"Christ in Prison"
A Christocentric Foundation for Inmate Reform
Today we stand on 20 centuries of Christological thought. Christianity has pondered, formulated and proclaimed many dogmas, doctrines and truths pertaining to Jesus Christ. Through the tenacity, hard work and zeal of the magisterium, the theologians, and doctors of the church, we have literally thousands of volumes, if not tens of thousands, written about the Man God, Jesus. Yet, after all that has been stated and written about Christ; because He is known to be "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God" ; man must recognize the finite and limited nature of his endeavors and conclude and admit, in the end, that his quest to know Christ Jesus is never-ending. However, it should not pass unnoticed what the Apostle wrote to the Ephesians:
"that God may grant us in accord with the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith; that we, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that we may be filled with all the fullness of God." [Eph 3:16-19]
From the council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, Christianity was given a dogmatic understanding of Jesus Christ as "one person with two natures"; a divine nature and a human nature. And this " belief that Jesus is God and man involves a whole complex of understanding" . It would be impossible to prove or dispute such a wealth of information in this short article. Rather, this essay will take a practical evangelistic approach to the lofty and learned Christological concepts and truths thus far presented to all God's people through the never-ending efforts of the faithful. This missionary approach will narrow-down the theological field to the basic ideas and doctrines of the God Man, Jesus Christ, that apply to behavioral psychology; that these ideas may be advanced as a foundation to prison inmate reform.
A few basic questions will serve as a foundation to what follows. What has happened to the moral fiber of contemporary society? Why are the prisons growing, in size and number, and inmate populations at their highest levels ever? What can Jesus Christ do to remedy the problem? Is Jesus the answer? Why is Jesus the Way, the Truth and the Life? What does incarnation have to do with behavioral reform? Can we approach societal problems from a Christological foundation? What are the stumbling blocks?
What has happened to the moral fiber of contemporary society?
If moral behavior remains status quo and current trends continue, America could enter the new millennium with more than 2 million men and women locked behind bars. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, this is the highest level of incarceration, bar none, of any country in the world. The number of prisoners has more than doubled over the last decade, which is indicative of two phenomena: an increase in deviant moral behavior and an aggressive prosecutorial effort by our justice system in an attempt to control crime.
Although the primary utility of this article is to develop a Christological foundation for prison inmate reform, the root causes of the problem must first be examined. Specifically in the area of deviant or immoral behavior. Why so much? And why so violent and drug related? What about other addictions? As a member of a prison ministry team, statistics are an unfortunate part of our work. Studying and analyzing them is vital to shedding light on the overall problem. It's been determined that 95% of all the inmates in the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institution are incarcerated for crimes directly or indirectly related to substance and/or other addictions. They are the unfortunate consequences of a society that has become amoral. The underlying reasons for the current moral crisis can be seen everywhere. Compared to 40 years ago, these forces are running rampant through society and destroying the base unit of society: the Family. Divorce is at its highest level ever (6 out of 10 marriages); abortion is now the number one killer of all time (over 40 million in 30 years / just USA); contraception, greed, adultery, cohabitation, idolatry, homosexuality, domestic violence, etc are at epidemic proportions. Why be concerned with these and other immoral behaviors? They are directly responsible for the increased criminal behavior plaguing society today. But above all, they are anti-Christ in nature and therefore destructive of the truth. [John 14:6] Jesus saves according to a specific plan that requires a certain cooperation on the part of each human being. Immoral behavior, or sin, distances us from His grace. Apart from grace men are lost and effectively condemned in both this world and the world to come.[Eph 2:8; Rom 6:23][Summa Q114,A2] Society has positioned itself such that it condones, by way of its passive acceptance, the above listed vices and, left without social and spiritual limitations, man has freely embraced these sins. [Rom. 2:24-32]
The answer to "why so much?" may not be as self-evident as the actual social defects aforementioned. However, by answering the question "Why did God become Incarnate?", an answer to the former question "Why so much deviant behavior?" can be formulated.
Was it is fitting and necessary for God to become incarnate?
"The existence of God and other like truths about God, which can be known by natural reason, are not articles of faith, but are preambles to the articles; for faith presupposes natural knowledge." And so the Apostle writes, "what can be known about God is evident, because God made it evident. Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made." [Rom 1:19-20] However, through his fallen nature and limited intellect, man is himself limited in knowing God unless God Himself adds some supernatural disposition to the intellect. This increase in intellectual powers is called "the illumination of the intellect" . Likewise, unless God "illumines" the intellect, man has a difficulty in recognizing the gift within himself: namely, that he is created in the image and likeness of the Eternal Creator [Gen 1:26] . God, therefore, as Father and Creator revealed Himself to man through a slow and methodical dynamism of incarnation; that is, "the movement by which God enters into the world of human relations and participates in the life of mankind".
