In the Gospel we proclaim Sunday from the Evangelist Mark, the Lord Jesus asks us the question of questions: “Who do people say that I am?” The answer to this question changes everything for us. If we say that this man, Jesus, is just a historical figure, someone in the past, then we can ignore him if we so choose. If we say that this man, Jesus, is just a wise and gentle teacher, then we can likewise ignore him, if we so choose. However, if we say that this man is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, as Saint Peter confesses Sunday then we must respond to him, either negatively by rejecting him and his teachings or, if we are honest, by totally, completely and utterly configuring our lives to him.

Who is Jesus? We have to look at the question both objectively and subjectively. Objectively, what does the Church teach about Jesus? Subjectively, what do I believe about Jesus and, if I believe what the Church teaches, then I have to respond accordingly.

Who is Jesus? Well, no one in his or her right mind can ever doubt that there was a man named Jesus from Nazareth who lived and who died. Biblical scholars and historians can date the epistles of Saint Paul within 25 years of Jesus’ death and the earliest Gospel accounts within 40 years of Jesus’ death. Now, the objection can come in that these scriptural accounts are documents of faith; yes, that is true, but they are also documents of history.

If we were to go simply to non-Christian sources, there are plenty of them, too. A Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, writing in 93 A.D., mentioned the existence of Jesus, and later, the Roman politicians Pliny the Younger and Tacitus are explicit about the existence of a man named Jesus. In fact, Tacitus’ report on Jesus pretty much matches what the Gospels relate to us concerning the facts of Jesus’ life. Even the Roman writers Lucian and Celsus write about Jesus, albeit negatively. With all these facts at our disposal from the ancient Roman world, which was not pro-Christian to say the least, we can say that it is absurd to doubt whether or not Jesus Christ existed and that he is an invention of the early Christians.

With that being the case then, what do we know about Jesus? The answer can come in three ways: first, from his very name; second, from the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed; and third, from the clear teaching that is the gift of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. First, Jesus’ name: it means “God Saves” in Hebrew. What does this tell us about Jesus? It means that it is he who was sent to save us from our sins. The title “Christ” is Greek for “anointed one” or “Messiah.” So, if we were to put the name of the Lord Jesus together with the title or adjective most properly and most commonly given to him, we could see that he is JESUS CHRIST, or “the Messiah who saves!” In theological terms, we call the study of who Jesus is “Christology” and we call the study of what he does as “Soteriology,” namely the study of how Jesus who is God saves us. When we say the name ¬≠Jesus Christ, we are making a statement of faith!

The creeds we confess on Sundays and Solemnities at Mass, as well as every time we pray the Rosary, tell us the basics of what we need to know about Jesus. They tell us, in all simplicity, of his divine origins, that he was born of the Virgin Mary, that he suffered, died and was buried, and that has risen from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and that he will come again to judge the living and the dead. The creeds really are the symbol of our faith. They encapsulate all that we believe about the Lord Jesus. They boil down the faith of the early Church.

Finally, the Catechism, Part One, Section Two, Chapter Two, Article 2, #430-455, can serve as a good primer for us as to who exactly Jesus is. So, with all these being said, who is Jesus? He is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity; One Divine Person with two natures, divine and human, fully God and fully man. He is a man like us in all things, but sin. Simply put, he is God and his word is true.

Now, let’s take it a bit further. What are we to do with this information, once we know by faith that Jesus is God? We have to live our lives in accordance with his teachings! We have to be like him, striving in this life to be with him, please God, in the next! We have to see all human life, from conception to natural death, all people, in his image and likeness, and love, as he taught us, our neighbor as we love ourselves! This is the basic message of the Epistle we proclaim Sunday from the Apostle James: our faith leads to our good works, all done in the Holy Name of Christ Jesus. Easier said than done, right? Yes, if we think, as we hear in the Gospel, not as God does, but as man does! If we accept Jesus as our Lord and God, then we have to take up our own unique cross in this life. But it is not impossible, with the Lord, carrying us along when we are too weak to even crawl.