THINGS CATHOLICS ARE ASKED ABOUT
THE DIVINITY OF CHRIST
The twenty-fifth of December records the birth of Christ. We call the day Christmas, which means Christ’s Mass. For on that day Mass is celebrated in commemoration of the birth of the divine Babe at Bethlehem.
It was a strange way for the Creator to come into His own world. Human wisdom would dictate a more glorious entry. Only God could stoop so low as to be born in a stable amid animals. No mere man, who was master of his own condition, would make his first appearance on the world stage as a helpless babe and as a rejected stranger. “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” None but God could inaugurate the greatest undertaking in the world in such an unseemly way. Christ is the dividing point of history. We date our years before or after Christ. He is also the dividing point of man for all men are either with Him or against Him. It is thus seen that Christ is the most important personality in the world. He has even now more followers, who are devoted lovers, than any monarch that ever lived, no matter how powerful or beloved.
Napoleon was once complimented on the devotion of his people to him. He replied: “Do not speak to me of loyalty and devotion. There is One who died on a cross nearly two thousand years ago who has had, and now has, more ardent lovers than any monarch that ever lived. There are millions today who are ready to lay down their lives for the Crucified, millions today are living for Him and toiling for Him in every part of the world. No King was ever served so faithfully and generously as He who said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world,’ and whose crown was of thorns, and whose throne was the cross.”
To man’s way of thinking Christ chose poor means of establishing His kingdom. But the wisdom of the world is folly, and the foolishness of the cross wisdom. Today Christ is the dominant factor of life, and His kingdom numbers loyal adherents from every nation on the globe. The two greatest and most joyous festivals of civilization are those which commemorate His birth and His resurrection. Christmas and Easter are living tributes to the influence of Jesus Christ in the world. The great personages of antiquity are but names. Alexander and Caesar, with all their power and pomp, are but memories. Who, today, would die for Caesar or Alexander? Literally, millions would gladly die for Christ. In every century, from the beginning of Christianity, the followers of Christ have endured calumny, confiscation of property, imprisonment, torture and death for His Name. None but God could inspire such loyalty so continuously and so long.
Even if Christ never worked a miracle, we have in this age-long devotion to Him a perpetual miracle, and a proof that He was what He proclaimed Himself to be, the Son of God. All that is really worth while in civilization today is the result of Christ in the world. The sages of old and the wise men of various epochs have left their impress on certain nations and periods, but Christ has left His impress on mankind the world over and for all time. We can not be indifferent to Christ. Men love Him or hate Him. He foretold it. “He who is not with Me is against Me.” And so it has been during all the ages. Christ has been passionately loved and violently hated in every age.
It is so today. While millions live for Christ and are ready to die for Him, other millions blaspheme Him and diabolically oppose Him. The world hates Christ because He does not cater to it. The world would love Christ if He gave it what it wanted. It wants to be a law to itself, to make self-indulgence the principle of life. But Christ came to give us something more than what this world at its best can give. “To as many as receive Him He gives the power to become the sons of God.”
He left heaven and became man in order that man might become, in a sense, divine. The world is opposed to Christ because its principles are directly opposite to His. The world sets up this life as man’s goal. Christ proclaims that this life is probation, and that the grave is not the goal but starting-point of man. Between the followers of these two antagonistic standards there must always be inevitable opposition. Which is right, Christ or the world? That is the great question. The greatest.
If Christ is God there can be no question as to who is right. Hence it is that the most vital matter for each individual is his attitude toward Christ and his relation to Christ. If Christ is God, He is to be honored as God, believed in as God, served as God. Is He God? The high priest put that question to Christ personally and heard the answer, “I am.” For that response He was accused of blasphemy and adjudged guilty of death. He was led to Pilate, falsely charged with making Himself king. Pilate asked Him “Art Thou a King?” Christ answered “I am, but My kingdom is not of this world.” Pilate found no fault in Him, yet to satisfy His accusers he sentenced Him to death after proclaiming Him innocent.
This is the only case in the annals of justice where the judge, after solemnly proclaiming the accused innocent, nevertheless sentenced him to death. Christ was crucified for proclaiming that He was God. He meant that He was God in the true sense. He was so understood by His accusers, otherwise He would not have been accused of blasphemy, the penalty of which was death. Was Christ what He claimed to be? He gave the best proof that He was when He died for His statement. Men do not die for a lie. Christ solemnly proclaimed that He was God and died for so proclaiming. Are we to believe Him?