This revelation, of God to man, manifested itself in many ways. An incarnation of relation between God and man can be seen in the Covenant between the Father and the Israelites. This covenant was expressed in different forms. First, as a treaty between God and man: "They will be my people; I will be their God". [Gen 17:7; Ex 6:7; 20:2; Dt 26:17; 29:12] Second, as a Father-Son relationship: "You are the sons of the LORD your God" [Dt 14:1; Ex 4:22; 2 Sam 7:14; Isaiah 1:2] And Third, as a matrimonial union: "I will betroth you to myself forever " [Ho 2:21-22; Isaiah 54:5,8]
Another manifestation is an incarnation of Word. God's Word proclaimed, and taking shape in human words, through His prophets.[cf. Isaiah 55:11] An incarnation of action can be seen in and through the guidance and protection of the Jews by God's power and might. This is most clearly evident in the Exodus story. But elsewhere and throughout Old Testament history can be seen God's action in His chosen people. [2 Sam 22:29; 2 Chr 32:22; Neh 9:19; Isaiah 40:11] God made Himself present among His people in a real way. This incarnation of presence can be seen in accounts such as, "The LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as one man speaks to another." [Ex 33:11; see also Ex 33:18-23; Ex 40:34-35; 1 Kings 19:12]
"The dynamism of incarnation does not merely bespeak a collective plan. Certain texts of the Old Testament tend to show the joining of man and God in a more individualized messianic perspective." This concept is expressed in two directions: an ascending way and a descending way. Galot says, "In the ascending way, a human tends to accede to the rank of the divine and in the descending way, a person tends to separate himself from God in order to join mankind." Scriptural expressions of the ascending way attribute to a king or messiah things like divine names [Isaiah 9:5] or divine sonship. [Ps 2:7] Contrastingly, the descending way advances the idea of a person coming from God yet distinct from Him. [Wis 7:25-25 Dan 7:13-14]
"Neither of these two paths reaches its culmination in Judaism: the dynamism of incarnation is far from being totally accomplished." But, these early incarnations of God encouraged men to ponder and dream even the most profound thoughts about their Creator. Occasionally their vision or dream, which was vague to begin with, became distorted and twisted. In his limitations, man found God distant and overwhelming; how could he identify with such omnipotence and omniscience? [Rom 11:33] [Isaiah 55:8-9; Jer 23:23] "Much more persistently, the dream has been that dream of dreams centering on God dwelling amongst us, being like to us but still God. It made God homely, familiar, tangible. It made Him man, but, because He still remained God, that dream was powerful enough to uproot the staid mediocrity of men left on their own level"; This dream rests on the long standing promise of God, a promise of restoration and salvation, "whose fulfillment was awaited so patiently by a race that knew what it was waiting for and somewhat less patiently by a world that knew that much was lacking." This dream, in order to become a reality, required God to become man. Why? As Aquinas tells us; God is goodness and all that is good belongs to God and it is proper to this goodness to communicate itself to others; therefore, it is proper that the highest good communicate itself in the highest manner to the creature. Augustine says this happens by, "His so joining created nature to Himself that one Person is made up of these three---the Word, a soul and flesh". This required a Mediator and Likeness [Heb. 1:3, 8:6, 9:15, 12:24]; that man might identify himself and others with his Creator. So through His infinite love, God the Father sent His Son.
Frank Sheed says that this Likeness and Mediator, or Son, is the Father's idea of Himself. He states, "the idea that God has of Himself cannot be imperfect; whatever is in the Father must be in His idea of Himself, and must be exactly the same as it is in Himself. .Thus, because God is infinite, eternal, all-powerful, his idea of Himself is infinite, eternal, all-powerful. Because God is God, His idea is God. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. And of the Word was God." [John 1:1]
If the Father knows and loves, so His idea knows and loves. And to this end "God so loved the world that He sent His only Son ". [John 3:16] Hence the Incarnation with a capital "I". It is in this Incarnation we find the treasure and pearl.[Matt. 13:44,46] A most important historical event. The gates of heaven were reopened by it [Heb 2:9-10]; a disillusioned and despairing world was rejuvenated by it [John 8:32], and men held captive by sin were freed by it. [Rom 6:11]
It was Jesus Christ, who in the fullness of time, was sent by the Father to ransom the many; [Gal. 4:4] who became Mediator and Refulgence and the very imprint of the Father's Being.[Heb 1:3] Without Jesus Christ ; without the Incarnation, we remain in sin; we neither truly know the Father nor do we have adequate reflective abilities in understanding His creation. With God on the backburner, late twentieth century society has all but forgotten the Incarnation. Without an Incarnate God; a God who can show man that vital, supernatural life principle, the soul; it has become very difficult to near impossible for him to see his own soul or the soul of others. Walter Farrel, O.P. states it thus:
"Today the Incarnation will gradually slip further out of the minds of men. Our world cannot accept the Incarnation because it lacks the ingredients of that Incarnation. It does not know what God is, or, indeed, if He is at all; and God plays a very important part in the Incarnation. Even less, perhaps, is known about man when we doubt his spiritual soul, intellectual powers, free will, his beginning and his goal. Under these circumstances, to accept the Incarnation is to accept the union of unknown things to no purpose whatsoever."
