By Fr. Thomas R. Harding, Th.D.This homily has been posted with the direct and generous permission of the late Fr. Thomas Harding, Th.D. (1918-2005). It is not to be copied, duplicated, modified nor distributed in any way.
In the Gospel of John 4:5-42, Jesus was sitting by the well. He asked a Samaritan woman, who came to draw water, for a drink to quench His thirst. A long conversation ensued and finally the woman said to Him: “I know that the Messiah is coming (who is called the Christ). When He comes He will proclaim all things to us. Jesus said to he, I am He, the one who is speaking to you.”
Who is this Jesus Christ?
The Apostle Creed answers:
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born to the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day He rose again. He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
The primary and best source of our knowledge of Jesus Christ is, of course, the four Gospels which all agree on the essence of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
First, that He is the Messiah and the Prophet.
Second, that He is the Son of God and that He became Man.
Third, it is as Man that He is Our Redeemer, Our Saviour, Our High Priest, the Head of the Church, and the Just Judge that is to come.
In addition to this agreement of the Four Gospels on the identity of Jesus Christ, each of the four has his own individual emphasis on His Character and Personality.
Matthew portrays Jesus as the Great Leader by giving His six great discourses
- The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew Chapters 5-7).
- The Missionary Discourse on the spread of the Kingdom (Mathew Chapter 10).
- The Sermon on the Coming Persecutions and Rewards (Matthew 11-12).
- The Sermon on the Parables (Mathew 13).
- The Sermon on the Church (Matthew 18).
- The Last Discourse and the Triumph of the Kingdom (Matthew 24).
In addition to these discourses, since Matthew was living in Jerusalem he wrote primarily for the Hebrews so Matthew presents Jesus Christ as the Fulfiller of the Messianic Prophecies of the Old Testament.
Mark portrays Jesus Christ as the Mysterious God Man
- The central point of Mark is the Person of Jesus Christ.
- Jesus Christ is a Person of Mysterious origin and great Power.
(a) The voice of the Father said “This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased “(Mark 1:11).
(b) The Spirit as a Dove also descended upon Him. (Mark 1:10)
(c) Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath. (Mark 2:28).
(d) Jesus is the Lord of Nature. (Mark 4:35-44).
(e) Jesus has power over demons. (Mark 9:13-28).
(f) A frequent refrain of Mark is: “They brought all the sick and the possessed to Him and He healed them all. (Mark 6:53-56).
- Jesus Christ is a Person of humility and suffering.
(a) He suffered at the hands of the Jewish Leaders. (Mark 14:1).
(b) He suffered at the insensitivity of the crowds. (Mark 4:12).
(c) He suffered from the obtuseness of His followers. (Mark 3:21)
(d) He rejected the false notion of the Messiah as a temporal King. (Mark 6:1-6)
Luke presents Jesus Christ as the Friend of the Poor, the Lost, the Suffering
St. Luke was an artist and physician and he was close to Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ and to the Holy Spirit. Thus he wrote the Gospel of the Infancy and Childhood of Jesus Christ and the Apocalypse, the Gospel of the Holy Spirit.
- A Friend of the Poor such as the Shepherds and He listed the 8 Beatitudes. (Luke 2:8-20 and 6:20).
- A Friend of the Lost such as the Lost Sheep, the Prodigal Son and the Penitent Woman. (Luke 15:1-7; 15:11-32; 7:36-50).
- A Friend of the Suffering and He healed all who asked Him. (Luke 4:33-44).
John presents Jesus as the Incarnate Word and he emphasized
the Divinity of Christ
The Christ of the fourth Gospel is presented more theologically than in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
In the Prologue to his Gospel, he describes the Majestic sweep of the Second Person from Heaven to Earth and back again to Heaven with the Redeemed of the World. (John 1:1-18).
John describes Jesus as the Light of the World. (John 8:12).
The Promise of the Eucharist. (John Chapter 6).
He gives the Last Discourse and the Prayer for Unity at the Last Supper. (John Chapters 14, 15 and 16).
He describes the Resurrection of Jesus. (John Chapter 20).
Jesus Christ in Theology
Jesus Christ is true God and true Man.
He has Divine and Human Nature.
As a human being, He has a human body and a human soul.
In that union of the divine and human natures in Jesus Christ, there is just one Person, the Divine Person, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
In the Prologue to John’s Gospel, we read: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He has revealed Him.” (John 1:18). We cannot know God as He is in the present order, but we can know God as He is in human form as He appeared in Jesus Christ, the God-Man.
