Summary: Unlike the first Adam, who heard God
Monday of 2nd Week in Advent 2011
As we hear the Word of God through Isaiah today, it’s hard to miss the fact that as soon as the words: “God will come and save you” are uttered, blindness and deafness are cured and the deserts become gardens and holiness fills the earth. Jesus, who is the Word of God, completes that miraculous transformation. What is truly terrible and tragic about the world after the Fall is not blindness, deafness, lameness and drought. It’s sin–the refusal of humans to follow God’s will and be transformed by the prophetic word. The Logos, the Word of God, became human, became, as we saw last week, abbreviated. He condescended to become small enough to fit into a manger. And when the incarnate Word grew to full stature, He healed the real problem of the world–He forgave sin. He forgives our sin–the big ones through baptism and reconciliation, and the smaller, daily ones through our hearing of the Word and reception of Holy Communion.
What the Incarnation did, the Holy Father teaches, is to become a child, “so that the word could be grasped by us. Now the word is not simply audible; not only does it have a voice. Now the word has a face, one which we can see: that of Jesus of Nazareth.”
Remember the plan of God given to us in the words of Athanasius: God became human so that humans could become divine. That is our eternal destiny–to become one with God, to become so like Jesus Christ that, in some sense, we, too, have two natures–divine and human. Jesus first shows us how to act as persons with two natures. As we read the Gospel, “we see how Jesus’ own humanity appears in all its uniqueness precisely with regard to the word of God. In his perfect humanity he does the will of the Father at all times; Jesus hears his voice and obeys it with his entire being; he knows the Father and he keeps his word.”
Consider that the cowardly first Adam heard the word of God and disobeyed; he imperfectly knew the Father and did exactly what God knew would be bad for him. Trying to avoid death on his own terms, he opened up his body and soul to death.
Jesus, the new Adam, did the opposite. He heard the word–indeed, he was the Word–and kept that word. “Jesus thus shows that he is the divine Logos which is given to us, but at the same time the new Adam, the true man, who unfailingly does not his own will but that of the Father.” That’s what Luke means when writing “He increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.”
The contrast is perfected on Calvary. Adam tried to cheat death by disobeying God. “Jesus’ mission is ultimately fulfilled in the paschal mystery: here we find ourselves before the ‘word of the cross.’ The word is muted; it becomes mortal silence, for it has ‘spoken’ exhaustively, holding back nothing of what it had to tell us.” Jesus, in saying “yes” to the Father, contended with death and appeared to be destroyed by it. But in His Resurrection, the new Adam proved that doing the will of the Father is precisely the way humans need to attain eternal life. And, in so doing, he won for us a path to that eternal life. Through baptism we can be buried with Christ and so face our own death with the hope that it is the path to union with God.
The Fathers of the Church contemplated the Pieta, the sorrowing Virgin Mary holding the beaten and bloody body of her Son. They attributed to her the prophetic words: “Wordless is the Word of the Father, who made every creature which speaks, lifeless are the eyes of the one at whose word and whose nod all living things move.” And we can add, “stilled are the limbs that gave life to the limbs of the paralytic.” But in the Resurrection, this weakness became immense power, and that power is shared with us when we gather to hear the Eternal Word and eat the Bread of Life. “Here that ‘greater’ love, the love which gives its life for its friends, is truly shared with us.”