God the Son
Catholics believe that Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter who was born in Bethlehem during the time of King Herod the Great and who was crucified under the procurator Pontius Pilate, is also the second person of the Trinity. The Gospel of Matthew relates that St. Peter once told Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Catholics believe that Jesus was the Son of the Father; he suffered and died for mankind, arose, and lives with men forever. That message is at the heart of all the Church's teachings.
In the context of the Old Testament, the chosen people (and also the angels) are “sons of God.” However, Jesus
Jesus was also known by the title
Taking human form did not mean that Jesus was not true God as well, nor is it true that by being God he was any less human, as various heresies taught. The fact that the Son of God was both God and man is one of the central mysteries of the Catholic faith.
The Church explains that through the Incarnation, “human nature was assumed, not absorbed” (
As divinity, Christ knew and manifested everything that pertained to God. For example, Jesus could know what was in someone's heart (Mark 2:8; John 2:25).The Mysteries of Jesus' Life
As Jesus was a being both human and divine, the Church accepts and believes mysteries of Christ's life that cannot be fully explained. The mysteries of the Incarnation, which have to do with Jesus' early life, include conception by the power of the Holy Spirit, and birth to a virgin, Mary, who is venerated as the Holy Mother of God. The so-called Paschal mysteries, which have to do with the end of Jesus' life, include the passion, Crucifixion, death, burial, descent into hell, Resurrection, and Ascension. These two sets of mysteries, revolving around Christmas and Easter, illuminate the purpose of Jesus' earthly life: the revelation of the Father and the redemption of mankind.
The Church teaches us that Jesus' whole life, and not just his death, was dedicated to man's redemption. By becoming poor, he enriched mankind; as an obedient son, he made up for man's disobedience. His words purified the ears of his listeners; his cures and driving out of unclean spirits was his way of taking on men's weaknesses; and his Resurrection justified man's existence. He existed only for man's salvation and to be a model for him.
The prophets had foretold the arrival of the Messiah and the manner of his life and death. The most immediate prophet was John the Baptist, who advised people to make way for the coming of Christ.
Jesus' birth, life, and death are so important that God spent centuries preparing for them. God prefigured his Son's coming through all the symbols, rituals, and sacrifices of his first covenant with the Jews (for instance, the sacrificial lamb) and symbolic stories such as Jonah being swallowed up by a whale for three days (as Jesus lay in the tomb for three days).
The mysteries of Jesus' early life contain important lessons for the Church:
Jesus' birth in a lowly stable. One of the conditions for the faithful to enter the Kingdom of God is to humble themselves as children of God.
Jesus' circumcision, eight days after his birth. Jesus was circumcised under the covenant of Abraham and was therefore subject to the Law that God had given to the Hebrews. The circumcision prefigured Baptism, a sacrament that reminds Catholics they are subject to the Law of God and the teachings of Christ.
The feast of the Epiphany (the arrival of three wise men bearing gifts to the baby Jesus). The wise men represented neighboring pagan nations who would take up the good news of the Messiah, as was predicted in the Old Testament.
The presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple, where Simeon and Anna recognize that he is the Savior. Simeon and Anna prefigure all the others who will hear Jesus' words and recognize him as God.
The flight of the holy family into Egypt and the massacre of the innocents by Herod. This tragedy characterizes the opposition of darkness to light and the kind of persecution Jesus faced all his life and that his followers would share with him.
Mary finding Jesus in the Temple at the age of twelve, discussing Scriptures with the wise men. This event foretold his mission — that he must be about his father's business (Luke 2:49).
The Church does not hold any specific individuals, groups, or races responsible for the death of Christ. The Church teaches that all sinners are responsible for Christ's death: “We must regard as guilty all those who continue to relapse into their sins. Since our sins made the Lord Christ suffer the torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts” (Roman Catechism I, 5, 11).
Central to the Catholic faith is the paschal mystery of Christ's death and resurrection. Jesus had to suffer and die so that mankind could be saved. The earthly cause of Jesus' death is attributed to the enmity of some religious Jews (who thought that Jesus was acting against the Law and the Temple) and the Roman rulers in Palestine (who feared insubordination and rebellion among the Jews and wished to make the death of the so-called King of the Jews an example).
Pharisees accused Jesus of demonic possession, blasphemy, and false prophecy — although Jesus made it clear that he came not “to abolish the law or the prophets … but to fulfill. … Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:16–18). Jesus also showed respect for the Temple, the dwelling of his Father, a holy place. He was angered that it had become a bargain warehouse, and he drove out the money-changers. “My house shall be a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of thieves” (Matthew, 21:13).
But there was another reason that events unfolded the way they did. The Church teaches that Jesus' death was part of God's plan, long foretold by the Scriptures, especially by the prophet Isaiah, who referred to him as the suffering Servant (Isaiah 53:7–8). Jesus took on man's sin and the suffering attached to it. As the sacrificial Paschal Lamb, he offered his life to the Father for our sins, out of pure love for us. His death was the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which helped restore man to communion with God.The Resurrection
Three days after his death, Jesus was resurrected and appeared among his followers. The Resurrection is highly significant for the Church. It fulfilled the promises of the Old Testament and those made by Jesus during his life, and it confirmed his divinity. Jesus had said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM” (John 8:28).
Men are Christ's brothers through grace, because through this grace they can share in his life. The Resurrection will allow our own resurrection as well. Men who live in Christ and hold him in their hearts live in hope of their own future glory.
The Resurrection is important for another reason. By suffering and dying, Christ redeemed man from sin. By rising, he opened the way to new life for mankind. This new life justified man. It gave him victory over death, which is caused by sin, and allowed him to be filled with grace.
Following his Resurrection, Jesus spent forty days and forty nights with his apostles, living with the appearance of an ordinary man. Then, he ascended into Heaven in a glorious fashion, rising up body and soul.The Ascension
The Ascension also has great significance for Catholics. It reaffirms that Jesus came from the Father and has returned to him. Through Christ, mankind now has access to the Father's house, by growing close to Christ and following him. The Church teaches that Jesus is in the presence of God on our behalf, exercising his priesthood in order to intercede for those who follow him. He is the high priest of the liturgy that honors the Father in Heaven.
The Church holds that, as Jesus sits at the right hand of God, and as one with God, he shows forth his power and might. He exercises his dominion over the Kingdom of God, a “kingdom that will have no end,” “the kingdom of Christ is already present in mystery,” “on earth, the seed and the beginning of the kingdom” (Nicene Creed). However, the final fulfillment will come when Jesus returns to earth, which is why Catholics pray for the Second Coming of Christ. And meanwhile, mankind must endure the trials of physical and moral evil with the guidance of the Spirit.