“Who are you” (Jn 1:19)? John did not claim or pretend to be something that he was not. He was clear who he was, he was clear of his place in serving God, and he was clear about the mission God gave him. He was preparing the way of the Lord. John shared that “there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me,whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie” (Jn 1:26-27).
The question also arose about who Jesus was. It was not only a question during his lifetime, but this query was also addressed during the early development of the Church’s Christology and still arises today. The readings of the Christmas Season, that we are still celebrating liturgically, in fact, all four Gospels, address the question of who Jesus is. In fact, the entirety of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation answers this question!
The majority of the heresies that arose in the Church surrounded this question as well. From the Annunciation, we recognize that at his conception in the womb of Mary Jesus remained fully God and became fully human. He did not become the Christ at his baptism as the heresy of Adoptionism would propose. Nor was Jesus a powerful created being as the priest Arius would suggest in the third century. We counter the heresy of Arianism every Sunday when we recite in the Nicene Creed: “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him, all things were made.”
Arianism taught that Jesus was a created being, the highest of beings made by God, but created none the less. The Church teaches that Jesus is begotten not made. He was, is, and always will be God, the Second Person of the Trinity. He is God the Son consubstantial, homoousios, which means of one and the same substance with God the Father. The Father and the Son are one in substance, yet distinct in their operation. The Father begets, the Son is begotten.
Adoptionism and Arianism are but two of the various early heresies that arose, of which Arianism gained more of a following. Arianism still rears its head today in practice as it did then because of the unwillingness of those who will not acknowledge that the divine could become human. This goes back to our starting question that was asked about John. “Who are you?”
Who are we? We are human beings created in the image and likeness of God. We are physical beings with a rational soul, we are invited to embrace the reality that we are human and through our participation in the life of Jesus, we also become divine. Do we reject our humanity, our created status, trying to determine our own destiny on our own terms, to put ourselves in the place of God, or are we like John the Baptist, and acknowledge the gift of who we are and the mission God invites us to participate in?
As we continue to celebrate this Christmas Season and the new year that has just begun, may we embrace whose we are and have been created and are called to be. Each and everyone of us is a unique person, never created before nor will we ever be again, with a particular vocation and part to play in building up of the reign of God. We will come to know our purpose and find meaning in our life as we follow the lead of Mary and John the Baptist, who made time to ponder and align their human will with the divine will of God. As we collaborate with Jesus in all the decisions we are to make, the smallest to the biggest, let us pray for a heart, mind, and soul that is open to following the love of the Holy Spirit so that we can know the mission that the Father has given us and begin to live it each day.
For me, looking back at 2020, even before the pandemic, was a year of living in survival mode. My hope for this year is to continue healing, balancing, meditating, praying, writing, and hopefully a return to reading, walking, and living.
Photo: I believe this was my senior year of high school or just after graduation, on a CT beach, ’82 or ’83, pondering God’s direction. More pondering to do this year 😉 Maybe time to get back to the beach as well!