Why Did the Word Become Flesh? A Reflection on the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 456-460)
For the first time, the Catechism introduces a section by asking a question: Why did the Word become flesh? The content of the question is taken from John 1:14: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” It is as if the Catechism’s authors paused before the awesome reality of the Word, who is God, taking flesh, and asked, “How could this be? Who is this God of ours that he would stoop to the level of a creature and appear among us, in human form? Why would he do this?”
The answer comes in four stunning statements of faith, each italicised in CCC 457-460. They appear in an ascending pattern, speaking first to the lowest state of the human person and taking us through to our highest calling.
The only Son of God, the divine Word, became flesh first because of our sins, to save us from our misery and disintegration into death. He took our human nature in order to share in and rescue us from the distress of our poverty, pain and death. In this he revealed the great love of God for us, who does not want anyone to perish. Jesus rescues us by changing us: as our true image, he calls us to live as he lives. The salvation he brings is not a surface-level change, but a radical call to holiness, to be perfect as the Father is perfect. And so the final goal of Word taking flesh is to raise us to live with God, in his eternity of joy, to share as sons and daughters in his own relationship with the Father. By his grace we come to know and love him as he is in himself.
The truths we have contemplated transform our understanding of ourselves and others, providing us with the solid foundation for our Christian lives. Read CCC 1691 – the content of today’s reading is the substance of the opening to the Part on the Christian life.
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