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The names of Christ are certain words
or titles that are used in Sacred Scripture to refer to Christ. Sometimes
these names do not designate Jesus exclusively, as is the case with shepherd
and son of God, although they are applied to him in a very special
way. There are other names that pertain only to Christ, such as Lamb
of God and Bread of Life.
The purpose of Lord,
Who Are You? The Names of Christ, written by Cardinal Jorge Medina Estévez, is
simply to reflect about and meditate on the names of Christ in order to
draw near to him with humility, so we may know who he is and what sort of
blessings the Father imparts to us through him. The fruit of such reflection
should be the praise of God for his love and for the wonders he has done
and continues to do for us, gratitude for all his boundless gifts, and,
as a consequence, love for him who loved us first.
"The name SON OF GOD is connected with the names of WORD, SON OF MAN,
CHRIST, and JESUS, " notes Cardinal Estévez. "Although
this name could have several meanings, in the Christian and Catholic faith,
it means the second person of the Trinity, the Word who was made flesh in
the womb of the Virgin Mary, who died for us, rose glorious from the dead,
and who is One God with the Father and the Holy Spirit. In the New Testament,
this name appears more than a hundred times."
This excerpt is the chapter, "Son of God," one of thirty-one names of Christ considered by Cardinal Estévez.
are the Christ, the son of the living God. " - Matthew 16:16
In the Old Testament, men, especially the Israelites, are occasionally called
sons of God (Ps 29 :1 in the Hebrew; Is 30:1-9; 43:6; Hos 1:10), although
in some cases this name serves as a bitter reproach: "A son honors his father,
and a servant [fears] his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor?
And if I am a master, where is my fear?" (Mal 1:6). In the New Testament,
Christians are truly sons of God: "See what love the Father has given us,
that we should be called children of God; and so we are" (1 Jn 3:1); this
happens through the grace of baptism (see Jn 3:1-7):
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons
of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into
fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, "Abba!
Fatherl" it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that
we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and
fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that
we may also be glorified with him (Rom 8:14-17).
This state of being children of God has been produced
by the coming of Christ:
[W]hen the time had fully come, God sent forth his
Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under
the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you
are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying, "Abba! Father!" So through God you [being a Christian] are no
longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir (Gal 4:4-7).
In the New Testament, the title of sons of God is given
to the disciples of Christ much more frequently than it was used in reference
to the Israelites in the Old Covenant (see Rom 5:2, Douay-Rheims; Rom 8:14-29;
9: 8; 2 Cor 6: 18; Eph 1: 5; 4:13; Phil 2: 15; Heb 12:7). The following
passage emphasizes that our condition as sons of God depends on the sonship
of Jesus: "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed
to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among
many brethren" (Rom 8:29). In this sense, we are sons of God insofar
as we are incorporated into Christ and are members of his Body, that is
to say, united to him as the branches on the vine: in Christ we have been
made "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4).
According to the words of David to his son Solomon, God had spoken to him
about the latter, saying: "He [Solomon] shall build a house for my name.
He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal
throne in Israel for ever" (1 Chron 22:10). With these words God had expressed
his love for Solomon and his benevolence toward him; but we must keep in
mind that Solomon was a prefiguration of Christ, in whom would be fulfilled
abundantly the promises that were made to his ancestor. Only Christ would
build the true house of God, which is the Church, and he alone is the king
of the ages. The Psalms speak in a more explicit way about the Son of God:
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and his anointed [his Christ], saying,
"Let us burst their bonds asunder,
and cast their cords from us."
He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the LORD has them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
"I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill."
I will tell of the decree of the LORD:
He said to me, "You are my son,
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
The Letter to the Hebrews (Heb 1:5) testifies to the
messianic sense of the two preceding passages, as applied to Christ, so
that their prophetic meaning is guaranteed by Sacred Scripture itself. The
sense in which Christ is the Son of God is deeper than the sense in which
we are sons of God, and, in a way, it is unique. Hence, the name of Only
begotten, which is given to him especially by Saint John: "[W]e saw
his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father"
(jn 1:14, Douay-Rheims); "No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten
Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him" (Jn 1:18, Douay-Rheims);
"By this hath the charity of God appeared towards us, because God hath sent
his only begotten Son into the world, that we may live by him. In this is
charity: not as though we had loved God, but because he hath first loved
us, and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins" (1 Jn 4:9-10, Douay-Rheims).
In the Gospel of Saint John, Jesus gives himself the name of Only-begotten
Son during his conversation with Nicodemus:
For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten
Son: that whosoever believeth in him may not perish, but may
have life everlasting.... He that believeth in him is not judged. But
he that doth not believe is already judged: because he believeth not
in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:16, 18, Douay-Rheims).
That Jesus is the Son of God, son in a different sense
than we are, is evident in the words he speaks to Mary Magdalene after his
Resurrection: ". . . Go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to
my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (Jn 20: 17).
Little by little, Jesus declared that he was the Only-begotten Son of the
Father. When the Jews became indignant because he had cured a man on the
sabbath, and they were persecuting Jesus because of it, he said to them:
"'My Father is working still, and I am working.' This was why the Jews sought
all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but also
called God his Father, making himself equal with God" (Jn 5:16-18). Later
on, again while disputing with the Jews, he said to them:
"Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to
see my day; he saw it and was glad." The Jews then said to him, "You
are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" Jesus said
to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." So
they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went
out of the temple (Jn 8:56-59).
Soon afterward, Jesus told them in plain words:
"I and the Father are one." The Jews took up
stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many
good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone me?" The
Jews answered him, "It is not for a good work that we stone you but
for blasphemy; because you, being a man, make yourself God."
Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, 'I said, you are
gods'? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came (and scripture
cannot be broken), do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and
sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the
Son of God'? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not
believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe
the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is
in me and I am in the Father." Again they tried to arrest him
... (Jn 10:30-39).
By this time, it was clear to the Jews that Jesus was
proclaiming himself the Son of God in the sense that he was equal
to the Father, one with him. They could not accept this because they
took Jesus to be a mere man among many, and they did not know about the
mystery of the Holy Trinity. When Jesus, glorified in his Resurrection,
departs from this world, he gives a final and very important assignment
to his apostles: "And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven
and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and
of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded
you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age'" (Mt 28:18-20).
A little earlier, but still after the Resurrection, upon seeing the risen
Christ, Thomas, the apostle who doubted, had exclaimed "My Lord and my God!"
(Jn 20:28). Jesus did not correct this profession of faith but, rather,
said to Thomas: "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are
those who have not seen and yet believe" (Jn 20:29).
In addition to this passage from the Gospel of Saint John, there is another
New Testament passage in which the name of God is given to Jesus:
For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation
of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions,
and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting
our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior
Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity
and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for [per-forming]
good deeds (Tit 2:11-14).
It is interesting to note that, in the earliest Christian
times, the condition for receiving baptism was to confess "that Jesus Christ
is the Son of God" (Acts 8:3 7). Truly, the proclamation of the gift that
God makes to us of his Son for our salvation (Acts 3 and 4; Rom 8:32ff;
1 Cor 15:1ff., for example) is an essential part of the Christian message.
Cardinal Jorge Medina Estévez, is the
former Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.
A peritus at the Second Vatican Council, he is also the author of numerous
essays, books and articles on theology, including Male
and Female He Created Them: Essays on Marriage and the Family.
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