Monsignor Yennock on the Divinity of Jesus Christ - Homily from Christmas 2017

Dec 26, 2017

DIVINITY OF JESUS CHRIST

CHRISTMAS 2017

IN WASHINGTON, D.C., THERE IS A MODERN-LOOKING BUILDING HOUSING THE HEADQUARTERS FOR THE UNITED STATES INSTITUTE FOR PEACE. ESTABLISHED BY CONGRESS IN 1984, THE MISSION OF THE UNITED STATES INSTITUTE FOR PEACE IS TO PROMOTE NATIONAL SECURITY AND GLOBAL STABILITY BY REDUCING VIOLENT CONFLICTS ABROAD.

PEOPLE WHO WORK AT THE INSTITUTE FOR PEACE UNDOUBTEDLY HAVE THE BEST OF MOTIVES. PREVENTING, OR ENDING CONFLICT IN THE WORLD IS A WORTHY GOAL, BUT NO HUMAN POWER CAN BRING TRUE PEACE TO THE WORLD.

WITH THE STATE THAT THE WORLD IS IN TODAY THERE ARE PLENTY OF REASONS WHY THE DOOMSDAY CLOCK HAS JUST BEEN MOVED TO TWO AND A HALF MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT.

ONLY JESUS OF NAZARETH, BORN IN BETHLEHEM, CAN DELIVER THE PEACE AND FREEDOM FROM FEAR THAT THE WORLD IS UNABLE TO DELIVER. HE SAID TO HIS DISCIPLES: “PEACE I LEAVE WITH YOU; MY PEACE I GIVE YOU. I DO NOT GIVE TO YOU AS THE WORLD GIVES. DO NOT LET YOUR HEARTS BE TROUBLED AND DO NOT BE AFRAID” (John 14:27)

JESUS OF NAZARETH IN TERMS OF HIS INFLUENCE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT HUMAN BEING IN HISTORY. HE IS ALSO THE MOST WRITTEN ABOUT AND DISCUSSED.

 

THE EARLIEST SURVIVING DOCUMENT ABOUT JESUS IS ST. PAUL’S FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS WHICH WAS COPIED AND PUBLISHED ABOUT 50 A.D, ONLY 20 YEARS AFTER HIS DEATH. UNLIKE THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF FAMOUS FIGURES IN ANCIENT TIMES, JESUS WAS THE SUBJECT OF FOUR BIOGRAPHIES, WRITTEN IN GREEK BY EYEWITNESSES AND THOSE WHO KNEW EYEWITNESSES. THESE ACCOUNTS WERE WRITTEN WITHIN 30 TO 40 YEARS OF HIS DEATH.

 

TODAY THERE ARE OVER 100,000 BIOGRAPHIES OF JESUS IN ENGLISH ALONE. MORE THAN 100 WERE ISSUED IN THE FIRST DECADE OF OUR CENTURY. HIS LIFE HAS BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT MORE OFTEN THAN ANY OTHER HUMAN BEING.

 

THE RELIGION WHICH COMMEMORATES JESUS’ TEACHING, DEATH AND RESURRECTION WAS WELL ESTABLISHED IN A HALF DOZEN COUNTRIES BY A.D. 50. IN A FORM VERY CLOSE TO THE STRUCTURE THAT WE KNOW TODAY.

 

AS EARLY AS THE FIRST CENTURY HIS FOLLOWERS WERE ALREADY KNOWN AS CHRISTIANS, A TERM FIRST ADOPTED BY THE FAITHFUL IN ANTIOCH. BY THE END OF THE FOURTH CENTURY THERE WERE 34 MILLION CHRISTIANS.

 

THE NUMBER OF CHRISTIANS HAS CONTINUED TO INCREASE NUMBERING MORE THAN 2 BILLION TODAY. IN SOME PARTS OF THE WORLD THE NUMBERS ARE STATIC OR DECLINING BUT IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD CHRISTIANITY IS GROWING AS IN ASIA, LATIN AMERICA AND ESPECIALLY IN AFRICA.

 

THE FIRST CHRISTIAN PLACE OF WORSHIP DATES ABOUT 80 A.D. AND NOW THERE ARE OVER ONE MILLION CHURCHES, BASILICAS, CATHEDRALS, ABBEYS, MONASTERIES AND CHAPELS THAT INCLUDE MANY OF THE LARGEST MOST REMARKABLE AND BEAUTIFUL BUILDINGS EVER ERECTED.