Without the Incarnation; without the True Model of humanity, Jesus Christ, our understanding of God becomes distorted and vague. Raymond Brown says, "Only if Jesus is God do we know that God's love was so real that He gave Himself for us. Only if Jesus is God do we know that it is of His nature to redeem the creation that He brought into being. Only if Jesus is God do we know what God is like, for in Jesus we see God translated into terms that we can understand."
But men have forgotten "who Christ really is". For many, He has become nothing more than a figure in history; a nice guy who said and did some nice things. This has given rise to modern man's conception, or misconception as it were, of himself. Incapable of comprehending his own spiritual soul, he sees the rest of humanity as mere creatures not so different from all the other creatures in the animal kingdom, albeit a higher order of intellect. Thus, man is vulnerable to becoming indignant of himself and others. Mankind has taken a giant step backward.
The degrading of cultural and moral values, or the phenomenon of "defining deviancy down", as it were, didn't happen overnight. However, the last half of this century has seen a dramatic increase in sociocultural debasing. Jacques Maritain states in his essay, "What is Man", that this degraded "Image" man has made of himself started back at the time of the Renaissance and the Reformation. His short treatise is based on the following: First, that "every age of civilization is dominated by a certain peculiar idea or Image that man fashions of man." Second, man's behavior depends on this Image as much as it does on his own individual nature. This Image, Maritain says, "appears with striking brilliance in the minds of some particularly representative thinkers, and which, more or less unconscious in the human mass, is none the less strong enough to mold after its own pattern the social and political formations that are characteristic of a given epoch."
The Image of man that influenced Medieval Christendom was an image based on the thoughts and writings of St. Paul and St. Augustine. It was an Image based on the Incarnation. From the sixteenth century on, that Image deteriorated; "torn between an utter Christian pessimism which despaired of human nature and an utter Christian optimism which counted on human endeavor more than on divine grace". This began a secularization of the Christian man. The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were influenced by the thoughts and writings of Descartes, Locke and Rousseau. Their ideas propelled the slow but progressive debasing of the Christian ethic. The outcome of the Image that emerged from their philosophies were real and damaging: "In reality the man of Cartesian Rationalism was of pure mind conceived after an angelistic pattern; the man of Natural Religion did not need grace, and was made virtuous by his own good nature; the man of Rousseau was the very man of St. Paul transferred to the plane of pure nature,-- innocent as Adam before the fall, longing for a state of divine freedom and bliss, corrupted by social life and civilization as the sons of Adam by the original sin, and who was to be redeemed and set free, not by Christ, but by the essential goodness of human nature ".
The Christian, or as Maritain would call him, "the man of the Incarnation", was so secularized during this period as to bring him into the realm of "anthropocentric humanism". This vast process of secularization brought about the "progressive loss of all the certitudes coming either from metaphysical insight or from religious faith, which had given foundation and granted reality to the Image of Man in the Christian system. Human Reason lost its grasp on Being, and became available only for the mathematical reading of sensory phenomena and for the building up of corresponding material techniques, -- a field in which any absolute reality, any absolute truth and any absolute value is of course forbidden." The slow erosion of the "Image of man" continued through the nineteenth century and saw the advent of something worse yet; messianic Marxism, an atheistic ideology of secular humanism. Accordingly, man can now work out his own salvation, accomplished without God, and even against God. Parallel to this was the philosophy of individualistic secularism that was penetrating Western culture and in particular, the United States. This secular humanism promoted a consumeristic vision, underlined by a quasi-utilitarian philosophy, of the good life. The last half of the nineteenth century, with certainty, revealed the true horror of what was happening to man: anguish and despair, as exemplified in the works of Kierkegaard and Dostoyevsky.
"Then was to be witnessed the spectacle of a tidal wave of irrationality, of hatred of intelligence, the awakening of a tragic opposition between life and spirit. To overcome despair, Nietzsche proclaimed the advent of the superman of the will to power, the death of truth, the death of God." This paved the way for Nazi Racism which set up its own Demon god against the God of Sinai, the God of Calvary. This was worse than Marxist atheism for it was "against the One whose love rules nature and human experience, against the Word who was at the beginning, against the God of whom it is said that He is Love."
