully: i) “The time is fulfilled” i.e., the momentous time for which they had been waiting and which the prophets had foretold has come at last ii) “and the kingdom is at hand” i.e., the time when God begins to be the true ruler of his people has arrived, the time when Primacy would be restored to God has arrived iii) “repent” i.e., all that is expected of you is to say sorry and not put any obstacle on the path of God who wants to transform you! iv) “believe in the Gospel” the Gospel is translated commonly as good news and rightly so but often people do not grasp the significance. We could understand it if we pay attention to the bad news. The bad news is: try and try as we might, we cannot make ourselves alright as was mentioned above (Cf. Rm 7.15-24). And the good news in contrast is: but God is able to transform us, if but we allow him to transform us. All that we have to do is to repent and allow free hand to God in our lives, give him back the Primacy which is his by right. So, the Incarnation was in order to give us life, peace, joy, balance in our lives and to do this God did not do it by proxy but himself became one of us in every way like unto us, as the letter to Hebrews says (Cf. Hebr 2.17-18; 4.15; 5.7-9).
To be continued next Thursday…