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Tough Topics by Fr. Ron

"If Jesus was the Son of God, why couldn't he just 'snap his fingers' and make everything ok?"

When I was growing up, attending a Catholic elementary school, it was not unusual for the good nuns to tell us stories about Jesus, as a young boy growing up in Nazareth.  The story that sticks out in my head is how one day Jesus made a bird out of clay (what kind of clay this was supposed to be, I have no recollection).  Then He blew on it, and it flew away. 

Of course, the incident is nowhere recorded in Scripture.  More than that, in the Church’s understanding of Jesus’ development as a human being, it could never have happened. And His development as a human being directly impacts the idea that He could just “snap His fingers” and everything could be OK.

Humanly speaking, Jesus develops in the same way each of us does.  If we attribute human knowledge to the human soul, as the source of our ability to know, to think, to reason, as opposed to the “instincts’ of animals, then “this human soul that the Son of God assumed is endowed with a true human knowledge.”

(CCC, #472).  The Catechism goes on to add.  “As such, this knowledge could not in itself be unlimited:  it is exercised in the historical conditions of His existence in space and time.  This is why the Son of God could, when He became man, ‘increase in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man,’ (Luke 2:52), and would even have to inquire for Himself about what one in the human condition can learn only from experience.  This corresponds to the reality of His voluntary emptying of himself, taking ‘the form of a slave.”’ (Phil. 2:7). 

One thing is important to note in that passage from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  In His emptying of Himself, Jesus, as the Son of God, divests Himself of the “snapping of his fingers,” putting Himself in the ordinary human condition.  Literally, as man, He could not snap His fingers and make things right.  The Son of God, the Word, had surrendered that when He took on flesh at the Incarnation. If He needed to acquire human knowledge in the same way we all do, then so too is He limited in his capacity to remake the world simply by His wishing it.  

But you might ask, what about His miracles?  The signs and wonders Jesus performed were, themselves, manifestations that the Kingdom of God was present in Him.  These signs, over nature, over sickness and even over death, give witness that the Father is working through Him.  And they are not so much magic acts as they are responses to and invitations to faith itself. 

This brings us to the second way of understanding Jesus’ salvific mission and it has to do with freedom.  In almost every instance, Jesus responds to a direct request of someone coming to Him in faith.  A human being exercised the freedom to believe or not to believe.  This is also seen in the responses to Jesus’ cures.  Some believed, some did not.  As it was in the fall, choosing to follow God or choosing to go against God, so it is in the redemption, choosing to believe or choosing not to believe. 

The essence of redemption, on the human side, is to believe or not to believe.  For Jesus, as Word and Son of God, to snap His fingers and make everything right is to take away that freedom with which humankind has been endowed and which is one of its greatest gifts from the Creator. 


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