The later half of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century saw the rise of religious liberalism. A most dangerous enemy to the Christian man. Cardinal John Henry Newman described it as the doctrine "that there is no positive truth in religion but that one creed is as good as another Revealed religion is not a truth but a sentiment and a taste." Central to religious liberalism is the systematic thinning out of the supernatural element in religion: Divine Inspiration of scripture is denied; the miracles are rejected; even Christ's resurrection is dismissed as myth. Jesus becomes a man of history. The Christ of faith is rejected. Religion is explained in sociological and psychological terms. The "Jesus Seminar" group is a prominent supporter of such contemporary views. Extensive media coverage from PBS television and TIME magazine affords them a huge audience. Unfortunately, many unsuspecting and ill educated Christians, or non-Christians for that matter, have been mislead and deceived by such bankrupt theology.
The last decade of the nineteenth century to our present time witnessed the expansion of the phenomenon labeled Modernism. The Modernist movement, particularly in the Catholic Church, was an attempt by some to come to terms with liberalism by "demythologizing" scripture and psychologizing religious and spiritual experience. It was condemned by Pope St. Pius X in 1907. Modernism is still with us today along with many hybrids of systems already discussed. Modernism paved the way to other distinctive social and spiritual systems such as materialism and pantheism (see New Age). Pantheism denies the individuation of human souls, and materialism declares the soul nonexistent. Consumerism is the current stepchild of a marriage between secular humanism and religious liberalism. In the last thirty years, culture has added new ingredients to this mix; moral relativism and subjectivism. Society now has a psychological ferment capable of nurturing the current Image of man; self-centeredness and narcissism.
Temporal things: the social, economic and political life, have abandoned the Gospel and have been given over to their own carnal law. The result is that social, economic and political existence has become unlivable. Christian ethics have become in the social life and temporal order no more than lip service; formulas and words subjugated, in practical cultural behavior, to the temporal; detached and devoid of Christ. We are now paying dearly today for the past. Penal institutions incarcerate, for the most part, antisocial personality types. Personality disorders vary in dimension and magnitude, however, they all have a common origin. Modern culture and society breeds an Image of man into the human mass. The antisocial personality is the cultural consequence of our past and present Image.
How do we change the current trend and Image of man?
The human community must rediscover the true Image of man, in and through a new Christendom, if we are to recover that which was lost. We cannot return to the Christian man of medieval times. That was a culture where philosophy, religion and state, was an instrument of the Church. These temporal things gained their autonomy through a normal process. Unfortunately, this was a process of separation and secularization that progressively separated mankind from Christ. Maritain proposes a new Christendom. Where the temporal order, enjoying its own autonomy, recognizes the important and "quickening" role of the spiritual order. "Then a Christian philosophy of life would guide a vitally, not decoratively Christian city " Greatly disillusioned with "anthropocentric humanism", and horrified of the "anti-humanism" of Marxism and Nazi Racism, what mankind needs is a new humanism. A Christocentric humanism; a "humanism of the Incarnation".
This "integral humanism" or Christian humanism portrays an Image of man as such: he is both matter and spirit. He may have emerged from evolution but his soul is from the Creator. He is made for truth and is capable of knowing God by the gift of faith. His dignity is that of an image of God. He has been delivered from the slavery of sin by Christ and raised to be heirs to the kingdom,[Rom 8:17] and sons and daughters of the Most High.[2 Cor 6:18] His "natural love for God and for the human being is fragile; charity alone, received from God as a participation in His own life, makes man efficaciously love God above everything, and each human person in God; thus brotherly love brings to earth the fire of eternal life, which is the true peace-maker; the very soul of social communities." This man of Christian humanism knows that all temporal things: political, philosophical and material, rely upon evangelical inspiration and the very Word that keeps them in Being. The man of Christian humanism knows his ultimate end: God.[2 Cor 12:2-3] And because he knows his end he recognizes his beginnings. The man of Christian humanism is aware of two movements: a horizontal movement, that is, man in relation to mankind; and a vertical, between man and the Divine. "These two movements must be pursued together: the horizontal movement of civilization, when directed toward its authentic temporal aims, helps the vertical movement of souls; and without the movement of souls toward their eternal aim, the movement of civilization would lose the charge of spiritual energy, human pressure and creative radiance which animates it toward its temporal accomplishment."
