We went to Mass this morning in a neighbouring parish and the priest read a different gospel from the one that I thought he was going to read. The Mass readings this week are a bit complicated so I am not going to say if he or I was right!
The gospel he read was from Luke 5: 12-16. The reason I mention this is because as he read I was struck by one phrase at the very end: ‘but he would always go off to some place where he could be alone and pray.’
This week the Church encourages us to look upon the person of Jesus, his majestic birth, his being the son of God and his divine authority over nature. This phrase, however, reminds us that Jesus is fully man as well as fully God. If we see him only as God then he would have no need to pray; if we see him only as man then he could not do the signs and wonders, curing a leper as he did in the gospel today.
When the priest in the little country chapel in rural Co Derry, read this line about Jesus going off to be alone and pray, it hit me very strongly that Jesus is both God and man. It is a mystery too great for me, just as it has been a mystery too great for everyone who has ever thought of it, yet for the life of Jesus it makes sense, this mystery has to be true.
Jesus was not half God and half man; he had a human soul and free will and everything that we have. In the Garden on Holy Thursday night he showed his human fear and many times in the gospels he shows his human concern for people.
Yet he is also God. What a delight our faith is, teaching us that God became man and dwelt among us. That is some claim, and if it is true, then the birth of Jesus changes human history and us, forever.