 

THE INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIANITY HAS BEEN PERHAPS THE SINGLE BIGGEST FACTOR IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF ARCHITECTURE IN THE LAST 2000 YEARS. THE CHRISTIAN INFLUENCE IS SIMILARLY PREDOMINANT IN POETRY, MUSIC AND ALL THE OTHER ARTS.

 

THE EARLY CATHEDRAL SCHOOLS AND CHRISTIAN PURSUIT OF LEARNING LED TO THE FOUNDING OF MONASTERIES, LIBRARIES AND UNIVERSITIES IN THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY. THIS INVESTMENT IN EDUCATION PRODUCED THE ACADEMIC ENVIRONMENT THAT GAVE US THE PATHWAY TO THE MODERN UNIVERSITY SYSTEM AND THE PURSUIT OF MODERN SCIENCE.

 

THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT JESUS IS THE DOMINANT FIGURE IN WESTERN CULTURE. MUCH OF WHAT WE NOW THINK OF AS WESTERN IDEAS, INVENTIONS, THE PURSUIT OF THE PHYSICAL SCIENCES, EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS AND MORAL VALUES FIND THEIR SOURCE AND INSPIRATION IN THE RELIGION THAT WORSHIPS GOD IN JESUS NAME.

 

THE HISTORICAL EVIDENCE OF JESUS IS ABUNDANT. SECULAR ROMAN WRITERS CLOSER TO HIS TIME SUCH AS PLINY, TACITUS AND SUETONIUS TOOK HIS EXISTENCE FOR GRANTED.

 

WE FIND IN THE EXTRAORDINARY PERSONALTY OF JESUS OF NAZARETH SOMEONE WHO IS PASSIONATE, YET DELIBERATIVE; STRAIGHTFORWARD YET SUBTLE; FULL OF AUTHORITY AND EVEN STERN AT TIMES; HE WAS A REALIST—NOT A DREAMER.  

HE WAS GENTLE, INFINITELY KIND AND FORGIVING. HE WAS COMPASSIONATE BUT NOT SENTIMENTAL.

 

JESUS WAS A MAN WHO WAS LOVED AND FEARED. LITTLE CHILDREN COULD FLOCK AROUND HIM BUT THE CHARLETONS AND HYPOCRITES KEPT THEIR DISTANCE.

 

THERE IS A RHYME THAT CHILDREN SING: “JESUS GENTLE, MEEK AND MILD LOOK UPON THIS LITTLE CHILD”. THE IDEA OF JESUS, GENTLE MEEK AND MILD WOULD HAVE SURPRISED PONTIUS PILATE, HEROD, AND THE MONEY-CHANGERS IN THE TEMPLE AS WELL AS PETER AND THE REST OF THE TWELVE.

 

THE THOUGHT OF JESUS MEEK AND MILD WOULD HAVE STUNNED THE PHARISEES.

 

HERE IS WHAT HE SAID TO THE PHARISEES AND THE POLITICIANS IN THE SECOND CHAPTER OF MATTHEW.

 

“YOU SERPENTS, YOU BROOD OF VIPERS, HOW ARE YOU TO ESCAPE BEING SENTENCED TO HELL?” “WOE TO YOU, SCRIBES AND PHARISEES, HYPOCRITES! FOR YOU ARE LIKE WHITE-WASHED TOMBS, WHICH OUTWARDLY APPEAR BEAUTIFUL, BUT WITHIN THEY ARE FULL OF DEAD MEN’S BONES AND ALL UNCLEANNESS”. “HARLOTS WILL ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN BEFORE YOU.”

 

THAT DOES NOT SOUND LIKE THE JESUS THAT YOU SEE IN SOME OF THE PORTRAITS OF HIM.

 

THIS IS HOW ONE WRITER SUMMED UP THE LIFE OF JESUS: TO THE ARTIST HE IS THE ONE ALTOGETHER LOVELY, AND TO THE EDUCATOR HE IS THE MASTER TEACHER. TO THE PHILOSOPHER HE IS THE WISDOM OF GOD, AND TO THE LONELY HE IS A BROTHER; TO THE SORROWFUL, A COMFORTER; TO THE BEREAVED, THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE; AND TO THE SINNER HE IS THE LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY SIN FROM THE WORLD.

 

THE STRONG, COURAGEOUS AND FEARLESS PERSONALITY AND WIDE FOLLOWING OF JESUS AS MAN IS IMPRESSIVE.  BUT THERE HAVE BEEN MANY GREAT MEN BOTH IN BIBLE HISTORY AND IN SECULAR HISTORY WHO HAVE BEEN IMPRESSIVE.