A most desirable place to advance this new Image of man; this new man of Christian humanism; this new Christendom, is in our penal institutions. We read in the Book of Maccabees how, in the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C., the Syrian ruler Antiochus IV stripped and desecrated the Temple of Jerusalem and began a religious persecution against the Israelites. The desecration of that Holy Temple can be likened to the desecration of the Holy Temple that resides in each and every baptized Christian. Much like the Maccabees, who after defeating Antiochus IV, rebuilt and re-consecrated the Temple to the Lord, so too, we must rebuild and re-consecrate ourselves to the Lord, Jesus Christ. Rebuilding and making sacred that holy temple within each person and within our communities.
A Practical Application of Christological Concepts
"Christ is the Answer"
Why is Christ the Answer? All men desire freedom and security and prosperity among other things. The Israelites understood salvation in this very manner. [1 Chr. 16:35; Isaiah 17:10] Sometimes salvation was seen as God's help against Israel's enemies [Ex 14:13], and other times it may have been God's blessings of prosperity.[Isaiah 45:8] But this salvific formula lends heavily to the material and less to spiritual salvation. To really be saved is to be liberated and brought to freedom and security from sin and its consequences. If this is true, then for salvation there must be: first, reparation or an atonement for sin; second, an absolute truth that overcomes man's errors and human ignorance; and third, a source of spiritual nourishment that can aid man in his struggle against concupiscence. We know Jesus as Savior because He is the only one to fulfill all three of these functions: Teacher, Priest and King. As Teacher He established God's truth. As Priest He stood between heaven and earth, and reconciled a sinful human race. As King He provided strength to His people.
Christ as Mediator
Redemption is essentially "the restoration of man from the bondage of sin to the liberty of the children of God through the satisfactions and merits of Christ." The redemption, as it pertains to the person and work of Christ, can be summed up as follows: Man was created in a state of original justice.[cf. Gen. 1:27-28; 2:7-25] Through sin, "original sin", he forfeited paradise [cf. Gen. 3:1-24] and ruptured his friendship with God. [cf. Rom. 5:12-21]. Man was enslaved to sin and the devil.[John 8:34] To restore that which was lost required satisfaction and restoration. It required a mediator between God and man. The Lord Jesus Christ, by His death on the cross, merited our redemption, and allowed fallen man to once again have a relationship with his Creator. Christ accomplished this by His death for us in expiation for our sins. To benefit from this salvation man must adhere to Christ by faith [Heb. 11:6] and charity [1 Cor. 13:2]. Free will must be exercised when seeking this gift of salvation; God does not force it upon us. We receive these fruits of redemption, most directly, by graces obtained through the sacraments.
One aspect of the redemption is Jesus Christ acting as our "mediator." For the classic proof-text we look to St. Paul:
"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus". [1 Tim. 2:5]
According to the Dominican scholar Fr. Ceslas Spicq, the term "mediator", as used in this passage, reveals a profound truth:
"Not only does this text describe Christ as a mediator, placing him in the middle as an intermediary between God and humans, the sole valid representative of both parties; but it also specifies that "He gave himself as ransom for all" in order to actualize the salvation willed by God. Thus he reconciled those whom sin had set at variance"
The truth that Christ is sole Mediator does not negate the possibility of other "lesser mediators". As Aquinas says, " nothing hinders certain others from being called mediators, in some respect, between God and man, forasmuch as they cooperate in uniting men to God, dispositively or ministerially .The prophets and priests of the Old Law were called mediators between God and man, dispositively and ministerially: inasmuch as they foretold and foreshadowed the true and perfect Mediator of God and men. As to the priests of the New Law, they may be called mediators of God and men, inasmuch as they are the ministers of the true Mediator by administering, in His stead, the saving sacraments to men." Nonetheless, Christ alone has the primary role of mediation.
Another aspect of Christ's mediatorial work is that of head of the human race. Adam was the first head. From the Father, he received the gift of divine sonship; the gift of sanctifying grace; the gift of supernatural life. But he lost that gift through that "original" transgression. The loss of sanctifying grace resulted in the loss of supernatural life not only for Adam but for all his descendants. Christ would reestablish this supernatural life as the new spiritual head of the human race. [1 Cor 15:45] Christ's headship over the entire human race is revealed to us by Paul: "... we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another" [Rom. 12:5]. In Colossians 1:18 we read "He is the head of the body..."
In referring to Christ's role as mediator and Head of the human race, the theologian Matthias Premm said:
"As man, he represented our human position and so by his suffering could expiate and merit for us. But since he is also God, all his works have an infinite value. Because he was God, he was able to offer full and commensurate satisfaction to the Father in heaven for Adams sins and the sins of all humanity, and thereby merit the graces we need to reach heaven."
As mediator, Christ would exercise three offices as stated above: prophet (teacher), priest, and king.
