By Lenora Grimaud
Why did God incarnate himself into a human being who is like us in all things, except for sin? The only plausible answer is “love.”
God loved us so much that he wanted to be with us—in union with us—in an intimate relationship with us. He wanted the very best of life for us. He wanted our happiness for all eternity.
Love is relational, the free act of giving and receiving between persons; anything less is not love. Love cannot be one-sided; God’s love comes to us only if we receive him. God is love, and God is relational—a relationship between three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God wanted to bring all of humanity into that relationship through love—through the Holy Spirit—by uniting humanity in his Son—Jesus Christ—fully God and fully man.
God had to become human in order to draw humanity into himself through his only Son, Jesus Christ. In Jesus, God and man-kind are made one. Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved. (John 3:16-17).
As the Son of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share in one divine will—perfect love—truth, light, life, and power. When the Son of God became man, he took on a limited body of flesh—a human will, understanding, intellect, feelings, imagination, memory, emotions, and senses; he became fully human.
As a man, Jesus humbled himself before God, submitting his human will and his earthly being to the will of God, out of love. His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. (Phil. 2:6-8). He surrendered himself to love, for love, in love, for the sake of all humanity. He modeled for humanity the way in which humans are to relate with God and one-another. He yielded his humanity to the power of the Holy Spirit in the way in which all humans would be invited to yield to the Holy Spirit.
In this way, he became the New Adam, the first-born of a new humanity:
“The first man, Adam, as scripture says, became a living soul; but the last Adam has become a life-giving spirit. That is, first the one with the soul, not the spirit, and after that, the one with the spirit. The first man, being from the earth, is earthly by nature; the second man is from heaven. As this earthly man was, so are we on earth; and as the heavenly man is, so are we in heaven. And we, who have been modeled on the earthly man, will be modeled on the heavenly man.” (1Cor.15:45-49).
The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus is the Word of God, and that the Son of God always existed with the Father, and that through the Son, all of creation came to be:
“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. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him.” (John 1:1-5, 10).
God became man in order to reveal himself to man-kind. Jesus came to reveal the Father, and the love between the Father and the Son, to man-kind. Not only that, but he came to give us the power—the Holy Spirit—to become children of God. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God. As children of God, we will see his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:12, 14).
The world cannot receive this grace and truth. To the world, truth is relevant, not absolute; it is always changing. Only the children of God can receive the truth because Jesus is the truth: From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only-begotten Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him (John 1:16-18).
God loved us so much that he wanted to share in our suffering—to suffer with us and for us. It is through the passion of Jesus Christ that the compassion and mercy of God is revealed to humans. A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). In Jesus Christ, God lays down his life for humanity. Humanity can never say that God does not know what it is like to be human and to suffer the frailty of human nature. Humanity can never say that God has not walked in our shoes. However, God didn’t need to become man in order to know us or to understand human behavior. He became man in order to reveal to us that he knows us and understands us. He became man in order that we might come to know God.
Every human being is unique and cannot be fully known by any other human being. After all, the depths of a man can only be known by his own spirit, not by any other man, and in the same way the depths of God can only be known by the Spirit of God. Now instead of the spirit of the world, we have received the Spirit that comes from God, to teach us to understand the gifts that he has given us (1Cor. 2:11-12).
Without the grace of God, we cannot even fully know ourselves, because of blindness and our human limitations. But, God knows us through and through—our every thought, word, and action. He knows our limitations and potential, our weaknesses and strengths, our feelings and emotions, our desires and inclinations, our motives and drives, our vices and virtues, our every sin and every good deed. God knows our past, present, and future. Nothing about us is hidden from God because he is pure light, pure truth. We are utterly naked before God—all is exposed.
God loved us so much that he wanted to communicate with us in our own language—in words and actions that we can comprehend—in order to reveal his love to us and his will for us. Jesus came to conform us to the “truth”—to transform us by the truth—while there is still time, because if we are not conformed by the truth, the truth will be Hell for us. The brilliance of the light, which is God, is unbearable to those who live in darkness.
This light is the final judgment. We will either embrace this light with joy or blindly run from it, right into Hell, with fear and self-hatred. The only way that God can protect us from the judgment of truth and prevent us from running away from the light, into Hell, is by shielding us from the fullness of his glory and light—by hiding himself from us and letting us discover him through the darkness of faith. Purgatory is a place of partial light—separated from the fullness of the glory of God until we are purified and can embrace the light of truth.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a great grace given to us on earth in order to conform us to the truth, and transform us by the truth; to prepare us to walk into the light. Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved. No one who believes in him will be condemned; but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already, because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son. On these grounds is sentence pronounced: that though the light has come into the world men have shown they prefer darkness to the light because their deeds were evil. And indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it, for fear his actions should be exposed; but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light, so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.” (John 3:17-21).
We are so self-centered, blind, and fearful of the light that we choose to believe that God sent his Son into the world to judge us, as a final test of allegiance to God, as though he were some tyrant dictator who wants to establish his power over us. Those who accept his Son will be saved and those who reject him will be punished for rejecting him and destroyed.
We do not realize that the whole world—the good, bad, and indifferent—was already doomed to an eternal life of darkness, fear, violence, torment, and self-hatred—Hell—because of sin. God sent his Son into the world to rescue us—to save us—from this eternal Hell that was our destiny.
Jesus is the light that has come into the world. He came to us hidden in a body of flesh, to shield us from his glory so that we wouldn’t run away from him in fear and trembling. The Incarnation is God’s gift of love to humanity. Since we were incapable of being able to come to him, because of original sin, God humbled himself to come to us.
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