May 17, 2019
St. Paul said, “We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you that what God promised our fathers he has brought to fulfillment for us, their children, by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my Son; this day I have begotten you.'” Acts_13:26-33
The Psalmist wrote: I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; this day I have begotten you.” Ps 2
Jesus said to him (Thomas), “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jn_14:1-6
Today’s Scriptures, again bring us back to this whole issue of time. In our first reading, St. Paul was explaining to the Jews, in what would be – today’s Turkey, how the Events, the Life, and the Resurrection of Jesus fulfilled all the OLD prophesies that the Jews were well familiar with. It would be like describing a modern helicopter to Leonardo daVinci, who invented one, at least on paper, back in the 1400’s.
And yet, the timing between when Leonardo actually lived and now, and the timing between the Old Testament prophesies, Jesus’ actual life and St. Paul’s description of Jesus to the Jews of Antioch – was so far apart, that it was impossible to prove any of those claims, save by word of mouth; at least until someone, someday invents a working time machine.
So when the Psalmist, and St. Paul, and even we describe Jesus as God’s only begotten Son, not only was it challenging to understand back in the early 1st Century, but it’s still difficult for even us to comprehend. And yet we say those words all the time.
But thanks be to God for the internet, which offers us – today’s lesson in Theology. On a website called Catholic Answers, one reader posted this question (no copyright infringement intended, and minor editorial changes made):
“In the Nicene Creed the Catholic Church asserts that the Son of God is eternally begotten, but we also assert that the Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary. Can you explain how the Son can be begotten twice?”
To which Catholic Answers replied:
The question you ask goes directly to the necessity of understanding who Jesus is. Scripture affirms that Jesus is both “the Son of Man” (Mt 12:8) and “the Son of God” (Mt 8:29). As we encounter God in history, through his relation with and revelation to man, we see that God acts in three distinct Persons, although he is One unique and singular whole. This is the mystery of the Trinity. As the Son of God, Jesus takes part fully in this Divine and hidden life of God.
But we also know that God is not given to change or alteration; he is perfect in his nature. God is – as he is – throughout and apart from time. He is eternally the Father, eternally the Son, and eternally the Spirit.
But we also see something else in God. We see that God is not just one God in three Divine Persons. These Persons also exist in relation to one another. In attempting to express this relationship of Father to Son within God – we say that the Son is “begotten” of the Father. This is how the Scriptures refer to God’s Divine Relationship (see Jn 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18 as examples).
But when did this begetting take place? It began before creation, since, as John notes, the world was made through the Word [the Son]. Such an “action” on the part of God takes place outside of His Creation, outside of Time itself. It is not an “event,” closed by time, but a way of being within God himself. That is why we say that the Son is “eternally begotten” of the Father.
There is NO when.
And yet, we have to be very careful in how we understand this term, begotten. The word begotten is often defined as “to be born” but what it really means “to cause to be.” Even though the Son is eternally existent, the Father “causes him to be.”
God is the cause of his own existence.
So “begotten,” in the Scriptural sense, is not the same as “being born.” That is why the Church, in the Nicene Creed, professes that: “[The Son is] begotten, not made, one in being with the Father.”
Now let’s turn our attention to that other great mystery of our faith, the Incarnation. We have already noted that Jesus was both the “Son of God” and the “Son of Man.” John puts it very simply: “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, the glory that is His as the only begotten Son of the Father” (Jn 1:14).
To fulfill God’s purpose of salvation for all mankind, and out of His great love for us, the Son freely chose to become human.
In doing this he was subject to the same biological limitations that we are subject to. He had to be born, and he had to die. Thus, He was born at a specific time, to a specific set of parents, and in a certain place. His being born in this way was a historical event, able to be examined in the record of time.
These dual events, begotten and born, are indicative of who Jesus really is: true God and true Man.
An yet, the events are of a totally different order. The first took place – hidden in God’s own being, apart from time, eternally. It was the act of God alone.
The other took place in plain view, as a sign to all of us, at a specific time and place, within God’s creation. And while it was surely the work of God, the act of giving birth to the Son was the act of a woman, a human being.
So the Son is not “begotten twice.”
He is begotten (“caused to be”), after the manner of His Father. And he is born, (brought forth as a unique human being), after the manner of His mother. They are two different, but complimentary, acts.” (end of quote from Catholic Answers)
And it’s in that complementarity, it’s in that union between the Humanity and Divinity of Jesus that WE have access to the Father.
Jesus IS the Way.
Jesus IS the time machine that carries us from history into eternity. And THAT is the Truth, and the Light and the Life that WE who believe are promised.
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