Christ as Teacher
The Old Testament anticipates Christ to be a teacher of Divine truth; as it is written [Is. 11:2] "the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, of knowledge and counsel shall fill Him. See also [Is. 55:4] And in Joel 2:23: "Be joyful in the Lord your God, because He has given you a Teacher of justice." The One who was anticipated would be Knowledge and Wisdom. And so it came to be; nearly all of Jesus' public ministry was devoted to teaching. Aquinas says, "Now Christ is the first and chief teacher of spiritual doctrine and faith, according to the letter to the Hebrews [Heb. 2:3,4]; 'Which having begun to be declared by the Lord was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him, God also bearing them witness by signs and wonders.'" Also, Jesus said of Himself, "You can call me Master, and Lord; and you say well, for so I am" [John 13:13; cf. Matt. 23:10; John 3:31]. Can we doubt, through all this, the supereminence of Christ's teachings? His authority is Divine! His truthfulness is God's own revealed Truth! His words are the voice of a Divine person! He can illuminate His hearers minds and motivate their actions to do good! He is the eternal wisdom of God Incarnate Who cannot deceive nor be deceived.
Do we need a Teacher?
Prior to Jesus Christ, mankind had many distorted and incomplete ideas of God. Even God's chosen people did not have the fullness of His revelation. The Truth was beyond man's capacity; man was blinded by his sin. But Jesus was "the unique agent in the process of establishing God's kingship over men." In as much as He was a unique agent, He possessed all knowledge proper to fulfilling His mission as Redeemer. His knowledge was clear and without ignorance. As Aquinas says, "As there was the fullness of grace and virtue in Christ, so too there was the fullness of all knowledge, as is plain from what has been said. (Q, A; Q). Now as the fullness of grace and virtue in Christ excluded concupiscence , so the fullness of knowledge excluded ignorance, which is opposed to knowledge." Christ "distinguished" as no other man could. He had the power of words: "When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes." [Mat 7:28-29] Christ was The Teacher: "par excellence". His words were holy and pure Truth.
Unlike other men, Jesus did more than teach. His relationship to the Father, his entire psyche, and in fact, His whole life was behind His teachings. He was able to ask his enemies: "Can any of you convict me of sin?" [John 8. 46]. He was able to urge His disciples to: "Follow me" [Mat. 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; Mark 2:14; Luke 9:5-9; John 1:43; 21:19,22].
He took His teachings to the ultimate. When confronted by Pilate Jesus answered, "You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." [John 18:37] In speaking with His disciples He said, "I am the way and The Truth and the life. [John 14:6] In the Prologue to John's Gospel we read, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. [John 1:1-3]
As Romano Guardini proposed,
"These three texts form a mighty crescendo and disclose a relationship to truth . We must understand our three texts in these terms. "Truth" means that the temporal acquires its real meaning for us in an eternal perspective; that being becomes intellectually clear when it is seen in the light of the idea and the corporality of the Word. We have to seek and to find this truth--He says: "I Am" this Truth. In him, Being itself is seen in the clear light of truth. Not merely in that he does not lie or that he is honest, but in the way in which he exists. All that is, is like a tightly closed bud that opens up in the light of the "idea". Jesus does not discover this "idea", above himself, in eternity, the realm of meaning to which he would have to raise himself. He finds it in himself. More correctly: He is that idea."
Notice the use of two words: idea and being. Remember what was already stated: first, that civilization is dominated by a certain peculiar idea or Image and this image becomes the Image of man; second, that human reason lost its grasp on Being; and third, that the idea that God has of Himself is God; the Word. Through Jesus, the Teacher and Master, humanity has access to the absolute Truth. In Him we not only have our being [Acts 17:28], but we can see our being in clear light. Therefore, Jesus, the Truth, can recover our sense of Being. And seeing God as the Cause of our Being, a new Image of man can be revealed. Through the teachings of Christ, the individual, the family and social community will give birth to the man of Christian humanism and in turn will give rise to the "humanism of the Incarnation".
