by Father Mike Stubbs
Once in a while, I will receive an email message from someone claiming to be a close friend. The person informs me that he or she has traveled to the Philippines or some other such exotic location, on vacation. They have unexpectedly run out of money, perhaps because of a medical emergency, or it was stolen. In any case, they want me to wire them money.
While the friend’s name is familiar, it is very unlikely that the person in question would travel to that exotic place. Certainly, if they ever did go on such a trip, I would have heard about it.
It’s a question of identity. How do we know that a person is who he or she claims to be?
The issue of Jesus’ identity frequently appears in the Gospels. Is he only the son of Mary? The son of Joseph? Is he the Messiah? The Son of God?
The Gospel of John makes it very clear that Jesus is divine. It emphasizes his divine nature even more than the other three Gospels.
Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jn 10:27-30, reflects that emphasis, but also raises an interesting question when Jesus says: “The Father and I are one.”
In the early days of Christianity, some interpreted this verse to mean that Jesus was the same person as God the Father. In effect, this interpretation would deny the Trinity. It would claim that God consisted of only one person, not three. This heresy was called Monarchianism, and then reappeared in modern times as Unitarianism.
If we take that verse out of context, we also might arrive at that conclusion. But placed into context, its meaning becomes clear. As the good shepherd, Jesus has been speaking about his care for the flock. He mentions that God the Father is similarly protective: “No one can take them out of the Father’s hand.” It is then that Jesus says: “The Father and I are one.”
Clearly, Jesus is saying that he and God the Father are united in action, not that they are one person.
Catholic theology maintains that Jesus and God the Father are united, not only in their protection of the flock of believers, but also in many other ways as well. Their wills are in perfect agreement.
At the same time, Jesus still retains his human nature as well. As such, Jesus provides the model for us weak human beings to also conform our will to that of Almighty God.