Pastor’s Page – Jesus, Fully Human, Fully Divine

In my first assignment at Christ Our Light Parish in Cherry Hill, I taught the middle school religion classes quarterly (as I do now at Christ the King School). I once asked a class, “Is Jesus 100% human and 100% divine or 50% human and 50% divine?” The students answered together: “50% human and 50% divine.” The teacher told me their math is better than their theology!

Jesus is just one divine person, the second person of the Trinity, but thanks to Christmas Day he is fully divine and fully human. The terms person and nature are critical to Catholic theology. Person answers the question Who? and nature answers the question What? The second person of the Trinity and Jesus of Nazareth are not two separate people; they are the same person. But since his Incarnation (the doctrine which Christmas celebrates), the Son of God can draw upon two sets of abilities, human and divine. Because Jesus is human, he could die on the Cross. Because Jesus is divine, he could rise from the dead by his own power. Where the natures have similar abilities, the superior version does not replace the inferior. Instead, Jesus doubles up. So, Jesus has both the divine will and a human will. It’s important to get this obscure theology of the Incarnation right so we can have a right understanding of salvation.

I like to say that Jesus is what we hope to become. Jesus not only saves; he is salvation itself. Salvation is humanity’s reconciliation with God. In the person of Jesus Christ, God and humanity are perfectly united. Jesus’ human will is perfectly aligned the divine will. In our salvation, our will is not overridden by God’s will. No, our will, through prayer, penance, and good works, gradually aligns more closely with the divine will. In other words, God’s grace does not cancel our free will.

A proper understanding of the Incarnation also affirms human dignity, the fundamental principle of the Church’s social doctrine. Through Christmas, the Son of God permanently assumed a human nature. He did not borrow it just through Good Friday then, after his Resurrection, revert to being only divine. Instead, he ascended into heaven with his human nature intact. The human body was always good because God made it. It is even better now that the Incarnate Son of God sits at the right hand of the Father with a human body. Our bodies will also be raised from the dead and crowned with glory.