Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Gospel / Theological Reflection John 5:17-30

Today’s Gospel reading comes on the heels of Jesus’ healing of the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda. This is one of the many discourses, particularly in St. John’s Gospel, where the deity of the Lord Jesus jumps off the page. As he does in other passages, St. John obviates any confusion. Jesus “…made himself equal to God.” We then get some key details.

The Son does what He sees the Father doing. The Father shows the Son everything that the Father does. The Son gives life as the Father does. All must honor the Son just as they honor the Father. To believe the word of the Son is to believe in the Father. Those who hear the voice of the Son will live. The Father and the Son have life in themselves.

If Jesus is not truly God, if He is a creature of any kind, then everything John presents to us in this passage must be false. For it is impossible for any created thing to univocally share the attributes or activities proper only to God, and this is what we are being told in the passage. No creature can be honored as God without committing idolatry. No creature can give life, because it is not possible for a creature to have this capability. No creature has immediate access to the inner life of the Divine Essence. No creature can have life in themselves.

The pages of Scripture tell us in unequivocal terms that Jesus is true God and true man.

The great mysteries of the Holy Trinity and Incarnation are unavoidable. The self-revealing of God presents them to us. We struggle to comprehend because we are finite. Our intellect defaults toward what St. Thomas calls quidditative knowledge, where our minds fully unite with the form (intelligible pattern) of the known object. But this is not possible with God. God is not an object within the universe. He is not a delimited being. We arrive at this conclusion from the relevant biblical passages, and we can corroborate via reasoning from effect to cause in our observations of the cosmos.

It is precisely the limitless being of God, God as being itself (Ipsum esse), which just is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God does not exist as we or other creatures do. The limitations we face, for example being one person with one nature, are not applicable to God. Jesus Christ is truly God and truly man because the being of God and the being of man are non-competitive with each other. As a creature, I have an act of being, but do not possess being intrinsically. I therefore can only be in a certain way. For instance, my temporal limitations limit me from being in two places at once, for I must exist at a time and place. But God, again, is not ‘a’ being. He is not placed within time, because time is the measure of changing beings - things that are delimited. And God is not changing nor are we able to place Him within an ontological taxonomy. Once creaturely limitations are removed, we can better speak of how God is omnipresent, among other things.  

The joining of humanity and divinity in Christ is not fully comprehensible to us. Nonetheless, the affirmation of this truth is possible once we draw correct conclusions about the nature of God. The biblical revelation comes over the top, as it were, pointing further upward, drawing our minds deeper into the mystery of the divine life. This mystery is something today’s Gospel reading invites us to explore. Bearing in mind that ours is a faith seeking greater understanding, we can come to know more about God as we think about these wonderful passages. 

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