“To know Christ better, contemplate His Holy Face.” ~Pope Francis 01/19/20
EWTN News Nightly segment Manoppello begins at 20:37.
IN JESUS CHRIST, GOD HAS REVEALED HIS NAME AND HIS FACE
The Homily of Kurt Cardinal Koch for Omnis Terra
(Translation by Raymond Frost)
A person with a name and a face
If you want to know a person and especially his mystery, it is advisable to know his name. Already a proverb suggests it: “Nomen est omen”. And it makes us realize that names play an important role in the lives of us humans. Even before a person is born, parents think about the name they want to give the newborn and the life prospects associated with it. The name received accompanies the person throughout his life. The person is called by his name, can be identified by his name and must sign with his name. Above all, the name allows the person to be called. When we call a person by his or her name, we are bound in a personal relationship with him or with her whom we name. The great meaning that the name holds in the life of an individual shows that the name expresses the essence of a person.
Of course, with the name alone we can not yet fully know the mystery of a person. The name alone remains somewhat abstract, suspended in the air, if it cannot be associated with a precise face. “Nomen est omen”: this saying begins to speak only when you meet the face that bears the name. Everyone has an unmistakable face that expresses his originality in the best sense of the word. As an individual can be called by his name, so he can be seen with his face and can establish a very personal relationship with another individual who shows him his face, so that a real “face-to-face” communication arises.
Name and face make an individual a concrete person. The name is a word of relationship and highlights the fact that a person, based on his name, can be called and can turn towards other people. Thanks to his face, he can be watched by others and can look at others and, therefore, convey to them the image already suggested by the language. It is no coincidence that the Hebrew word for face, “panim”, has been translated as “prosopon” in Greek and “persona” in Latin. A person, in fact, is characterized as having a name and a face.
If we take these bonds into account and if we also consider that the recognition of the mystery of the human being as person was possible, in history, thanks to the Christian effort to understand God as Trinity, then we will also approach the most intimate mystery of the Christian faith: the novelty of Christian revelation does not consist in a new religious idea or a new ethical decision, but in a person. No one is a person more than God himself, and we human beings become more and more persons as we deepen our personal relationship with him and believe in the person in whom God has made himself recognized definitively, revealing to us his name and showing us his face, that is, to say, his Son. Jesus Christ has made the name of God accessible, and He is himself the face of God who turns toward us.
Jesus Christ as name and face of God
“Father, I have manifested your name to the men you have given me from the world” (Jn 17: 6a). With this confession in his priestly prayer, Jesus points to the fulcrum of his divine mission in our world. He naturally assumes that God, whom he calls Father and with whom he finds himself face to face, also has a name. That God has a name is the most obvious fact in the biblical image of God. The name of God is certainly an expression of the recognition of God’s nature, but, first of all, it makes it possible to call God in His essence.Just as we humans are called by our name, so too can we believers invoke the name of God.
According to Scripture, it is not we humans who give a name to God, thus forcing him to be called. Rather, God can only be called because he lets himself be called; and his name is known to us humans only because God himself has made it known to us. The personal relationship between us and God, made possible by his name, is therefore established not by us humans, but only by God. The name of God is the expression of the fundamental biblical fact that God gives himself a name and reveals himself, just as Jesus sums up his mission in the revelation of the name of God that he makes to us humans. Elsewhere, Jesus formulates his main concern and goal in life with the prayer addressed to the Father: “Father, glorify your name” (Jn 12: 28). Jesus identifies himself as the new Moses, the one who fulfills the mission of the first Moses, namely the proclamation of God’s name “Yahweh”, in an even deeper way.
As God revealed his name to us in his Son Jesus Christ, so he has also revealed to us that he has a face, showing it to us in the Son, in accordance with what Jesus Christ himself testifies: “Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father” (Jn 14, 9). With this confession, Jesus responds to the insistent request of the Apostle Philip to show him and his companions, the other apostles, the Father. Philip expresses humanity’s original desire to see the face of God and to meet him face to face. This request already passes through the Old Testament as a common thread, as eloquently testified to in the prayer of a persecuted man, in Psalm 17: “But as for me I shall behold your face in righteousness, upon awakening I shall be satisfied with beholding your form” (Psalm 17:15). Psalm 24 recalls that the search for the face of God embraces all life: “Here is the generation that seeks him, that seeks your face, God of Jacob” (Psalm 24:6).
