Why did God the Father send his Son into the world? Was there no other way to save us? Theologians have longed discussed that question, but the fact remains: Although Jesus was God’s Son from all eternity, at a point in time some 2,000 years ago, he assumed our human nature and entered history. This happened because God wanted to draw near to us, to reconcile us to his love and to enable us to share his life.
Jesus is “true God and true man” — “of one substance,” “consubstantial” with the Father and at the same time, truly our brother. This central truth of our faith was authoritatively summarized and taught by the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451. It proclaimed that Jesus is a divine Person, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, with two natures, divine and human. This does not mean that Jesus is “half God” and “half man,” but rather fully God and fully man. As man he revealed the Father to us and, at the same time, revealed us to ourselves — who we are and what we should become (see Gaudium et Spes, 22). As God, he made us partakers in the divine nature, in the life and love he shared with his Father from all eternity.
Jesus’ two natures, without becoming confused, work together. The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “In the humanity of Jesus all things — his miracles, his suffering and his death — must be attributed to his divine Person which acts by means of his assumed human nature” (Compendium, 89). That is why, when Jesus speaks and acts in the Gospels, a wisdom, power and love emerge which baffles his followers and his enemies alike.
The Incarnation was real. The Son of God truly did assume “a body animated by a rational human soul” (90). As the Second Vatican Council teaches, “He worked with human hands and thought with a human mind” (Gaudium et Spes, 22). In doing so, Jesus learned many things the way we do: by experience. But as God he knew the Father “intimately and immediately.” Jesus was aware of the plan of God the Father, which he had come to fulfill. He also knew the inmost thoughts of others.
Moreover, Jesus possessed both a human will and a divine will. We all know how easy it is for our will to go awry, to know what we should do but to do something else instead. As we struggle with our fallen nature, here is a beautiful truth for us to reflect on: As the Son of God made man, Jesus willed in a human way all that the Trinity had decided on to bring about our salvation. The human will of Christ was fully conformed to the Father’s saving love. In his will we find the pattern for the obedience that should be ours as baptized sons and daughters of the Father. What is more, we have access to Christ’s obedient love through the Mass and sacraments. Jesus’ obedience serves to heal our disobedience and its effects.
And not only did Jesus humanly know and follow what he learned from his heavenly Father; with his human heart, he also knows and loves us. For that reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus symbolizes the boundless love of the Trinity for us.
Perhaps this is a good place to end. But it is also the beginning — the inexhaustible foundation of our life in Christ.