Ecce Deus vester! Behold your God!

Ecce homo! “Behold the man!”[1]

It is with these words that Pilate presents Jesus of Nazareth, bound and crowned with thorns to the Jewish crowd, just before he sends him away to be crucified.

Ecce Homo!

Ecce Homo!

Saint John tells us that “No one has ever seen God[2] and yet our Christian faith calls this very statement into question. Although the New Testament contains numerous instances that illustrate the divinity of Christ, the issue was far from settled for many centuries after his death and resurrection.

The First Council of Nicaea defined and declared the divinity of Jesus Christ in direct response to the Arian heresy which had taught that Christ was not divine but was rather a superhuman creature made by God.

The Ecumenical Councils of Nicaea in 325 and Constantinople in 381 subsequently produced the Nicene Creed, the profession of faith through which we confirm our belief  in “Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father.[3]

At the Last Supper Jesus told his disciples “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.[4] If what we profess as truth is indeed the truth and we firmly believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, then we must hold fast to the belief that Jesus is truly God and from this we must profess that anyone who ever saw Jesus did indeed see God.

So the question that remains for us to answer is how do you see Jesus? Do you see the man or do you see God? Our faith calls for us to see Jesus as both fully human and fully divine, having two natures, united with God in personhood with the Father and the Holy Spirit. It is a mystery beyond the capacity of man to comprehend or decipher; a mystery as confounding and unknowable as God Himself.

In his book New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton says “There is ‘no such thing’ as God because God is neither a ‘what’ nor a ‘thing’ but a pure ‘who.’”[5] Much the same can and should be said of Jesus Christ, for he is not a creature made by God, but is God personified. He is the Word of God and “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.[6]

Matthew tells us that “Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.[7] Yet no miracle proved to be a greater sign of his divinity and divine power than his raising of Lazarus from the dead.

It is within the context of his divinity that we may come to better understand his apparent nonchalance when he received word from his friends Mary and Martha that their brother Lazarus was ill, for we read that “he remained for two days where he was.[8]

Why did he delay? That is certainly the question that perplexed Mary and Martha when he finally arrived four days after Lazarus had died and had been buried.

While those who knew Jesus had come to believe that he was the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, no one, not even his closest friends, believed him to be divine; no one understood what he was saying when he told them “The Father and I are one.[9]

When Jesus told Martha “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die[10] her response reflected her misunderstanding of the resurrection that Jesus was proclaiming.

Martha believed that Jesus was describing the restoration of a corpse to life, referring to the resurrection of her brother Lazarus, but Jesus was speaking of a transformation from the physical to the spiritual. Jesus came not to abolish physical death but rather to transcend it.

Jesus delayed his return so as to leave no doubt that Lazarus was truly dead. Lazarus had been dead and in the tomb for four days, more than enough time to prove that death had exerted its full power over him, certainly long enough for the body to putrefy and for a stench to rise up.

Jesus delayed his return so that those who were grieving would retain no hope that Lazarus might still remain among the living.

Jesus prolonged his return so that we might come to believe in him and to accept his divinity, for no one but God can exert power over the living and the dead.

Jesus resurrected Lazarus, not merely because he could, but to offer into evidence tangible proof of who he was and what was yet to come.

Resurrecting Lazarus foreshadowed not only his own impending death and resurrection but the resurrection that awaits us all when he comes “again in glory to judge the living and the dead.[11]

As disciples, we are called to mirror Christ’s humanity, to acknowledge his divinity, and above all, to follow his command to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.[12]

As a community of believers and as the Body of Christ we are called to proclaim that Jesus is both the Son of Man and the Son of God.

Ecce homo! Behold the man!

Ecce Deus vester! Behold your God!

 


[1] Jn 19:5.
[2] 1 Jn 4:12.
[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), # 195.
[4] Jn 14:6-7.
[5] Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation.
[6] Jn 1:1-3.
[7] Mt 9:35.
[8] Jn 11:6.
[9] Jn 10:30.
[10] Jn 11:25-26.
[11] Nicene Creed.
[12] Lk 10:27.

Deacon Chuck

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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