"and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." [John 8:32]
Christ as Priest
Do we need a priest? "Every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins." [Heb 5:1]. Aquinas explains this as follows: "The office proper to a priest is to be a mediator between God and the people: to wit, inasmuch as He bestows Divine things on the people ; and again, forasmuch as he offers up the people's prayers to God, and, in a manner, makes satisfaction to God for their sins." As Mediator between God and man, Christ is our preeminent Priest. As Aquinas says, "It is most befitting to Christ". He is the bestower of gifts [2 Pt 1:4] and it is through Him that we were reconciled to God, the Father. [Col 1:19-20]
Now, a priest offers sacrifice. Sacrifice is the act of offering something sensible and pleasing to God in propitiation or homage. Aquinas says that man is required to offer sacrifice for three reasons: "First, for the remission of sin, by which he is turned away from God [Heb. 5:1] Secondly, that man may be preserved in a state of grace, by ever adhering to God, wherein his peace and salvation consist . Thirdly, in order that the spirit of man be perfectly united to God: which will be most perfectly realized in glory." All these were fulfilled in the humanity of Christ. Through His passion, death and resurrection He delivered us from our sins. [Rom 4:25] Through Him we have received the grace of salvation. [Heb 5:9] And through Him we have acquired the perfection of glory. [Heb 10:19] "Therefore Christ Himself, as man, was not only priest, but also a perfect victim, being at the same time victim for sin, victim for a peace-offering, and a holocaust."
Our salvation has been won by Christ. What He offered to God, Himself as a sacrifice for man's sin, was not only sufficient but superabundant [Rom. 5:15-20] Through Christ all men are potentially "saved". His salvation makes us coheirs [Rom. 8:14-17], temples of the Holy Spirit [I Cor. 3:16], and a royal priesthood [I Pet. 2:9]. "By our salvation all things are ours, we are Christ's, and Christ is God's." [I Cor. 3:22-23]
It would seem that in contemporary society many fall into a blended philosophy of semi-Rousseauism and quasi-apocatastasis. They are convinced and therefore behave as if in the end all will be saved or their state restored as though there were no consequences to the goodness or evil of their lives. One might also recognize a bit of Pelagianism as in Rousseau's philosophy that recognizes the natural over the supernatural to the extent that it is possible to attain salvation without grace, without Christ. This present-day phenomenon denies the necessity of the Incarnation. Who needs a priest?, or for that matter, a great High Priest?, when divine freedom and bliss can be attained by the individual. This false-enlightenment is one of several catalysts behind the current trend of amoral as well as deviant and criminal behavior. The current prison population crisis is proof positive.
"Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever." [Heb 13:8] The effects of His Priesthood reach far down the corridors of time eternal. He is the High Priest Who has overcome sin and death. His Priesthood, veiled in humility, obedience and submissiveness has become the perfect role model for all mankind. To follow in His footsteps is to be renewed in the spirit and to put on the new nature.[Eph 4:24] Christ is a High Priest who is holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens. [Heb 7:26] As High Priest, par excellance, Christ forever offers His prayers to the Father on our behalf.[Heb 7:25] Through His intimate relationship with the Father, He has regained for man that which was lost. Through His own words does Christ make evident to us the nature of His Priesthood. Christ's High Priestly prayer reveals His supereminence:
[cf. John 17:9-26] "I pray for them. the ones you have given me, because they are yours . and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are. When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction . But now I am coming to you . I ask that you keep them from the evil one. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth. I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them."
Christ as King
Do we need a King? Jacob, the last of the three great Patriarchs, made a great prophecy before he departed this life. "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and his shall be the obedience of the peoples." [Gen. 49:10] Jacob Neusner wrote, "It is difficult to imagine how [Gen 49:10] this could have been read as other than a messianic prediction." The ancient Jewish Targums hold this same view. The Targum Neofiti, discovered in our own times in the Vatican Library, said: "Kings shall not be lacking from the house of Judah, until the time at which King Messiah will come."
Many other great prophecies of a Messiah King came out of Old Testament times. One of the most famous is from the Book of Isaiah: " "A child is born to us, a son is given to us, and the government will be on his shoulder, and his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty-God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace".[Isaiah 9:5-6] The Targum identifies this child as the Messiah. That God would come as Messiah can be seen in several other Old Testament passages, such as Psalm 45:6-7: "Your throne, O God, is ever and ever. . . .God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of rejoicing." The Targum again identifies this as messianic. Samson Levey remarks that the Hebrew word for king, "melech," in verses 1, 5, 11, 14 and 15 is understood as God. These and other passages point to the divinity of the Messiah King to come. One last prophecy that bears witness to the coming of a divine Messiah can be seen in chapter 7 of the prophet Daniel. " one like a son of man coming on the clouds of the sky. He is presented to the Ancient One, and receives an everlasting dominion and kingship." [Dan 7:13-14]
Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of these prophecies. But as the Gospels show us, He did not reveal this from the start of His public ministry. He chose to gradually reveal who He was. During this gradual revelation he often used the expression "Son of Man". If understood in the context of the Daniel prophecy, this would not indicate that the whole people would receive dominion leaving a headless throne, a popular contemporary interpretation, but rather, one man, Jesus Christ. Jesus spoke often in parables. His self-revelation was much in this manner such that, over time, some would come closer and some would grow colder and hardened. Eventually He spoke in terms of "I and the Father are One", or, "Before Abraham came to be, I AM". His revelation becoming more direct and clear.
