Tag Archives: light of faith

The Personality of Jesus 1

 

LG Sleiman

Latest revision: 8:30 pm, 24th January 2021.

The Lord’s personality is so multifaceted, so much deeper than the most profound depths, and rich with unexpected graces, virtues, and incomprehensible love.

The Lord is so much greater than our ordinary experience, so much greater as the Creator is above His creatures, that any present experience we have of Him seems only to be another stage disposing us for even greater knowledge.

How can we come to know the Lord when He is ineffable, mysterious, all powerful?

How can a mere mortal come to understand the God of creation?

When Job sought to understand the reason why God had allowed him to suffer so many losses, wounds, and tragedies, the Lord did not give him a direct response, but instead put a series of questions to Job:

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements-surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

“Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?

“Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?

“Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this.

“Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness, that you may take it to its territory and that you may discern the paths to its home?” (Job 38: 1-13; 16-18; 19-20)

With these words the Lord indicates to Job, among other things, the infinite distance between the creature and the Creator–a distance that human strength alone cannot traverse.

But we need not fear, for Jesus taught us that He is able to overcome such an enormous distance:

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:27)

The Father sent His Son into the world in order that the Son may reveal the Father to whomever He chooses: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

But on the way to the perfect knowledge of the Lord we can already begin to know the Lord by degrees, already begin to discern certain attributes of His personality from the Scriptures.

Here we observe, for example, that the Lord’s personality is marked by profound spontaneity, depth, and originality. His character embodies so many contraries, such as justice and mercy, power and humility, gentleness and wisdom. His love is unconditional yet uncompromising.

Our Lord Jesus Christ was infinitely gentle, patient, and merciful with sinners, the weak and abandoned, the lowly and impoverished; yet He was very severe, exacting, and just with those considered great and knowledgeable, the leaders of the people, and the proud and arrogant.

Consider His words to the Pharisees who, after Christ had healed a blind and mute man, accused Him of being in league with the devil:

“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34)

When Jesus declared Himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12) the Pharisees, not believing in Him nor accepting His authority, argued with the Lord and justified themselves by claiming to be the children of God. To which Jesus responded:

“If God were your Father, you would love me: for I came forth and am come from God; for neither have I come of myself, but he sent me. Why do you not understand my speech? Even because you cannot hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and stands not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof.” (John 8:42-44)

While teaching in Jerusalem on the eve of His Sacred Passion, knowing what was about to befall Him, Jesus warned the chief priests and elders of the people:

“The kingdom of God shall be taken away from you, and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.” (Matthew 21:43)

A brief reading of the Gospels will show that there are many other instances in which Jesus was very exacting and very severe with His interlocutors.

On the other hand, we find that Jesus was infinitely compassionate, gentle and merciful with those who were weak, forsaken, oppressed, and bound by sin. Christ did not hesitate to dine with sinners, to rescue the woman caught in adultery, and to forgive the thief on the cross who had been a sinner all his life.

For Jesus did not come to “break a bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick.” (Matthew 12:20)

Regarding the whole world, the Scripture says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

And for those who had lost their way, Jesus said: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.” (Luke 15:3-5)

Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He is tireless in seeking out His lost sheep.

Regarding those who work very hard and are weary, Jesus called: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

So we see that Jesus did not apply the same ‘measure’ to all persons, nor extend Himself to everyone in the same way, for He “knew all men”, and “he needed not that any one should bear witness concerning man.” (John 2:24,25)

He was infinitely gentle with some, and extremely strict with others. Why so? 

The Lord explains: “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more.” (Luke 12:48)

Jesus wants to save everyone: the strong and the weak, the humble and the proud, the honest and the dishonest, the righteous and the unrighteous, the good and the evil, but He cannot apply the same “medicine” to all.

Each one needs only to open his or her heart to the Lord Jesus who must, as the all wise, all loving, and all powerful Son of God, administer the right medicine to each one, working tirelessly so that everyone might come to believe in Him, for faith in Christ is the door to eternal life. (John 20:31)

And so the words of the Scripture ring more and more true, the more we realise the ways of the Lord, and the heights and depths of His wisdom:

“With the loyal thou dost show thyself loyal; with the blameless man thou dost show thyself blameless; with the pure thou dost show thyself pure; and with the crooked thou dost show thyself perverse. For thou dost deliver a humble people; but the haughty eyes thou dost bring down.

“Yea, thou dost light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness. Yea, by thee I can crush a troop; and by my God I can leap over a wall. This God—his way is perfect; the promise of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:25-30)

What is the relationship of theology to philosophy?

Philosophy is related to theology like your right hand is to your left hand.

Philosophy is based on the light of human reason. So in philosophy we can ask questions like, “What is the world made of?”, “Did the world always exist or was it created?”, “How does one thing differ from another?”, “What is existence?”, “What is human nature?”, “What is the purpose of life and how do we fulfill our lives?”, “What is truth?”, “What is knowledge?”, “What is happiness and how do we find it?”, “How is it best to live our lives?”, “How should we organize our societies?”, “What is beauty? How do you define the beautiful?”, and so on. Philosophers try to sketch an answer to such questions using their own reason, and to reason and deliberate and dialogue with other philosophers in the attempt to approach the truth of these things more closely.

Theology is based on the light of faith, on faith in the Revelation of God—the event of God revealing Himself. Through the Catholic faith, for example, we know that God seeks out human beings and wants to have a relationship with them, to lead them to eternal happiness. We know that God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ into the world to show us the nature of God, that God is Trinity, that Christ died for our sins and rose again from the dead, that He founded a Church, that He sent His Holy Spirit upon the Church for our salvation and sanctification and that of the whole world, and so on. Theologians seek to deepen their understanding of such truths (to reason) as have been revealed by God and received by the Church in faith.

From this we can see that, while each has its own point of departure, philosophy (based on reason) and theology (based on faith) overlap in their concerns and that both disciplines are oriented to the truth about existence, human nature, and human destiny.

Moreover, each of philosophy and theology involves the cooperation of faith and reason: philosophy embraces certain premises (or beliefs) and proceeds to reason accordingly; theology believes certain precepts and proceeds to seek an understanding of them (using reason).

For all these reasons, philosophy and theology are marked not only by cooperation and complementarity, they are also (in some sense) inseparable.

We may say, therefore, that philosophy and theology are one in origin (their ultimate origin is in God who gives us both the light of reason and the light of faith), one in their goal (they are both oriented to truth), and one in their operation (or cooperation), in the sense that they are quite inseparable.