The greatest opponents of Christ’s divinity declare that He is the one perfect being that has ever been in this world. They affirm that His is the best balanced mind known to mankind. They acclaim Him the most exalted and virtuous personage that history records.
This perfect being, distinguished for soundest intellect and most exalted virtue, solemnly declared He was God, and sealed His testimony with His Blood. Since this perfect being can not be a deceiver or a victim of delusion, it follows from the admission of His opponents that Christ is God. This perfect being would not lie, nor would He be under an insane delusion. Christ proclaimed He was God. If He was not God He was either an impostor or a madman. But all admit He was the most upright person that ever lived, and also the sanest. His very opponents, during His lifetime, were forced to admit His exalted sanctity and His marvelous mentality. “Which one of you can accuse Me of sin?” was His challenge to them, and they were forced to hold silence. Again they said, referring to His mentality, “Never spake man as this man speaks.” Of all mankind He alone could point to Himself as a model of conduct. “Learn of Me, who am meek and humble of heart.” Moreover, He proclaimed Himself the standard of truth. “I am the Light of the world.” “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” What arrogance and what insanity if He were not God! But holy as was Christ, and mentally perfect, His divinity rests on something more than His word. Christ knew that in affirming He was God He was making a most astounding claim. The Jews had such reverence for God that they never pronounced His name, uttering, instead, a substitute, “Adonai.” It was this great, Almighty Being that Christ affirmed Himself to be. No wonder the Jews were amazed at His claims, and resisted them. Christ, who knew their exalted idea of God, made every allowance for their slowness to believe in Him. He realized the magnitude of His claims and the need of substantiating them. Accordingly He said to them that they had a right to demand of Him corroboration of His word. Hence He proceeded to confirm His statement, as a scientist would, by evidence.
“If you do not believe Me, at least believe the works which I do, they give testimony of Me.” His miracles were the evidence He furnished for His claim. Any man could say he was God. But no one who was not God could do the things which God alone can do. Christ gave sight to the blind, made the cripple walk, cleansed the leper, cured the deaf, raised the dead to life. He commanded nature as only the Lord of nature could do, bidding the storm to cease and the elements to subside. The winds and the waves obeyed Him.
On a certain occasion “they came to Him bringing one sick of the palsy, who was carried by four. And when they could not offer him unto Him for the multitude, they uncovered the roof where He was; and opening it, they let down the bed wherein the man sick of the palsy lay. And when Jesus had seen their faith, He saith to the sick of the palsy: Son, thy sins are forgiven thee. And there were some of the scribes sitting there, and thinking in their hearts: Why doth this man speak thus? He blasphemeth. Who can forgive sins, but God only? Which Jesus presently knowing in His spirit, that they so thought within themselves, saith to them: Why think you these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the sick of the palsy: Thy sins are forgiven thee; or to say: Arise, take up thy bed, and walk? But that you may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (He saith to the sick of the palsy), I say to thee: Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thy house. And immediately he arose; and taking up his bed, went his way in the sight of all, so that all wondered and glorified God, saying: We never saw the like,” (Mark II. 3-12).
On this occasion Christ gave conclusive evidence that He was God. He admitted that only God could forgive sin, and then proceeded to show that He had forgiven sin and that consequently He was God. If one person says to another, “Thy sins are forgiven thee,” there is no evidence that sin is forgiven. But Christ, in order to show that He actually forgave sin when He pronounced the words of forgiveness, did something which proved that His words were power, and that they accomplished what they signified.
Any one could say to the paralytic, “Thy sins are forgiven thee,” but only God could say to the prostrate man, “Arise and walk.” In order to show that His words of forgiveness effected what was spiritual and invisible, He wrought, by a mere word, the instantaneous cure of an incurable paralytic, which was something visible to all. It was as if He had said, “That you may know that I am God and have power to forgive sin I shall heal, by a word, this paralytic. If My word gives him immediate restoration to soundness of body you will know that My word also has remitted his sins.” Then turning to the expectant paralytic He spoke the word of power, the word of God: Arise! The cripple leapt to his feet at the word of the Creator. Christ had, indeed, forgiven sin.
Christ was God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, all things were made by Him, . . . and the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.”
The perfect being, Christ, whose mentality and holiness were unapproachable, not only declared He was God, but confirmed His declaration by the deeds of God. His whole public life was a record of divine deeds. Hence He said to the Jews: “If you do not believe Me, believe the works which I do; they give testimony of Me.” The last and greatest miracle of Christ was wrought as a direct and final confirmation of His divinity. Just before He raised Lazarus from the dead He declared that He was going to do it in proof that His mission was from God Almighty. “That they may know that Thou hast sent Me.” After declaring that it was to be a corroboration of the truth of His claims, He turned to the tomb wherein lay the dead Lazarus, dead now four days, and already beginning to corrupt, and with a commanding voice, exclaimed, “Lazarus come forth!” The corpse leapt to life at the summons of the Creator, and Jesus gave to Martha and Mary their beloved brother, now fully and instantly restored to them.
