The Word Among Us

Advent 2016 Issue

A Powerful Savior

His name shall be called Mighty God.

A Powerful Savior: His name shall be called Mighty God.

Isn’t it ironic that the One we celebrate as the Mighty God would come to us in such a humble way? When we look at the baby in the manger, he seems so helpless and fragile. But that was God’s way of showing us the extent of his love. For this baby, who was born to Mary, truly is both Lord and Christ.

As the Wonderful Counselor, Jesus wants to show us how to live. But what good is his counsel if we aren’t able to live it out? What good is it if we can’t stand firm against the power of sin? That’s why it’s important that we come to see Jesus as the Mighty God as well—the One who can give us all the grace and strength we need to do everything that he counsels us to do.

Let’s uncover what his power looks like and ask what mighty deeds he can do for us this Advent.

Powerful Witnesses. Politicians, professional athletes, and celebrities are known for making great claims about themselves and their abilities. But as history bitterly teaches us, they aren’t always able to back up their claims.

By contrast, Jesus is able to back up every single claim he ever made about himself. He said that he was the Son of God (John 5:21-22, 37; 10:30, 33, 38). He said that he had come to bring freedom to the oppressed (Luke 4:18). He said that he would rise from the dead (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34). He said that he had come to give us eternal life (John 3:16).

How do we know that Jesus did all he claimed he could do? How do we know he is who he said he is? One of the most powerful pieces of evidence is the testimony of Scripture, the stories about the men and women who knew him.

Mary Testifies. Of all the human beings ever created, the one who knew Jesus the best was his mother, Mary. From the moment the angel Gabriel appeared to her, Mary devoted herself to pondering the words and works of God. She held close to her heart everything she saw God doing in her son (Luke 2:19, 51). As a result, she became Jesus’ closest and most devoted disciple. She also became the mother of all who believe and the most prayed-to saint in the Church.

Remember, the first miracle Jesus performed wasn’t his idea; it was his mother’s (John 2:1-12). She urged him to help out a newly married couple when the wine ran out at their wedding feast. How did Mary know that Jesus could do this? Was it because of the miraculous way he had been conceived? Did he perform some unrecorded miracles while he was growing up in Nazareth? We don’t know, but we do know that Mary was confident that Jesus, the Mighty God, had the power to help his people.

The Apostles and Saints Testify. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read how Peter, John, James, and all the apostles were persecuted for their faith. Some of them were even martyred. Why would people go to such extremes if Jesus were not who they said he was? Why would they give up their homes, their jobs, and their comfort to proclaim a lie? There was no money in it. There was no prestige. But they did it anyway. Why? Were they fooled by Jesus? Were they trying to con people into giving them something?

The only logical answer is that the apostles, along with many other disciples, saw Jesus perform miracles. They saw him risen from the dead. They dedicated themselves so fully and risked their lives because they knew that Jesus was the Mighty God.

It didn’t end with the apostles either. The history of the Church is filled with saints who had extraordinary experiences of Jesus as the Mighty God. Some witnessed profound miracles: Martin de Porres, Joseph of Cupertino, and Anthony of Padua. Some had visions of Jesus that changed their lives forever: Francis of Assisi and Faustina Kowalska. Others saw Mary appear to them and witnessed their villages becoming places of healing and pilgrimage: Bernadette in Lourdes, Juan Diego in Guadalupe. Over and over, Jesus has shown himself to be the Mighty God.

Faith in the Mighty God. So, then, what about us? What about all those who have never had the opportunity to meet Jesus or who have never had special experiences like the saints? Jesus promises us, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (John 20:29). He assures us that we can experience him as the Mighty God just as they did through the gift of faith.

Of course it’s not the same. Of course it would be easier to believe if we saw Jesus multiply loaves or raise a paralyzed man off his mat. Of course it would be easier to believe if we could meet the risen Lord face-to-face. But whether that happens or not, we still have to believe in him. It’s a difficult challenge, but a blessed one as well.

This is why we have to rely on the firsthand accounts of those who were privileged to see Jesus and in those privileged saints who had extraordinary encounters with him. We can ask the Holy Spirit to take these stories about Jesus and his followers and use them to build up our faith. No wonder the Church urges us to read and ponder the Scriptures! No wonder the Church offers us so many saints as role models of faith!

Everyday Testimonies. Mary. The apostles. The saints. These heroic stories can be very exciting. But at the same time, we need to see that Jesus is moving in the lives of “ordinary” people today, revealing his power and love in their lives. Here are some examples:

• There’s the older married couple who wrote to tell us that Jesus came alive to them at a Christ Renews His Parish retreat in their church.

• There’s the college student who encountered Jesus at a prayer meeting, and the young woman whose faith deepened dramatically after she attended a Jesuit Spiritual Exercises weekend.

• There’s the construction worker who told us how he met Jesus through the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in his parish.

There are so many more, and they all say the same thing: they believe that Jesus is the Mighty God because he has become real to them.

Come, Holy Spirit! At the Last Supper, Jesus told his Apostles that the Holy Spirit would come to set their hearts on fire. He told them that the Spirit would remind them of who he is and all that he is capable of doing. He promised that he himself would come to live in their hearts. Each one of these promises is for us as well.

So when you look at the baby in the manger this Advent, thank him for coming and setting you free. Thank him for being the Mighty God!