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Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Don't be an Arian

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

We hear in the Gospel today (Jn 5:17-30) in one place that the Father judges no one, but has given all judgement to the Son; and later we hear that the Son can do nothing on his own authority: he judges as he hears. The Jerusalem translation says ‘I can only judge as I am told to judge’. We are also told twice that the Son can do nothing by himself. Should we not then conclude that the Son is subordinate to the Father? After all, even regarding judgement we are told that this had to be given to the Son from the Father.

To be in agreement with this would be to be an Arian, and that just won’t do! So what are we to make of the lines above? The Gospel given to us today by the Church is pointing at the identity of Jesus Christ. The Arians were right to wrestle with the question of who Jesus actually was; their problem was that their conclusion was wrong! 

The Son indeed can do nothing by himself. This is not because he is like a puppet needing his strings pulled in order to perform. Rather, he can do nothing by himself because the Son shares the same divine nature with the Father. Three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—one nature. “I and the Father are one,” we read elsewhere in John’s Gospel (10:30). Same nature, different relations. The Son is eternally begotten of God the Father, ‘maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible’. The Father and Son do not, and cannot, exist apart from each other as if they were parts of some sort of complex entity. God is perfectly simple.

The Arians were mistaken about Jesus’s identity. Similarly, the Jews at the beginning of the Gospel are enraged by Jesus because not only had he apparently broken the Sabbath by healing the blind man, he appeared also to be ‘making himself equal to God’ thereby blaspheming. Rabbinical law at the time apparently permitted the healing of life-threatening illnesses, but not chronic ones, on the Sabbath. Jesus knew at the heart of this man’s ailment was sin, that reality that separates us from God, and thus truly life-threatening. The Jews were wrong to think that Jesus was ‘making himself equal to God’: Jesus was, and is, equally God by nature. He was not made God, but made man! No blasphemy is committed and the Sabbath is not violated. Yet the healing event on that Sabbath points to another, eternal Sabbath, in which humanity can truly enjoy its Sabbath rest in the Lord where discord and separation through sin is overcome. It all points to what Christ is to achieve on Calvary. 

Who Christ is matters a great deal. If he is not who he says he is, then he is a liar and a terrible blasphemer, and we are the most unfortunate of people, as St Paul says to the Corinthians (cf. 1 Cor 15:12ff). If, however, what he says of himself is true, our lives can never be the same again. We should not sell ourselves short with a distorted Arian view of Christ. We’ve been given by God nothing less than himself. The eternal Godhead, the just Judge, benevolent Healer, Lord of the Sabbath, made man for our sake, loaded with our sins, crucified on Calvary, all out of sheer, pure love for you and me.


 

Br Joseph Bailham O.P.

Br Joseph Bailham O.P.



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