Who, and What, do we expect to come to us when our Advent is over? To put the question in His own words, “Whom [and What] do men say that the Son of man is?” (Matt. 16:13).
Protestants often ask us if we have accepted Jesus as our Personal Lord and Savior. But is He that? He is both Lord and Savior, as Holy Scripture amply teaches. It seems reasonable to concede that He is our personal Lord, if we accept His lordship over us. But three things come immediately to mind here. First, the words, “personal Lord” are not found together in the Bible, not in any of the numerous Protestant or Catholic translations I’ve checked. Second, acknowledging someone to be our “Lord” demands that we obey Him and keep His commandments, something most Protestants find unnecessary. Third, even if we do not receive Him as our Lord, He is still our Lord, because He has universal Dominion (i.e., “Lordship”). We can reason that He is our personal Savior (again, the words aren’t in the Bible) if we have freely cooperated with His gift of grace in this life, and, especially, when that gift is fulfilled in heavenly glory. Then, we are completely and irrevocably “saved.”
The terms are unbiblical, awkward, and inadequate. They also entail serious contradictions for the sola scriptura Protestants who throw them around so generously. Jesus is so much more that our “personal Lord and Savior” — and we true Christians have to accept that so much more. What can each one of us say that Jesus Christ is to us? And what, in return, ought we to be to Him?
First, He is — here and hereafter, I will be personal — my God. As one of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ is consubstantial with the Father. He is “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28), as Saint Thomas called Him, and “the great God and Our Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13), as wrote Saint Paul. If Jesus is my God, I ought to know, love, and serve Him as such, and render to Him those divine homages that are His due.
If He is my God, He is also my Creator, for all the works of the Holy Trinity in creation are done by all three Persons. In the words of Saint John, “All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made” (John 1:3). He is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For in him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and in him. And he is before all, and by him all things consist” (Col. I:15-17). If Jesus is my Creator, I ought to be grateful to Him for the gift of my life and all the natural goods He put at my disposal.
To Saint Francis of Assisi, whose love of Lady Poverty detached him from creatures and united him so perfectly to God, Jesus is “my God and my All.” I believe we can only say that if we, like the Poverello, are detached from creatures, which too often prevent God from being “our All.” If Jesus is my All, I ought to remain detached from what is not He, especially those things that would sever me from Him.
He is my King. Yes, He is a king! He is, in truth, “the prince of the kings of the earth” (Apoc. 1:5), who “hath on his garment and on his thigh written ‘King of kings and Lord of lords!’” (Apoc. 19:16). Saint Gabriel told Mary that “of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:33). Our Lord’s own narration of the final judgment in Saint Matthew’s Gospel is quite regal: “the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty” (Matt. 25:31). Further along, He becomes more explicit: “And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40). Before Pilate, He unambiguously affirmed his Kingship (John 18:36-37). If Jesus is my King, I ought to be a loyal subject of so worthy a Monarch.
He is my Redeemer and my Savior. As Redeemer, Saint Paul says that Christ “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and might cleanse to himself a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works” (Titus 2:14). As Savior, the angel announces Him thus to the shepherds: “For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David” (Luke 2:11).
What is the difference between these titles, “Redeemer” and “Savior”? Had we not fallen into sin, we would not need to be bought back from it, which is what redemption is. But, to go to Heaven, even had we not fallen, we would still need to be “saved” from a merely finite, natural existence. Heavenly Beatitude is not natural to man. We see the contrast between these two interrelated titles when we apply them to the angels. The good angels were never redeemed, as they had never fallen, and the evil angels were instantly damned — literally “beyond redemption.” Yet, all the good angels count Jesus as their Savior too, since through His mediation, they were spared an existence that was only natural, and were raised to a supernatural state of grace and glory. It is not Church doctrine, but a pious belief, notably of the Franciscan school, that the test of the angels was the plan announced to them whereby Jesus Christ, the Man-God would be their King, and Mary, the Mother of God, would be their Queen. The evil angels rejected this exaltation of a nature inferior to their own, while the good angels embraced God’s plan. Thus, Jesus is the Savior of all the saved, including the Holy Angels, but He is the Redeemer only of Man. If Jesus is my Redeemer, I ought to be grateful for the terrible price He paid, for I was “not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver… but with the precious blood of Christ” (I Pet. 1:19-19). If Jesus is my Savior, I ought to cooperate with His saving action in my soul.
He is my Mystical Head. Saint Paul writes that Our Lord is “the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he may hold the primacy” (Col. I:18-20). In his Epistle to the Ephesians, the Apostle compares Christ’s headship of the Church to the husband’s headship over his wife: “Because the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church. He is the saviour of his body.” (Eph. 5:23). A few verses later (5:30), he movingly writes that “we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” If Christ is my Head, I ought to be a faithful member of His Body, and take the part He assigns to me, however uncomely or without honor it seems (Cf. I Cor. 12:14-31).
Our Lord is my Priest, as He offered and still offers, the perfect sacrifice to God on my behalf: “But Christ, being come an high priest of the good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hand, that is, not of this creation” (Heb. 9:11). He is “a high priest over the house of God” (Heb. 10:21). If Jesus is my priest I ought to be receptive to the fruits of His priesthood, as it was exercised on the Cross, and as it is exercised still through His ministerial priests in Holy Orders; further, I should honor the Catholic priesthood as God would have me do, neither being a clericalist nor an anti-clericalist.
I only have so much paper on which to write, and I don’t want the font size to be too small! Some things Jesus is to me can only be mentioned. He is the Victim for my sins (cf. Heb. 10:10), my Brother (Rom. 8:29), my Judge (John 5:22), my Benefactor (Phil. 1:6).
There is one last aspect under which I would like to consider Our Lord. He is my Friend. After giving His Apostles Holy Communion at the Last Supper (note that!), He says these sublime words to them: “This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do the things that I command you. I will not now call you servants: for the servant knoweth not what his lord doth. But I have called you friends: because all things whatsoever I have heard of my Father, I have made known to you” (John 15:12-15).
What a condescension! What a gift! He who is my God, Creator, King, Redeemer, Savior, Head, Priest, and all the rest, also wants to be my Friend! If He is my friend, I ought to keep His commandments and not be a fair-weather friend to Him. Moreover, I ought frequently to renew my friendship with Him throughout the day.
May His blessed friendship embrace you and yours now and always! And may God bless you and Mary keep you this Advent and Christmastide.