Jesus partook of our infirmity that we might partake of his divinity

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”

The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon (Jn 1.35-39).

“They remained with him that day” (Jn 1.39). The narrative of the first two disciples following Jesus to see and know where he stayed, to present themselves and to discover if they would be accepted, is so simple, yet riddled with intense emotion. Excitement, fear, desire, tentative trust, hope that risked disappointment, curiosity, and a myriad other motivations were tangled up with the decision to walk after the man John the Baptist had called the Lamb of God. The intense emotions are juxtaposed with the yawning stretch of the afternoon they spent together. “It was about four in the afternoon” (Jn 1.39).

The gospel leaves no record of what occurred that afternoon. What did they discover when they found where Jesus lived? Was it a physical dwelling that Jesus showed them? Did he talk about himself, his dreams, his Father? Did he ask them questions about themselves?

The psychological intensity of the reader of the gospel is, like that of the two disciples, swallowed up in the measured response of the Master: Come and see. The effect of the gospel narrative is to focus the eyes of our soul inward, to a vast, unending, path that leads progressively deeper into the “yawning stretches” of our inner self. In a word, the effect of the narrative is to create a space in which to remain, to abide, an abiding which has less a sense of cohabitation as it does of inhabitation. Inhabitation, in the thought of Augustine, presumes the direct action of God upon the person, the raising of the human creature into a supra-human world. Inhabitation means incorporation into Jesus, being inhabited by the Holy Spirit.[1]

On this journey inward, we discover not ourselves, at least not at first, but the One we are following.

Jesus has vital information to give us about himself, and any self-identity without this revelation of Jesus would be ill founded.

How is this so? First, Augustine states again and again: Jesus was born of God that we might be made through him; he was born of a woman that we might be remade through him.[2] Jesus’ relationship to us is that of Creator and Savior, which defines us as “created” and “saved,” or at least in need of salvation. Jesus raises us and leads us to God.[3]   Our Lord God is the Lofty One, the Powerful One who made us, in Jesus God is the Humble One who has come to make us anew.[4] The chain of sin no longer has power over us because the temporal death of Jesus Christ has killed eternal death: this is grace and truth (cf. Jn 1.17).

Second, Jesus gave himself as the Vine to us the branches. Without him we have no life (Jn 15.5).[5] If Jesus is the cause of life, then without him we are dead. We are utterly dependent on him for everything, since the gift of life is the basic foundation upon which all other gifts are laid. Jesus had no need of us in order to work out our salvation. We, however, had infinite need of him for without him we can do nothing.[6]  In the 15th chapter of John, Jesus tells us not to separate ourselves from him, but this is only after he has shown us that he will not separate himself from us. He attached himself to us, and asks us not to separate ourselves from him who has grafted us into his life.

Third, Jesus was ready to be made low in order to come to us—to leave behind greatness and glory, to humble himself in order to come down to our level. So that pride would be cured, the Son of God came down and was made low.[7] Since the beginning, in the gift of the garden, we have sought to erase the distinction between ourselves and God (Gen. 3). Jesus instead has emphasized that distinction in lowering himself. The Son of God made himself the son of a creature that he might make creatures sons and daughters of God[8]  and in order to cure our pride (Phil 2.6-12).[9]  “I teach humility, none but the humble can come to me” (cf. Mt 11.29).[10]  In the end only those who are willing to hold fast to the lowliness of Jesus will remain with him.[11] Fourth, in Jesus who has sought us and saved us, we are safe from all judgment. Augustine states: Jesus will not cast us out, because we are his members, because he willed to be our Head by teaching us humility.  Even though the Father hated what we had done to ourselves and our relationship with him, he loves us inasmuch as we are members of his Son whom he loves.[12] He who loves his only-begotten Son certainly also loves the members of his Son’s Body[13] which are engrafted into him by adoption. God loves us because God loves what he has done in us. In fact, the divine love is not a reward for our good behavior in responding to Jesus’ work of redemption. There is no other reason necessary for the Father loving the members of Jesus’ Body than that the Father loves himself.[14] So entirely have we been mystically brought into the living circle of Trinitarian love.[15]

Photo Credit: Matías Medina 

[1] “If we contemplate most of our fellow-men, we have to agree that they seldom if ever take into account the direct action of God upon them, let alone that action as raising them to an altogether super-human plane. Even Catholics are apt to see themselves just as beings who are taught what to do and what not to do, though no doubt helped by God to do the former. But how very few attach a conscious habitual meaning to a phrase like: ‘incorporation into Christ’; ‘inhabitation of the Holy Spirit’! On this elevation of the human creature into a super-human world, Augustine without cease insists.” Przywara, vi.

[2] Tractate 2; Also: “Beautiful as a bridegroom, strong as a giant, lovable and terrible, severe and serene, beautiful to the good, harsh to the wicked, remaining in the bosom of the Father, he made pregnant the womb of the Mother.” Ser CXCV, 3. Quoted in Przywara, 180.

[3] “He who was God was made man, by taking what he was not, not by losing what he was: thus was God made man…. Let Christ, therefore, lift you up by that which is man, let him lead you by that which is God-man, let him guide you through to that which is God.” In Joan Evang. XXIII, 6. Quoted in Przywara, 196.

[4] Tractate 10.

[5] Tractate 84.

[6] Tractate 84; Also: “In order that we might receive that love whereby we should love, we were ourselves loved, while as yet we had it not….For we would not have had the wherewithal to love Him, unless we received it from him by his first loving us.” De grat. Christi xxvi, 27.  Quoted in Przywara, 345-346.

[7] Tractate 24.

[8] “He, being God, for this cause became man, that man might acknowledge himself to be but man… Being God he is made man; and man does not acknowledge himself to be man, that is, does not acknowledge himself to be mortal, does not acknowledge himself to be frail, does not acknowledge himself to be a sinner, does not acknowledge himself to be sick, that as sick he may at least seek a physician; and what is still more perilous, he fancies himself to be in good health.” Serm (de Script. NT) LXXVII, vii, 11. Quoted in Przywara, 187.

[9] Tractate 54.

[10] Tractate 24.

[11] “But the Teacher of humility, the partaker of our infirmity, giving us to partake of his own divinity, coming down for the purpose that he might teach the way and become the way (cf. John xiv, 6), deigned to recommend chiefly his own humility to us.” In Ps. LVIII, Serm. i, 7. Quoted in Przywara, 203.

[12] Tractate 110.

[13] Tractate 110.

[14] Tractate 110.

[15] “For it was not enough for God to give as his Son one who should show the way. He made him the Way, so that walking by him you might go under his governance.” In Ps. CIX, 2. Quoted in Przywara, 204.

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