The original desire of men, which was expressed with particular incisiveness in the Old Testament, found fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the authentic witness to the fact that God, for the Christian faith, is not a distant God and is not even a simple philosophical hypothesis about the origin of the cosmos, but is a God who has shown us his true face, who has thus given us his final word , and that, with his full and unsurpassed word of love, has addressed us, as St. John of the Cross summed up in a meaningful way referring to the fulcrum of the Christian faith: “Because in giving us, as he gave us, his Son, who is his own Word and has no other, he told us everything and at once in this one Word, and he has nothing more to say.” In fact, there is nothing more to say, because God, in Jesus Christ, has approached us men as much as possible, revealing his name to us and showing us his true face.
Lifelong search for a face “full of blood and wounds”
In the light of the extreme seriousness of God’s revelation in His Son, the further question presented to us is: how exactly does the face of God look? John the Baptist provides us with the crucial answer in today’s gospel. Seeing Jesus come towards him, he says: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away sin from the world” (Jn 1:19). God, in Jesus Christ, has the face of a lamb. This face of God must make us reflect; it invites us to dwell before him.
The first time we hear it, this message may seem harmless and even a little romantic. But it assumes all its importance if we reflect on the fact that Christ has the face of a lamb and not of a lion or a wolf. But as such people expected it then, and we humans still hope today that God will use the power of a lion to undo the world and its structures and to create a new one. But Christ doesn’t have the face of a lion. Rather, it is the kings of our world who have repeatedly portrayed themselves with this image to celebrate their power in a demonstrative way. Christ does not even have the face of a wolf, an image used by ancient Rome to present itself as a redeemer thanks to its power that dictated regulatory norms. John the Baptist shows us that redemption comes not from large and powerful animals, but from the fact that Christ came to us as a lamb, in the strength of his wide-open love.
This is the deepest reason why the cross is also part of the mystery of Jesus Christ, and why, in the world, the face of Christ is always presented as a “head full of blood and wounds”. Being lamb and cross are in fact inseparably linked. Christ is the good shepherd of his people and the full realization of that figure of the servant to whom the prophet Isaiah refers, precisely because he has become lamb and has sided with the tortured lambs, to share their suffering and to save them. Jesus redeemed us by offering his life out of love. The deepest focus of Jesus’ mission is in fact love; therefore, his mission can only be accomplished on the cross, as the evangelist John testifies: “God has indeed loved the world so much that he has given his only begotten Son, so that anyone who believes in him will not be not lost, but will have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).
When here, in the shrine of Manoppello, we gaze upon and worship the “Holy Face”, we meet the face of a defenceless lamb and at the same time the face full of blood and wounds, because we meet the face of God’s boundless love. We are invited to venerate this image and to seek the face of God, as Pope Benedict XVI recommended during his personal pilgrimage to Manoppello: “to seek the face of Jesus must be the yearning of all of us Christians; in fact, we are ‘the generation’ who in this time seek his face, the face of the ‘God of Jacob’. Pope Benedict XVI spoke these words, referring to Psalm 105 which says: “Seek the Lord and his power, always seek his face” (Psalm 105:4).
With the word “always” we are invited to ensure that our lives as Christians are focused on the desire to seek the face of the Lord in the depths of our existence at all times, and on the certainty that this desire will not come to nothing, because faith sends us the beautiful message that God has a wonderful name and a loving face. If we seek and worship his face, then our whole life will be under God’s blessing, which consists in the promise of his face: ” the Lord bless and protect you. the Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn his face to you and give you peace” (Num 6:24-26). This splendor of God’s face is the blessing we need and ask for in the celebration of the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, the Lord looks at us with his face of boundless love and gives himself to us as bread of life, which is spiritual nourishment on the way to eternity, in which we will praise and adore the face of God, for ever.
A Short interview with Cardinal Koch:- “The most beautiful message we have in the Gospel.”
First reading: Is 49: 3. 5-6
Second reading: 1 Cor 1: 1-3
Gospel: Jn 1:29-34