It was after this miracle, which was witnessed by a large concourse of prominent Jews, that the people acclaimed Christ the Messias, and on His way to Jerusalem met Him in large numbers, waving palms and leading Him in procession to the holy city. This alarmed the Jewish leaders, who were opposed to Jesus as darkness is to light, and they planned to put Him to death. They were convinced but not converted, as happens with many today. Members of the Jewish council had witnessed the miracle and reported it, with the result that instead of being converted the council became hardened in their opposition and malice. Instead of being converted they became perverted, and plotted false accusation and death against Jesus, and also the murder of Lazarus, the living evidence of the divine power of Jesus.
“Many therefore of the Jews, who were come to Mary and Martha, and had seen the things that Jesus did, believed in Him. But some of them went to the Pharisees, and told them the things that Jesus had done. The chief priests therefore, and the Pharisees, gathered a council and said: What do we, for this man doth many miracles? If we let Him alone so, all will believe in Him and the Romans will come, and take away our place and nation. But one of them named Caiphas, being the high priest that year, said to them: You know nothing. Neither do you consider that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this he spoke not of himself: but being the high priest of that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation. And not only for the nation, but to gather together in one the children of God, that were dispersed. From that day therefore they devised to put him to death . . . But the chief priests thought to kill Lazarus also: Because many of the Jews, by reason of him, went away, and believed in Jesus. And on the next day a great multitude that was come to the festival day, when they had heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet Him, and cried: Hosanna, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel” (John XI. 45-53 — XII. 10-13).
The Jews did not deny the miracles of Jesus. They could not with the evidence before them. But having begun an evil course they would not turn aside from it. It led them, in the end, to deliberate calumny and murder. It may be asked why the Scribes and Pharisees rejected Christ in view of the evidence of His miracles The same question may be asked today. Thousands have seen unquestionable miracles at Lourdes. Zola, having witnessed a marvelous cure wrought there, declared he would not believe if he saw a thousand such cures. If belief entailed no change of life many would believe. But one can not believe in Christ without living as Christ prescribes. That is the obstacle, frequently.
Evidence that would persuade and convince in other matters is disregarded when there is question of Christ. But Christ is God. He declared He was God, and confirmed His declaration by deeds which God alone could perform. Miracles are God’s mark, putting the seal of divine approval on the person and mission of the one who performs them. Since Christ wrought miracles He gave evidence that His mission was from above. The Gospels, which record Christ’s mission, are the most genuine and authentic documents of history. This is the judgment of the best scholars of the world.
To sum up — Christ, the one perfect person, intellectually and morally, that this world has known, solemnly declared He was God, in the true sense, and died for His statement. Moreover He confirmed His Word by divine deeds, and throughout His life assumed the prerogatives of God, forgiving sin, setting Himself up as Judge of the living and the dead, and declaring that in all things He was equal to the Father. Besides, the Church which He established is in the world to-day, and is extended to every nation and people, the Light of the world, the true way of peace and the guide to eternal life. The Son of God became man in order that man might become, in a sense, divine. Christ did not come upon earth to give us fame or riches or a long life. He had none of these things Himself. He came to give His life — real life, a share in His own eternal life. He came to us in weakness and love. He came thus to win our love, knowing that if we love Him we will serve Him. Christ was God’s gift to mankind. “God so loved the world as to give His only Son.”
God wants our gift in return, the gift of an upright life for love of Him. Then when Christ comes in power and glory and justice we shall be glad to meet Him, knowing that He will be our reward exceeding great. Christ’s birth as man is our birth as the children of God. Through the Babe of Bethlehem we have received the wonderful inheritance by which we “may become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. I. 4). No wonder that Christ means so much to mankind.
Note by GADEL: Fr. Martin Jerome Scott (1865-1964) was a Jesuit Priest and scholar of the pre-Vatican II Church. He has authored many books including Introduction to Catholicism, God and Myself, The Hand of God, You and yours; practical talks on home life, Have you a God? what is He like?, Marriage problems, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John Were they fooled? – Did they lie? and No Pope can be wrong in teaching doctrine among others that shows how consistent the pre-Vatican II Church is with that of Vatican II.