I am lucky enough to be a cradle Catholic. I was baptized as a baby and I have been growing in the Catholic Church for my whole entire life. My parents wanted me to be well founded in that faith so they sent me to classes to learn more about it from a very early age.
As soon as I was old enough, I went to PSR (R.E., CCE, whatever you call it). I went through 5th grade and I learned all the things. I learned the 10 commandments. I learned my prayers. I learned the sacraments. That’s all the things, right?
Then in 6th grade I started attending a Catholic school and my eyes were opened wide to the depth and breadth of the beauty of the Catholic Church. I had religion class EVERY DAY! I began to learn so many new things about this Catholic Church. One of those new things was the teaching of the incarnation. It had been mentioned in passing that Jesus was human and God, but it wasn’t specifically taught or emphasized in any way. Maybe they thought this was an easy concept to understand, but I would have to disagree.
Jesus was FULLY God AND FULLY human. BOTH! At the same time! I knew he had taken on flesh, but I had never thought about that he felt pain, that he felt jealousy, that he was tempted toward sin. He was COMPLETELY human. The more my little middle school brain thought about this, the more my world was turned upside down. This is truly a beautiful concept that our Lord came up with when choosing to save his beloved humanity from our fall.
In 6th grade I was also being taught basic physics in my wonderful science class. In this class I was taught about the properties of light. When we see light we often think of it as a wave of light, but this class let me know that science has shown that light is BOTH a wave AND a particle. It acts as both.
In the past people thought that light was just a wave until they discovered the photoelectric effect. Einstein was the first to put this idea into words. He said that electromagnetic energy comes in little groups, or quanta, which we now call photons. These photons act just like a particle would. Boom. Wave AND particle!
So probably because I learned about these both at the same time, they have always been stuck in my head as the same thing. There is a single thing (light or Jesus Christ), but that one thing is two things at the same time. In a world that is so obsessed with labels, it can be difficult for us to comprehend this idea. Light doesn’t take turns being a particle or a wave, and Jesus didn’t take turns being fully God or fully human. He was both at the same time.
When He was growing up as a simple carpenter’s son, He was fully God. When he was walking on water, he was still fully human. I think this is an important distinction to make when we read the gospel stories about His life.
The 90’s gave us the lovely WWJD bracelets, but the reason this concept even makes sense is because He was human. There was never an idea for “What would God the Father do?” because we can’t go around creating universes or causing a bush to be lit without burning. We can’t ever do those things. But Jesus was fully human. He was a perfect human, but He was completely human. He went through all of the same things we do. He grew up in a typical home with two parents. He grew up around other children and family. He was hungry, tired, hot, and cold. He went through it all and He did so without sin. He made the right choice in those circumstances where we fall short. But the point I’m making is that He went through them.
Today’s gospel reading is a great place to start! (Luke 4: 38-44)
First Jesus is just getting finished praying in the synagogue and a group of people come to him asking for the healing of a woman. He hears their plea and heals her. Then later in the day everyone in that town brought all their sick people to be healed. Again Jesus hears their plea and one by one he cures them. Then it’s finally the end of the day and Jesus leaves them and goes to a deserted place. He clearly wanted to be alone, but still they followed asking for more from Him. It is only at this point that he finally says enough. But even still it is not because He is too tired or anything like that. He turns them down because He knows that there are more people for Him to serve in other towns and He must go to them.
When I put myself in Jesus’ place in this story, I can’t help but think that I would not have been as nice as Him. I would’ve gotten tired of giving of myself. I would have told them to go away because I was tired. Jesus doesn’t do that. He was fully human and so He probably was tired, but He continued to give with a servant heart. I pray that I can be better. I pray that I can learn to have a truly servant heart like my Lord did. And finally I pray that I will continue to read the gospel in this way so that I may learn so much more from the perfect example of humanity, Jesus Christ.