Was Christ the Messiah King? Much in the New Testament affirms His reign. The Archangel, announcing to the Virgin that she should bear a Son, says that "the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." [Luke 1:32-33] He called Himself king, [Matt. 25:31-40] confirmed the title publicly,[John. 18:37] and proclaimed that all power was given him in heaven and on earth.[Matt. 28:18] "The foundation of this power and dignity of Our Lord is rightly indicated by Cyril of Alexandria. "Christ," he says, "has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but his by essence and by nature." His kingship is founded upon the ineffable hypostatic union. From this it follows not only that Christ is to be adored by angels and men, but that to his humanity, angels and men are subject, and must recognize his empire; by reason of the hypostatic union Christ has power over all creatures."
Christ wields a threefold power essential to any lordship. He legislates the Truth(law), He judges over that Truth(law) and, through His executive power, He resides over the Truth(law). The Kingship of Christ "invests the human authority of princes and rulers with a religious significance; it ennobles the citizen's duty of obedience." Under the authority and kingship of Christ, true liberty, well-ordered discipline, and peace will reign. The freedom, security and prosperity that was so elusive to the Israelites will empower the Image of man. This will act as a foundation for that new Christendom Maritain so dreamed of. The man of Christian humanism will rise and become the leaven for the Christian ideal. Heralding in the reign of Christ as King in and among the prison population will do no less. Here is a King that can truly set these people free.
I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me. [John 14:6]
As Priest, Jesus is the Way; as Teacher He is the Truth; as King He is the Life. If man allows Him, Christ can be his perfect role model. His holiness is far beyond man and angel alike; His holiness is by a twofold sanctity: the grace of union and sanctifying grace. The grace of union through the Substantial and Hypostatic Union of the two natures of the Divine Word; and, the accidental sanctity in the soul of Christ called sanctifying grace. The Word was full of grace and truth [John 1:14] and, "from his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace".[John 1:16] The mystical body of Christ is the Church; and Christ is the Head of the Church.[Rom 12:5; 1 Cor 12:12; Eph 1:22; 4:4-6; Col 1:18; 2:10] "It is in this sense that we say the grace of the Head flows through the channels of the sacraments of the Church; through the veins of the body of Christ." His grace is available to man for man's sanctification and salvation. Society can tap into this Wellspring of Life only through Christ.
To this end, grace is the life force of virtue. Virtues guide us in a vertical movement toward our final goal: God. Virtues also guide us in our horizontal movement toward truth, freedom and fraternity. Those virtues higher than civil virtue are the foundation of the Christian ideal. Here, it is beneficial to reiterate what Maritain says,
"The man of Christian humanism is aware that these two movements must be pursued together: the horizontal movement of civilization, when directed toward its authentic temporal aims, helps the vertical movement of souls; and without the movement of souls toward their eternal aim, the movement of civilization would lose the charge of spiritual energy, human pressure and creative radiance which animates it toward its temporal accomplishment. And in the final end the two movements in question will end up indeed in the supra-temporal reality and the same transfiguration, for the supreme accomplishment of human history will be given it when history will have passed away, and man will have entered eternity."
It is the Christian ideal that aims toward truth, freedom and fraternity. The truth gained from Christ's teaching, the freedom to conquer all obstacles to life under the kingship of Him who conquered all, and the brotherly love and fraternal care embodied in Christ's Priesthood, constitute the ideal to which the man of Christian humanism is defined. This new Image of man, in contrast to the current "culture of death", can come to fruition on condition: that man find in Christ the hope, the will and the charity that leads to authentic truth, freedom and fraternity.
Christ left us with two great commandments:[Matt 22:37-39] the first directs man in his vertical movement and the second guides him in his horizontal movement. Christ is at the heart of both commands. [John 14:15] Pursued together, these commands, to love God and neighbor, can create and nourish a new Image of man. Modeled after the Teacher, Priest and King Himself, man will create a new Christendom that serves both God and man.
But this begs the question: Why "Christ in Prison"? Christ must enter into our prisons in order that prisoners may be truly set free. The problem in prison is only the consequences of the problem in society. Antisocial personality disorders are byproducts of a society that has lost its True Image; that we are born in the image and likeness of our Creator. If Christ is the answer to society's ills and misgivings, then Christ is the answer inside our correctional institutions. If reform inside the walls is to be expected, then Christ must enter. There must be an incarnation of the Truth within the confines of each and every prison; that prisoners may know the Truth and the Truth will set them free.
Fran Valliere, Seminarian, Permanant Diaconate Formation, November 29, 1999
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