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Editor’s Note: As we prepare to celebrate another Christmas, it might be appropriate to offer the following summary of the life of the Person whose birth we honor this month.

His Story Begins

Jesus, whose birth is celebrated throughout the whole world every December, has had a greater impact on human history than any person who ever lived. Though He died at the age of thirty-three, the year in which we live is dated (approximately) from His birth. Though He lived in an obscure corner of the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago, some two billion people today call themselves His followers.
Though He never wrote a book, tens of thousands of books have been written about His life and teachings. Though He never traveled outside the confines of Palestine, He has been the subject of many popular movies and musicals.
Jesus the Christ was born in Bethlehem, a small town in Roman-occupied Palestine, just as the Prophet Micah had foretold (cf. Micah 5:1) centuries earlier. (Jesus is the only person in human history who was pre-announced and whose biography was written hundreds of years before He was born.)
He and His parents had to flee into Egypt to escape the murderous wrath of King Herod, who had ordered the slaughter of all boys two years of age and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem to ensure the death of “the newborn king of the Jews” (Matt. 2:2). When an angel informed Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus, that Herod had died, Joseph returned to Palestine with his wife Mary and the Child, and Jesus grew up in the village of Nazareth, where He worked in Joseph’s carpenter shop.
At the age of thirty, Jesus left Nazareth, gathered around Him twelve men who became known as His apostles, and traveled throughout Palestine preaching love of God and neighbor and attracting followers by the thousands. He was a marvelous story-teller, illustrating His teachings with examples and parables about persons, places, and things that were familiar to His listeners. Christ’s parables (e.g., The Good Samaritan, The Prodigal Son, The Good Shepherd) are often cited even today by non-Christians as literary and moral masterpieces for their simple yet profound messages.

His Moral Code

The core of Jesus’ moral code was love, not only of God and neighbor, but even of enemies so that “you may be children of your heavenly Father, for He makes His sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). He adhered to this difficult standard Himself on the cross by asking forgiveness for those who had crucified Him (cf. Luke 23:34). Jesus also urged His followers personally to help those in need — the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the imprisoned, saying that whatever they did “for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40).
He asked them to forgive the faults of others and laid down the Golden Rule: “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7:12).
Jesus was also stern at times, as when He forbade “acts of fornication, theft, murder, adulterous conduct, greed, maliciousness, deceit, sensuality, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, an obtuse spirit” (Mark 7:21-22). He encouraged prayer, fasting, sacrifice, and loyalty to Him, saying that “whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37-38).
Thousands of people were drawn to Jesus by His compassion for the sick and the suffering (“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” — Matt. 11:28); by His mercy and forgiveness toward sinners (When the Pharisees criticized Him for associating with sinners, Jesus replied, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners” — Mark 2:17); and by His courage and fearlessness (He chased the money-changers out of the Temple and condemned the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees, calling them “whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth” — Matt. 23:27).
Angry at Jesus’ criticism of them and jealous of the crowds the followed Him, the Pharisees sent clever men out to question Jesus while He was speaking in the hope of tripping Him up.
But He confounded them time and again, as when they tried to trap Him by asking if it were lawful to pay taxes to the hated Romans. He replied, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Matt. 22:21). Or when they asked if a woman caught in adultery should be stoned to death, as the law of Moses commanded, Christ said: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). Or when the guards sent to arrest Jesus returned without Him. When asked why they did not bring Him back, the guards responded: “Never before has anyone spoken like this one” (John 7:46).

More Than A Good Man

But Christians throughout the world believe that Jesus was more than just a good and holy man because He said He was God (cf. Mark 14:62). If He were not God, then He was a liar, which means that He could not be a good man.
Those who have carefully studied the life of Christ believe that He was the Son of God, the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. As evidence of their belief, Christians cite the fulfillment in Jesus, and in no one else, of scores of Old Testament prophecies regarding the place and circumstances of the Messiah’s birth, the betrayal and suffering that He would endure, and the manner of His death.
But the most convincing evidence of Jesus’ claim to be God was the many miracles that He performed before hundreds and even thousands of eyewitnesses. He said that “these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me” (John 5:36).
He changed water into wine; cured the blind, the deaf, and the lame; exorcised demons from people; walked on water and calmed the stormy sea; fed thousands with only a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish; and raised three people from the dead, including his friend Lazarus.
The raising of Lazarus four days after he had died was the last straw as far as the chief priests and Pharisees were concerned, and they conspired to kill Jesus, getting unexpected help from one of Christ’s own apostles, Judas, who was willing to betray his master for thirty pieces of silver. Jesus was arrested late at night, put through the mockery of a trial, beaten and tortured, and then put to death on the orders of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor.

His Greatest Miracle

The followers of Jesus thought that they had seen the last of Him when His body was taken down from the cross on Good Friday and placed in a borrowed grave outside Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago. But three days later, the tomb was found to be empty and more than a dozen people reported having seen Jesus alive that Sunday. Over the next forty days, Christ was seen in different places at different times by small groups of people and by large groups, including a crowd of more than 500 (cf. 1 Cor. 15:6). This large number of eyewitnesses rules out the theory that Jesus’ Resurrection was only the hallucination of a few susceptible people.
On the fortieth day after His Resurrection from the dead, according to reliable eyewitness accounts, Christ gave the apostles their final instructions to carry His teachings “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8), and then rose up into the heavens, not to return again until the end of the age. Ten days later, the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and converted these once-confused and frightened men into an articulate and courageous band of missionaries.
They and those who came after them bravely and zealously carried out their Master’s command to bring Him and His message to the whole world. It is now up to us to continue that mission that began with the arrival of the Messiah in Bethlehem two millennia ago.
A Blessed Christmas to all!

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Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love

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Today . . .

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Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

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Catholic Replies

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