From the Pastor – September 13, 2009

This week I read an article about bestselling children’s author Philip Pullman, the author of the “Golden Compass.” It seems that Pullman is now styling himself as a theologian, and his new book, due to be published next year, accepts that there was once a holy man called Jesus but asserts that the idea that Jesus was God came from the “fervid imagination” of the apostle St Paul. There’s nothing new with this theory, which is heresy called “Arianism,” and dates to the third century. The problem with Pullman’s theory is that it denies every aspect of the self-revelation of Jesus contained in the Gospel.

Remember some of the stories: “The Jews therefore said to Him, “ ”˜You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ”˜Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.’ Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple.” (Jn 8:57-59).

“ ”˜I and the Father are one.’ The Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, ”˜I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?’ The Jews answered Him, ”˜For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.’ ” (Jn 10:30-33)

Jesus’ claim to be God gave his judges three possibilities: (1) He was a liar; (2) He was insane; (3) He was God. These possibilities didn’t leave it open to refer to Jesus as a “holy man,” or a “great teacher.” If He was a liar or crazy, then He coudln’t be either. But if possibility (3) were to be accepted, then He was much much more that simply a holy man or a teacher. And the Jews couldn’t accept that.

Jesus was crucified specifically because He claimed to be God!

This week, Jesus asks his first followers the most important question they will ever be asked: “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter responds: “You are the Christ.” And as Christian people we follow that confession. We are the people who say that Christ is more than just a holy man, more than a great teacher, more than a prophet who announces God’s words, more than an inspiration. We are the people who confess, with Peter, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. This is the faith that brings us together: Jesus is the Son of God, who not only announces the words of God, but is the Word of God.

And that reality is our faith in Christ, which must be more than the confession of our mouth. It must be something confessed by our lives. In the second reading, St. James makes a distinction between dead faith and living faith: “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” If faith remains a theory that doesn’t affect our hearts, our hands, and our choices, then it is dead and has “no power to save us.”

Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty