The Divine Physician 

At the Annunciation, a celestial messenger promulgated the proper name Joseph and Mary's child was to be given. The name Y' shua, which translates from original Hebrew, to mean "God rescues," describes what will become the child's vocation. Repeated invitations for individual and social transformation from the voices of the prophets seemed to go mostly unheeded. The Trinity generates yet another physical intervention, this time, self-injecting the Divine Physician into the human condition and bringing hope for an end to perpetual suffering. Domination by sin, separation, and death is an intolerable condition for a merciful God. The Most Holy Trinity breaks into time and circumstance intending to lead people, not yet convinced of their reciprocal longing for Divine intimacy. God again, mercifully determined to protect and care despite human obstinacy.

Although it might be a stretch to consider Jesus' early followers professional theologians, a question emerged focusing on their teacher's identity. Who is Jesus? Even Jesus himself seemed to play with these types of inquiry as the Scriptures record.

          Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi; he asked his disciples, who do people say is the Son of              Man?  They replied, some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the            prophets. Nevertheless, what about you? He asked. Who do you say I am? Simon Peter answered; you              are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.[1]

 

St. Peter's inspired profession of faith affirmed Jesus as being the embodiment of the Abrahamic Deity. However, the fisher's comments also instilled both curiosity and animosity, sending religious shockwaves towards society elite. Had the messiah, of long-awaited prophecy, arrived to heal and reconcile?  Perfect Imago Dei, referenced in the Genesis, narratives did enter the physical domain to model pristine sacramental praxis. Christianity presents Jesus as the Logos of the Father endowed eternally with all that the Father possesses. Yet, Jesus remains distinct, not because of substance but by his sacrificial role and relationship, fulfilled within the community of God. The mission executed by God's Logos becomes principally one of atonement through offering a satisfying and eternal sacrifice. Therefore, historical Jesus, representing,  became the only qualified agent to deliver human salvation.  St. Athanasius says, "The Father carries out his providential care for all things in the Son."[2] 

 

Incarnation was an altogether unique and singular event. Jesus' identity begins revealing that the Suffering Sacrament manifests fully human and divine sensibilities. Paradoxically, early Gnosticism and Docetism quickly accepted Jesus' divinity while struggling to embrace his human nature. Nestorianism regarded Jesus as fully human but only by spiritual conjuncture with God. Monophysites acclaimed that a human dimension ceased to exist when the divine Son assumed his Christological commission. The sacred liturgy of St John Chrysostom (347 – 407) proclaims. "O only begotten Son and Word of God, immortal being, you who deigned for our salvation to become incarnate of the Holy Mother of God and ever-Virgin Mary." Theological debates intensified over generations never really arriving at any common Christological understanding that the entire Church could adopt. Modernity, no less troubled, recognizes that any consensus regarding Jesus' identity remains elusive. 

 

St Anselm of Canterbury (1033 – 1109) pondered the incarnational questions, musing over God decision to become human. He summarized his thinking by again raising the sinful human nature argument. Anselm reasoned that a transaction involving faith and forbearance became essential for restoring hope from out of despair. The Sacrament of Suffering realized flesh so that humanity might experience the depth of God's faithfulness and love. In essence, Jesus, the Divine Physician, leads humankind towards conditions of pre-sinfulness. A second chance or restore from backup operation. The omnipotent God had no obligation to act in any way but elects out of love and grace to spare humanity from eternal separation. St Irenaeus of Lyons (130 – 202) spoke of Imago Dei, gradually landing on pedagogy whereby the Suffering Sacrament dwells within each person who perceives.

Christ's work emanating from God leads people to suppose that a supreme act of redemption calls for a creative gathering action embracing new social realities. God employs the experience of suffering and death, while secular nature wonders ways to avert both. The pandemic's COVID-19 mortality feature injects a mysterious moment of contemplation that acknowledges humankind's greatest fear. Jesus communicated God's renewed creation account, presenting life and hope to humanity that finds itself galvanized in sacraments. Faith and ministry become both individual and corporate acts of free will that lead to the portal of eternal redemption. Life in Christ liberates and responds to God's grace as humanity clasps the Suffering Sacrament's hand, that reaches out to all people.

 

Roman execution scenes paint a dismal picture when state and religious constructs crucified Jesus alongside common criminals. Scripture records a loud cry broadcasted from the Suffering Sacrament, pleading, "Father, forgive them." Mercy, until the end! Victims of Rome's legal system and Jerusalem's religious tribunal also wanted to live, yet none escape the dehumanization that precedes this execution. Christianity retained its most identifiable symbol from this location, namely, the cross! Still, why did God not just skip over this death event? Is there any good that can come from suffering? On one side of the cross are those who strive in vain to save themselves. With power, prestige, and possession, they struggle relentlessly, while on the other side of the cross are some who recognize Jesus' identity and simply accept forgiveness. To the daily crucified who humbly identify with Jesus, the Divine Physician whispers the sweet promise, "Today, you will be with me in Paradise?"

 

The sacrifice Jesus offered of Himself on the cross wrote an historical and non-repeatable act of God's affection. In the Eucharistic sacrifice and memorial, the baptismal and ministerial priesthood gather to worship and express gratitude. Believers signed in baptism are oriented towards a united Eucharistic participation. The Church in Presbyterorum Ordinis (1965) described the Eucharist as "the source and summit of all preaching of the Gospel." Pope John Paul II, (2003) encyclical entitled, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, elaborated saying:

 

          The Church draws her life from the Eucharist. This truth does not merely express a daily experience of              faith but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church. In a variety of ways, she joyfully                              experiences the constant fulfillment of the promise: "Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age"                (Mt 28:20), but in the Holy Eucharist, through the changing of bread and wine into the body and blood              of the Lord, she rejoices in this presence with unique intensity. Ever since Pentecost, when the Church,              the People of the New Covenant, began her pilgrim journey towards her heavenly homeland, the                        Divine Sacrament has continued to mark the passing of her days, filling them with confident hope.[3]

 

[1] From the Gospel of Mathew, 16:13-20.

[2] From the fourth century deacon Athanasius, The Incarnation of the Word, in rebuke of the Arian heresy. P. 209.

[3] From Pope John Paul II, (2003) Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Paragraph 1.

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