Like Us in Everything Except Sin

Author: Pope John Paul II

Jesus Christ, true man, "like us in everything except sin"

In his General Audience on Wednesday, 3 February 1988, the Holy Father reflected on how Jesus, though divine, loved us with a human heart.

1. Jesus Christ is true man . We continue the previous catechesis dedicated to this theme. This is a fundamental truth of our faith . Faith based on the word of Christ himself, confirmed by the testimony of the Apostles and disciples, handed down from generation to generation in the teaching of the Church: "Credimus... Deum verum et hominem verum ... non phantasticum, sed unum et unicum Filium Dei" (Lugdunian Council II: DS , 852).

More recently, the Second Vatican Council has recalled the same doctrine by underlining the new relationship that the Word, incarnating and becoming man like us, has inaugurated with each and every one: "The Son of God with his incarnation has united, in a certain with every man. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human intelligence, he acted with a human will, he loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, he truly became one of us, like us in everything, except in sin" ( Gaudium et spes , 22).

2. Already in the framework of the preceding catechesis we have tried to show this "likeness" of Christ with us , which derives from the fact that He was true man: "The Word became flesh", and "flesh" ("sarx ") precisely indicates man as a corporeal being (sarkikos), who comes to light through the birth "of a woman" (cf. Gal 4, 4). In his corporeal nature , Jesus of Nazareth, like any man, has experienced fatigue, hunger and thirst. His body was passible, vulnerable, sensitive to physical pain. And precisely in this flesh ("sarx"), He was subjected to terrible tortures, to finally be crucified: "He was crucified, died and was buried."

The conciliar text quoted above completes this picture when it says "He worked with human hands, he thought with a human intelligence, he acted with a human will, he loved with a human heart " (Gaudium et spes , 22).

3. Today let us pay particular attention to this last affirmation, which makes us enter into the interior world of the psychological life of Jesus. He truly experienced human feelings: joy, sadness, indignation, admiration, love. We read, for example, that Jesus "felt overwhelmed with joy in the Holy Spirit" ( Lk 10, 21); that he wept over Jerusalem : "When he saw the city, he wept over it, saying: If only on this day you knew what makes your peace!" ( Lk 9, 41-42); he also cried after the death of his friend Lázaro: "When Jesus (Mary) saw her crying, and that the Jews who came with her were also crying, she was deeply moved and disturbed, and said, Where have you put him? They said Lord, come and see. Jesus wept..." ( Jn 11, 33-35).

4. The feelings of sadness reach a particular intensity in Jesus at the moment of Gethsemane. We read: "Taking Peter, James and John with him, he began to feel fear and anguish , and said to them: My soul is sad unto death" ( Mk 14, 33-34; cf. also Mt 26, 37). In Luke we read: " Filled with anguish , he prayed more insistently; and he sweated like great drops of blood, which ran down to the ground" ( Lk 22, 44). A fact of psycho-physical order that attests, in turn, the human reality of Jesus.

5. We also read episodes of indignation of Jesus . Thus, when a man with a withered hand is presented to Him for healing on the Sabbath, Jesus first asks those present this question: "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or evil, to save a life or kill her? and they were silent. And directing an angry look at them, saddened by the hardness of his heart , he says to the man: Stretch out your hand. He stretched it out and his hand was restored" ( Mk 3, 5).

We see the same indignation in the episode of the vendors thrown out of the temple. Matthew writes that "he drove out from there all those who bought and sold in it , and he knocked down the tables of the money changers and the seats of the sellers of doves, saying to them: it is written: 'My house will be called House of prayer' but you have converted it in a den of robbers" ( Mt 21, 12-13; cf. Mk 11, 15).

6. In other places we read that Jesus "is amazed": "He was amazed at their unbelief" ( Mk 6, 6). He also shows admiration when he says: "Look at the lilies how they grow... not even Solomon in all his glory was dressed like one of them" ( Lk 12, 27). He also admires the faith of the Canaanite woman : "Woman, how great is your faith!" ( Mt 15, 28).

7. But in the Gospels it turns out, above all, that Jesus loved . We read that, during the conversation with the young man who came to ask him what he had to do to enter the kingdom of heaven, "Jesus looked at him and loved him " ( Mk 10, 21). The Evangelist John writes that "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus " ( Jn 11, 5), and he calls himself "the disciple whom Jesus loved" ( Jn 13, 23).

Jesus loved children : "They brought some children to him so that he could touch them... and embracing them, he blessed them, laying his hands on them" ( Mk 10, 13-16). And when he proclaimed the commandment of love, he refers to the love with which he himself has loved : "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you " ( Jn 15:12 ).

8. The hour of the passion, especially the agony on the cross, constitutes, one can say, the zenith of the love with which Jesus, "having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end" ( Jn 13, 1). "Greater love has no one than to lay down one's life for his friends" ( Jn 15, 13). At the same time, this is also the zenith of sadness and abandonment that He has experienced in his earthly life. A penetrating expression of this abandonment, those words will remain forever: "Eloí, Eloí, lama sabachtani?... My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" ( Mc15, 34). These are words that Jesus takes from Psalm 22 (22, 2) and with them he expresses the supreme tearing of his soul and of his body, even the mysterious sensation of a momentary abandonment by God. The most dramatic and lacerating nail of all passion!

9. Thus, Jesus has truly made himself similar to men , assuming the condition of a servant, as the Letter to the Philippians proclaims (cf. 2, 7). But the Epistle to the Hebrews, when speaking of Him as "High Priest of future blessings" ( Heb 9, 11), confirms and specifies that " our High Priest is not such that he cannot sympathize with our infirmities , but he was tempted in everything to our likeness, apart from sin " ( Heb 4, 15). He truly " knew no sin ", although St. Paul will say that God "made him sin for us who knew no sin, so that in him we might be the righteousness of God" ( 2 Cor 5:21 ).

Jesus himself was able to issue the challenge: "Which of you will convict me of sin?" ( Jn 8, 46). And here is the faith of the Church: "Sine peccato conceptus, natus et mortuus". It is proclaimed in harmony with the entire Tradition by the Council of Florence ( Decreto pro Iacob .: DS 1347): Jesus "was conceived, born and died without stain of sin". He is the truly righteous and holy man.

10. We repeat with the New Testament, with the Creed and with the Council: "Jesus Christ has truly become one of us , like us in all things except sin" (cf. Heb 4:15 ). And it is precisely thanks to such a resemblance : "Christ, the new Adam..., fully manifests man to himself and reveals to him the sublimity of his vocation" ( Gaudium et spes , 22).

It can be said that, through this finding, the Second Vatican Council provides an answer, once again, to the fundamental question that bears the title of the famous treatise by Saint Anselm: Cur Deus homo? It is a question of the intellect that delves into the mystery of the God-Son, who becomes true man "for us men and for our salvation ", as we profess in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Symbol of faith.

Christ "fully" manifests man to himself by the fact that He " had not known sin ". Since sin is in no way an enrichment of man. Quite the contrary: he despises it, diminishes it, deprives it of the fullness that is proper to it (cf. Gaudium et spes , 13). The recovery, the salvation of fallen man is the fundamental answer to the question about the reason for the Incarnation.

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