The Apostolate of the Laity

Waxing philosophical in communion with one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

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Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I am just a sinner who holds fast to the notion that every human being on the planet is the result of a thought of God.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Place in History

Alexander the Great. Julius Caesar. Napoleon. Genghis Khan. George Washington. Abraham Lincoln.

Those are all men who made their mark on history. They are giants of sorts. Their lives are studied in schools. Books are written about them, even movies made. Each of these people, and countless more, are remembered for the significance of their presence at certain critical times in the course of human events. Knowing that the victor usually gets the first crack at documenting the chain of events during a particular time period, history often has to be discerned by what facts one can know, and which assertions are products of the historian's bias.

One individual that seems to get left out of academia's study of great figures in human history is the one person, the one man, who by his very existence changed the course of the future in a way none of the great characters of the past could ever imagine. His name was Jesus Christ.

In his book, Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI gives an inspiring account Christ from both a historical and theological point of view. In essence, both disciplines are needed to understand who Christ is. Some 2,000 years ago this Jesus of Nazareth stepped onto the stage of man's recorded experience, and He accomplished in a few years of ministry more than any other human being had up to that time or ever will.

Yet He will not be found in any history text book used in public schools. Secular historians have literally set aside their own best practices in an attempt relegate Christianity to just another religion. To do otherwise would have profound implications on the meaning of their profession as a true historian would no longer be able to credibly leave out the fact that God exists, and that He dwelled among man. Ponder how such a revelation by the historian would shape the telling of future events.

From a practical historical point of view, Christ should not have even made an impact. His ministry was short-lived and ultimately His mission led to his execution by the Roman army. By any logical examination, one might conclude that Jesus was simply a rebel who finally went too far and was summarily dispatched from existence by a fairly ordinary means. Rome was no weaker because of Him nor was the Jewish nation threatened. It was not Christians who destroyed the Jewish Temple in A.D. 70, but rather infighting among the various factions within the ruling class and the Romans who finished what had already been started.

How could this man from a exceedingly unimportant region that was Nazareth make such an impact by being executed? As Pope Benedict writes in the forward of his book,

" early as twenty years or so after Jesus' death, the great Christ-hymn of the letter to the Phillippians reveals a fully developed Christology stating that Jesus was equal to God, but emptied himself, became man, and humbled himself to die on the cross, and to him now belongs the worship of all creation, the adoration that God through the prophet Isaiah was due to him alone."

The extraordinary fact that God lived among man makes the most logical explanation for how this radical religion could have ever developed, endured, and ultimately thrived. There was no earthly advantage for one to embrace Christianity in those first twenty years, and yet people did, often by the hundreds, and often at the greatest personal risk. Why? The historian must answer that question, and there really seems to be only one logical explanation. There must have been an event so incredible, so impactful, so over the top as to cause people to make this extraordinary conversion. That event was the encounter with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God incarnate; God stepping into human history in a very tangible, undeniable way.

And His story continues. Were historians wanting to write about The Christ, they would forever be in a state of a work in progress. Christ lives, today. Christ comes to His people each and every mass in the Eucharist and the other sacraments of His Church. Yes, the victor does write the history, but in this case it is not the scholar who authors an accounting, but rather the priestly people who proclaim the Gospel.


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