Understanding Catholicism: Jesus

The very first section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CC hereafter) that I read for this study was “Jesus Christ, the only Son of God.” Regardless of your branch or denomination of Christianity, we agree that Jesus himself is the glorious centerpiece. Yes Christianity was hugely impacted by Paul, but it isn’t named after him, and his letters are not the climax of the biblical cannon. The four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the fire that illuminates every other area of the cannon–they are the focal point, because it is within these four stories that Jesus himself is on the mission.

There is no substitute for going and reading the section yourself, but I’m going to highlight the things that rise to the surface as most central to the meaning and purpose of this section of the CC.

In review of the section as a whole, an obvious and all encompassing sentence is supported: Jesus is the Gospel

Because he brings salvation:

CC: “This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God: God has visited his people. He has fulfilled the promise he made to Abraham and his descendants. He acted far beyond all expectation–he has sent his own “beloved Son.” (p. 118)

“The transmission of the Christian faith consists primarily in proclaiming Jesus Christ in order to lead others to faith in him. From the beginning, the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Christ…” (p. 119)

“At the heart of the catechesis we find, in essence, a person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, the only Son from the Father…who suffered and died for us and who now, after rising, is living with us forever. Jesus Christ: only he can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity.” (p.119)

“Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God who, in Jesus his eternal son made man, will save his people from their sins. In Jesus, God recapitulates all of his history of salvation on behalf of men.” (p. 120)

“It is the divine name alone that brings salvation, and henceforth all can invoke his name, for Jesus united himself to all men through his incarnation, so that there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (p. 121)

Because he is the Christ-Messiah-King

“It–Christ–became a name proper to Jesus only because he accomplished perfectly the divine mission that “Christ” signifies. In effect, those in Israel consecrated to God for a mission that he gave were anointed in his name. This was the case for kings, priests, and in rare instances, prophets. This had to be the case all the more so for the Messiah whom God would send to inaugurate his kingdom definitively. Jesus fulfilled the messianic hope of Israel in his threefold office of priest, prophet, and king.” (p. 122)

Because he is the only Son of God

“The Gospels report that at two solemn moments, the Baptism and the Transfiguration of the Christ, the voice of the Father designates Jesus his “beloved Son.” Jesus calls himself the “only Son of God,” and by this title affirms his eternal preexistence. He asks for faith in the name of the “only Son of God.” After his resurrection, Jesus’ divine sonship becomes manifest in the power of his glorified humanity.”

Because he is Lord

“Lord becomes the more usual name by which to indicate the divinity of Israel’s God. The New Testament uses this full sense of the word for the Father and–what is new–Jesus, who is thereby recognized as God himself. From the beginning of Christian history, the assertion of Christ’s lordship over the world and over history has implicitly recognized that man should not submit his personal freedom in an absolute manner to any earthly power, but only to God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ: Caesar is not the lord.” (p. 126)

*end quoting of CC

All together the section “Jesus” is broken up into two main parts. First, the announcement that He is the good news of the Christian faith. Second, the authors move to support this claim by appealing to Jesus as 1. Savior, 2. Messiah, 3. Son of God, 4. Lord.

It’s an interesting thing that Evangelicals are currently in a battle over the answer to the question, “What is the Gospel?” I have written to some extent about this issue, and my own answer to it, elsewhere. This section on Jesus from the CC seems to beautifully bring together the different themes that make up a well rounded answer to the question “what is the gospel.” In Evangelicalism, some would like to emphasize the salvation that Jesus brings, while others say it’s mainly about Jesus as messiah, and still others prioritizing Jesus as lord, politically, and Caesar is not. These various camps, perhaps, would do well to see what the CC has laid out. Jesus himself is the gospel, no one of his apparent missions or qualities can be considered a “full” gospel.

In reading the entirety of the section on Jesus in the CC, I can not find a single written word that a protestant would contest. This section on Jesus, taken on its own, is absolutely impeccably uniform with the things you find written about Jesus in Protestantism.

There is so much more of the CC I have yet to read, and I will, and I will write about it, and continue to be fair. However and in conclusion, taking the Jesus section of the CC by itself, there is no discontinuity between it and a protestant understanding of Jesus. This means that if the current schism between Protestants and Catholics is well supported and necessary, there is disagreement required in an area other than Jesus–the centerpiece, the most important element of our faith.

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