Jesus Christ in the Secondary Sources
There is also the Life, Character and Personality of Jesus Christ in the Secondary Sources such as Lives of Christ, Works on the Spiritual Lfe, Great Biographies, Inspiring Histories, Records of the Martyrs, Subtlest Theology, Sublime Poetry and Literature, Great Art and Music.
I have enjoyed the Lives of Christ such as Karl Adam’s The Son of God (very theological), Constant Fouard’s Christ the Son of God (very scriptural), Archbishop Alban Goodier’s The Public Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ and The Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ (very scriptural), Abbot Marmon’s Christ in His Mysteries (very mystical) and the popular Lives of Christ by Fulton Oursier, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Malcolm Muggeridge, Francois Mauriac, Fyodor Dostoevski and the pictorial version of Georges Rouault with text by Jacques Maritain entitled Art Through the Ages.
Many have derived benefit from films on the Life of Christ such as: The King of Kings, Quo Vadis, Ben Hur, Godspell (meaning Gospels) and the controversial versions like Jesus Christ Superstar, Jesus of Montreal and The Last Temptation of Christ.
Some have also derived benefit from musical compositions such as those of Mozart, Beethoven, Cesar Frank, Handel and the great masses. Many have been inspired by the masterpieces of art of Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Albrecht Durer, Salvador Dali and the Dutch Masters.
Even though adults cannot understand it, teenagers have been touched by the Musical Hair in the sixties. With their long hair, they were imitating Jesus Christ as we discover in the words of one of the songs in the musical.
My Hair like Jesus wore His Hallelujah,
I like it Mary loved her Son,
Why doesn’t my mother love me?
Another song shows that some of the youth think that they can find precisely in Jesus the answer to their questions formulated in Hair:
Where do I go? Follow the river,
Where do I go? Follow the gulls
Where is the something?
Where is the Someone?
That tells me why I live and die.
Follow my heart beat
Where do I go?
Follow my hand,
Where will they lead me?
And will I ever discover why
I live and die, I live and die?
They also loved the Beatles. When George Harrison died recently, they revealed that he was a spiritual person and did not appreciate the time when John Lennon said they were more popular than Jesus. Then came the song “My Sweet Lord, I Really Want To Know You” by George Harrison.
Among all the secondary sources, I liked the two works of Archbishop Goodier, S.J. the best. He was from England but he became an Archbishop in India. The reason why I like his two books is because he shows how to find the true Jesus Christ in the gospels. He emphasizes His attractiveness, His winsomeness, which drew people to Him: the sinners, the sick, the blind, the lepers, the possessed, the hardened and the little children who flocked to Him. “Let the little children come to me for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Jesus was in demand also as a dinner guest. He was the life of the party. He was always accessible born in a cave, always on the open highways, in the market place, in the temple, no home except the mountain tops. He died publicly in a public place of execution called Golgotha, the Place of the Skull. All were struck by His courage, His fearlessness, His sublime teaching, His healing, His love for all, even for His enemies.
Archbishop Goodier points out four guiding lines in the Gospels’ portrayal of Him.
His absolute truth of understanding or His stamp of utter, unerring certainty and trustworthiness because of certainty. “He spoke as one having authority.”
His boundless tender heart, a father, a mother, a brother, a sister, a true friend. He was always meek but never weak to those who were disposed to Him. His love went out to all. It was theirs for the taking.
His constancy in action. He has a definite work to do, a definite life to live and death to die and never for a moment does he swerve in its accomplishment. Failure may disappoint Him but He never gives up; opposition may alter His plan but it does not slacken His effort; malice does not embitter Him, deceit, betrayal, denial, desertion, none of these things can lessen His endeavour, make His hand tremble or the feet on the mountain falter.
His infinite mercy goes out to all who are repentant. He always wants to forgive, to save, to heal. He does not compel people. He is gentle. He invites them to come to Him and when they respond His eyes glisten, His Heart expands. His hand opens and He releases the flood gates of Infinite Love and the Mercy of His Sacred Heart.
There are many examples of leaders who are remembered in history for good or evil. Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Constantine, Charlemagne, Napolean, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Churchill, F. D. Roosevelt, Mahatma Ghandi, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Mao Tse Tung. (Mention ladies as well). Only one stands out above all the others and is remembered in the minds and hearts of billions, Jesus Christ. Christianity is a creed, cult and code, but it is also a Person, the Love of a Person for us and our response to Him, that is, Jesus Christ, the God-Man.
