Chapter I, titled “Jesus Christ, The Only Savior” runs for eight numbered sections. We’ll take each one carefully, maybe spread out over a few days. The small-letter designations in the titles of these posts are my own for separate paragraphs in each section. I hope they are helpful without being a distraction.
What does Pope John Paul II mean by “Only Savior”? How literally do we take this? Jesus, as communicated through the authentic teaching of the apostles and their successors? Jesus as experienced by non-Christians as a teacher and guide, along with other teachers and guides? Jesus as an encounter with the deeper mystery of God?
We read a citation from 1979:
In my first encyclical, in which I set forth the program of my Pontificate, I said that “the Church’s fundamental function in every age, and particularly in ours, is to direct (our) gaze, to point the awareness and experience of the whole of humanity toward the mystery of Christ.” (Redemptor Hominis 10)
Jesus Christ is first cited as a mystery, which suggests to me that we will never grasp the fullness of this reality in our mortal lives. We might think we have Jesus pegged and pigeon-holed, but the full reality of him will remain elusive. What an attractive friend and companion we have! There will always be some new twist, some new path we will find ourselves walking, and some new encounter to be pointed out.
The Church, as the Body of the Lord, has a mission. We begin with the belief as we profess as Christians:
The Church’s universal mission is born of faith in Jesus Christ, as is stated in our Trinitarian profession of faith: “I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father…. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”(Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed)
While we profess the Trinity, we acknowledge salvation through Christ. This I not new or news, as John Paul II reminded us in his first encyclical:
The redemption event brings salvation to all, “for each one is included in the mystery of the redemption and with each one Christ has united himself forever through this mystery.” (Redemptor Hominis, 13) It is only in faith that the Church’s mission can be understood and only in faith that it finds its basis.
So what exactly is this mission? The first reference point, if there is any confusion for a believer, is the commission event prior to the Ascension. (Cf. Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15) John Paul offers six questions, too, in this section. And we will get to them in tomorrow’s post. Meanwhile, any comments?
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