ADVENT MEDITATION: The Man Who Is God by Leonardo Boff

The Man Who Is God by Leonardo Boff

Jesus, a Jew of Nazareth; numbered among the despised of Galilee (half of whose population was pagan); juridically the son of the carpenter Joseph and the virgin Mary, whose “sisters” and “brothers” are known, e.g., Jacob, Joseph, Jude, and Simon (Mark 6:3; Mathew 13?56); who was born under the Roman Emperor Augustus in the immense romanae pacis maiestas, raised under Quirinius, governor of the Province of Syria (Luke 2:1), and Pontius Pilate, Roman administrator of Judea (Luke 3:1); and Herod Antipas of Galilee (Luke 3:1), who was crucified under Emperor Tiberius on Friday, the fourteenth (according to John) or the fifteenth (according to the Synoptics) of the month of Nisan, and a few days later rose again.

How does one understand that this concrete man, with his individual and datable history, is at one and the same time God? What greatness, sovereignty, and profundity must he not have revealed and lived in order to be called God? What does “God” mean now? What sort of human being is he, that we can make such an assertion about him? What does the unity of the two — God and man — concretely signify in a historical being, one of our brothers, Jesus of Nazareth?

This is one of the central facts of our faith that sets Christianity apart from other religions. Once Christianity affirms that a man is at the same time God, it stands alone in the world. We are obliged to say it: This is a scandal to the Jews and to all the religions and pious peoples of yesterday and today who venerate and adore a transcendent God: one that is totally other, who cannot be objectified, a God beyond this world, infinite, eternal, incomprehensible, and above everything that human beings can be and know. We Christians find that the God of the Jewish, pagan, and world religious experience has become concrete in a man, Jesus of Nazareth, in his life, words, and comportment, in his death and resurrection. We Christians learn the meaning of human persons, their roots and true humanity, by meditating on the human life of Jesus Christ.

However it is not by means of abstract analysis concerning the nature of God and human beings that we come to understand the nature of Jesus, the Man-God. Rather by seeing, imitating, and deciphering Jesus, by living together with him, we come to know God and human beings. The God who in and through Jesus reveals himself is human. And the human being who emerges in and through Jesus is divine. This is the specific characteristic of the Christian experience of God and human beings, one that is different from that of Judaism and paganism. It was in a man that the primitive church discovered God; and it was in God that we came to know the true nature and destiny of human beings.

 

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