Napolean, according to John Henry Cardinal Newman, may have once said to himself:
I have been accustomed to place before me, the examples of Caesar and Alexander with a hope of rivaling their exploits and living in the minds of men forever. But in what sense do Caesar and Alexander live… Their chief place is in the school room, in children’s grammars and text books. IBut on the contrary, there is just one name that lives, Jesus Christ I He has possessed the world and He maintains possession. Palaces and monuments are raised to His Honour. His Image is triumphantly displayed in all countries and on the tops of mountains.
He died but He rose again from the dead on the third day and He lives on as Christ the King in the minds and hearts of billions. We praise and thank you Lord for your unspeakable gifts.
As Romano Guardini said in his brief Creed: “I believe in you Jesus of Nazareth. You are the meaning of the World and of my ljfe.” I also like the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Have Mercy on me a sinner.”
So much for the secondary sources.
In conclusion, let us consider the appearance of Jesus Christ. What did He look like? We have our image of Jesus Christ largely from Medieval Art. But we also have the benefit of an eye-witness and of the expert on the Shroud of Turin.
First, the eye-witness is Lentulus, who was consul in the 12th year of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius. In the letter of Lentulus, which is mentioned in the writing of Josephus Flavius, a first century historian, he describes how he saw Jesus during His trial and Crucifixion. His report to the Emperor reveals what Jesus looked like.
Lentulus described Jesus as having a noble and lively face, with fair and slightly wavy hair, black and strongly curving eyebrows, intense penetrating blue eyes and an expression of wondrous grace. His nose is rather aquiline and His hair has never seen a scissors. His neck is slightly inclined so that He never appears to be bitter or arroganL His tanned face is the colour of ripe corn and well proportioned, it gives the impression of gravity and wisdom, kindness and goodness and is completely lacking in any kind of anger.
Second, Professor Giovanni Judica-Cordiglia, an eminent scholar of the Holy Shroud of Turin, the cloth covering the face and Body of Christ in the tomb; from it he tried to describe the appearance of the Lord, gleaned from the Shroud with his experience as a Doctor and a Professor of Forensic Medicine.
Here is his report:
The Man who was wrapped in the Shroud was a man of great beauty and uncommon stature. He was about one metre and eighty centimeters tall (approximately six feet) with a perfectly proportioned physique, lithe and harmonious. He was a standard type in the most literal sense of the phrase. His face was a very soft and gentle one, rather long and with a broad straight forehead. The nose is straight and turned slightly downwards, the cheeks are large and slightly protruding. From all the anthroprometric calculations so far made, it seems that Christ was physically in far better shape than the average man.
I can conclude that His cranial capacity was of 1575 cc, which would place Him in the Megalo Cephalic (Large Headed) category with a cranial capacity coefficient of 95 which would indicate that the weight of His brain was 1492 grams. This is far greater than the average, suggesting a person of extraordinary genius.
So much for the evidence of the eye-witness who actually saw Jesus and from the expert on the Shroud of Turin who described His appearance scientifically with his experience as a Doctor and a Professor of Forensic Medicine.
In conclusion, I wish to give the conclusions of John Duns Scotus about the Person of Jesus Christ. John Duns Scotus was a great Theologian who lived from 1265- 1308 A.D. He was a contemporary of St. Thomas Aquinas and he taught both in Italy and in Oxford, England. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II just a year ago, probably delayed because of his daring Theology.
Blessed John Duns Scotus says Jesus Christ was God’s greatest work. He taught that Jesus Christ would have become Man even if Adam and Eve had not sinned. He also taught that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity will be united to human nature for all time to come and for all eternity.
Blessed John Duns Scorns also taught that Mary, the Mother of God, was the highest creature after Christ as Man. He taught also that Mary was conceived in Her Mother’s womb immaculately. The Immaculate Conception of Mary was defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854. Our Lady Herself appeared to St. Bernadette Soubiroux in 1858 and when asked who she was, she replied “I am the Immaculate Conception” in the dialect of Southern France which was familiar to St. Bernadette.
Incidentally, Pope Pius IX was beatified with Pope John XXIII, and Abbott Marmion of Ireland, on September 5, 2000 by Pope John Paul II, the present Pope. He probably Beatified them because of their brilliant teachings about Jesus Christ, His Mother, and the Church.
This homily is not to be copied, duplicated, modified nor distributed in any way.
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