by Father Mike Stubbs
In 1974, the Twin Towers in New York stood 1,350 feet up in the air, the highest buildings in the world. It was in that year that the Frenchman Philippe Petit connected the two with a high wire, on which he walked from one tower to the other. That was quite a balancing act.
Our faith also calls us to a difficult balancing act. We proclaim that Jesus Christ is truly God and truly man. He is not half divine and half human. We might be inclined to think of him as a composite being, along the lines of a centaur, the mythological creature which was half man and half horse, or a mermaid, the mythological creature which was half woman and half fish.
But Jesus is totally God and totally human at the same time. We are tempted to emphasize one, at the expense of the other. But to do so does not adequately express our faith.
Those who minimize Jesus’ divinity may fall into the heresy of Nestorianism or the heresy of Arianism. On the other hand, those who minimize the humanity of Jesus may fall into the heresy of Monophysitism. Both of these approaches have been condemned by the church, which holds to the belief that Jesus is truly God and truly man at the same time.
The mystery of Jesus’ resurrection gives us a good example of how difficult it is to do that properly. We have only to look at Sunday’s Mass readings to see how that plays out. In Sunday’s first reading — Acts 3:13-15, 17-19 — the apostle Peter maintains: “The author of life you put to death, but God raised him (Jesus) from the dead.”
In identifying God as the agent acting upon Jesus, the reading emphasizes Jesus’ humanity. According to this wording, Jesus is receiving the action, not initiating it.
On the other hand, in Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jesus himself tells us: “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day” (Lk 24:46). That wording places the emphasis upon Jesus’ divinity. He is rising on his own power.
“Jesus rose from the dead” or “Jesus was raised from the dead.” Which is correct? They both are. Human language has difficulty expressing this mystery of our faith. Our minds have difficulty in grappling with it. We face an extremely difficult balancing act. But with God’s grace, we can achieve it.