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Christ's Mission is to Reveal the Father

General Audience — June 1, 1988

"In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through his son..." (Heb 1:1-2). In these words, well known to the faithful through the Christmas liturgy, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of Jesus Christ's mission, presenting it against the background of the history of the old covenant. There is a continuity between the mission of the prophets and Christ's mission, but also a very clear difference. Jesus is not merely the last or the greatest of the prophets—the eschatological prophet as he was called and awaited by some. He is essentially distinguished from all the ancient prophets and infinitely surpasses the level of their personality and mission. He is the Son of the Father, the Word-Son, of one being with the Father.

This is the key truth for understanding Christ's mission. He was sent to announce the Good News (the Gospel) to the poor. Together with him God's kingdom has come to us, entering definitively into human history. Christ bore witness to the truth drawn from his own divine source, as we have seen in the previous reflections. Now we can deduce from the above-quoted text of the Letter to the Hebrews the truth that unifies all aspects of Christ's mission: Jesus reveals God in the most authentic way, because this revelation is based on the one absolutely sure and unquestionable source, the very essence of God. Therefore, Christ's testimony has the value of absolute truth.

In John's Gospel we find a statement similar to that of the Letter to the Hebrews, but expressed more concisely. At the end of the prologue we read: "No one has ever seen God; the only Son who is in the bosom of the Father has made him known" (Jn 1:18).

This is the essential difference between the revelation of God in the prophets and in the whole of the Old Testament, and that brought by Christ who said of himself, "Behold, something greater than Jonah is here" (Mk 12:41). Here it is God himself, "the Word made flesh" (cf. Jn 1:14), who speaks to us of God. That Word who "is in the bosom of the Father" (Jn 1:18), becomes "the true light" (Jn 1:9), "the light of the world" (Jn 8:12). He said of himself, "I am the way, the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6).

Christ knows God as the Son who knows the Father and at the same time is known by him. "As the Father knows me and I know the Father..." we read in John's Gospel, and almost in identical terms in the Synoptics: "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him" (Mt 11:37; cf. Lk 10:22). Therefore Christ, the Son who knows the Father, reveals the Father. At the same time the Son is revealed by the Father. Jesus himself, after the confession of Caesarea Philippi, made that known to Peter who recognized him as "the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16). "Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you," Jesus said, "but my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 16:17).

If Christ's essential mission is to reveal the Father, who is "our God" (cf. Jn 20:17), at the same time he himself is revealed by the Father as the Son. This Son, "being one with the Father" (Jn 10:30), can therefore say, "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (Jn 14:9). In Christ God has become "visible"; God's "visibility" is realized in Christ. St. Irenaeus expressed it concisely: "The invisible reality of the Son was the Father, and the visible reality of the Father was the Son" (Adv. Haer. IV, 6, 6).

Therefore God's self-revelation is realized to the full in Jesus Christ. The revelation of the Spirit will come at the appropriate moment. The Spirit will be revealed as the one who proceeds from the Father (cf. Jn 15:26), and whom the Father will send in the Son's name (cf. Jn 14:26).

In the light of these mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation, due significance is acquired by the blessedness proclaimed by Jesus for his disciples: "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you heard, but did not hear it" (Lk 10:23-24).

A living echo of these words of the Master seems to resound in the First Letter of John: "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life (for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life...), what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us" (1 Jn 1:1-3). In the prologue of his Gospel the same apostle wrote: "We saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14).

In reference to this fundamental truth of our faith the Second Vatican Council in the Constitution on Divine Revelation stated: "By this revelation then, the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines out for our sake in Christ, who is both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation" (DV 2). Here we have the full dimension of Christ, the revelation of God, because this revelation of God is at the same time the revelation of God's salvific economy in regard to humanity and the world. As St. Paul says in regard to the apostles' preaching, it brings "to light the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things" (Eph 3:9). It is the mystery of the plan of salvation which God conceived from eternity in the intimacy of the Trinitarian life, wherein he contemplated, loved, willed, created and "re-created" the things of heaven and of earth by linking them to the Incarnation and therefore to Christ.

Let us return once again to the Second Vatican Council where we read: "Jesus Christ...the Word made flesh, was sent as 'a man to men.' He 'speaks the words of God' (Jn 3:34), and completes the work of salvation which his Father gave him to do (cf. Jn 5:36; 17:4)." He "perfected revelation by fulfilling it through his whole work of making himself present and manifesting himself: through his words and deeds, his signs and wonders, but especially through his death and glorious resurrection from the dead and final sending of the Spirit of truth. Moreover he confirmed with divine testimony what revelation proclaimed, that God is with us to free us from the darkness of sin and death, and to raise us up to life eternal.

"The Christian dispensation, therefore, as the new and definitive covenant, will never pass away and we now await no further new public revelation before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Tim 6:14 and Titus 2:13)" (DV 4).