 

THE REASON JESUS IS SO IMPORTANT IS THE FACT THAT JESUS CHRIST WAS AND IS GOD IN HUMAN FLESH. THE LYRICS OF HANDEL’S MESSIAH PROCLAIM: “LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM.”

 

YES, HE IS THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE. YES HE IS THE GOD WHO CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH AND ALL THINGS. YES HE IS THE DESIGNER AND CONDUCTOR OF TWO TRILLION GALLAXIES; YES, HE IS THE GOD WHO KNOWS THE NUMBER OF HAIRS THAT YOU HAVE ON YOUR HEAD AND CARES ABOUT THE SPARROW THAT FALLS TO THE GROUND. YES HE IS OUR DIVINE REDEEMER.

 

CHRISTMAS IS THE FEAST OF THE INCARNATION OF THE SON OF GOD. THE WORD INCARNATION MEANS—GOD BECAME MAN IN HUMAN FLESH. THE ESSENCE OF CHRISTIANITY IS THE UNIQUE EVENT OF SOMEONE APPEARING ON EARTH AS BOTH GOD AND MAN.

 

THE GOD-MAN WHO WALKED AWAY FROM HIS OWN GRAVE BY HIS OWN AUTHORITY MAKES JESUS UNIQUE AMONG THE FOUNDERS OF ALL WORLD RELIGIONS. THERE IS NO EQUAL.

 IF YOU STUDY THE RECOGNIZED RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF ALL TIME, JESUS OF NAZARETH — AND JESUS OF NAZARETH ALONE — CLAIMED TO BE ETERNAL GOD.

MOSES DID NOT CLAIM TO BE GOD. PAUL WAS HORRIFIED WHEN PEOPLE TRIED TO WORSHIP HIM. MUHAMMAD INSISTED THAT HE WAS MERELY A PROPHET OF ALLAH. BUDDHA DID NOT EVEN BELIEVE IN THE EXISTENCE OF A PERSONAL GOD, CONFUCIUS WAS A SKEPTIC; ZOROASTER WAS A WORSHIPER, BUT HE WAS NOT WORSHIPED. 

AUTHENTIC CHRISTIANS HAVE BELIEVED IN JESUS’ DIVINITY FROM THE VERY BEGINNING. THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF MEN AND WOMEN HAVE DIED TO DEFEND THE TRUTH THAT HE PROCLAIMED: “I AND THE FATHER ARE ONE. HE WHO SEES ME SEES THE FATHER.” “NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME.

 

FEEDING THE HUNGRY, GIVING DRINK TO THE THIRSTY, CLOTHING THE NAKED, GIVING SHELTER TO THE HOMELESS, HEALING THE SICK AND BROKEN-HEARTED ARE NOT THE ESSENCE OF CHRISTIANITY. THEY ARE A NECESSARY COROLLARY OF CHRISTIANITY.

 

WHATSOEVER YOU DO TO THE LEAST OF THESE YOU DO TO ME IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE THE ESSENCE OF CHRISTIANITY IS A PERSON. THE ESSENCE OF CHRISTIANITY IS THE WORD WHO WAS MADE FLESH AND CAME INTO THE WORLD AS A LITTLE BABY.

 

WHEN WE CELEBRATED THE 2000 ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF JESUS, POPE JOHN PAUL II ASKED THIS QUESTION: “WHY DO WE NEED JESUS CHRIST? THIS IS HIS ANSWER:

 

 "CHRIST REVEALS THE TRUTH ABOUT MAN AND MAN'S LIFE AND DESTINY. HE SHOWS US OUR PLACE BEFORE GOD AS CREATURES AND SINNERS. HE REDEEMED US THROUGH HIS DEATH AND RESURRECTION. AS WE MAKE OUR PILGRIM WAY TO THE FATHER'S HOUSE, HE TEACHES THE FUNDAMENTAL COMMANDMENT OF THE LOVE OF GOD AND LOVE OF NEIGHBOR. HE INSISTS THAT THERE CANNOT BE JUSTICE, BROTHERHOOD, PEACE AND SOLIDARITY WITHOUT THE TEN COMMANDMENTS."

 

NOW YOU KNOW WHY WE CANNOT HAVE PEACE UNTIL WE FOLLOW THE TEACHING OF JESUS CHRIST AND CALL UPON HIS POWER AS THE SON OF GOD.

 

NOW YOU KNOW WHY KINGS CAME FROM THE EAST; WHY SHEPHERDS LEFT THEIR FLOCKS AND WHY THE ANGELS SANG: GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST AND ON EARTH PEACE TO THOSE UPON WHOM HIS FAVOR RESTS.

 

HAVE A BLESSED CHRISTMAS.