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Catechism of the Catholic Church

III. THE MYSTERIES OF JESUS' PUBLIC LIFE

The baptism of Jesus

535 Jesus' public life begins with his baptism by John in the Jordan. 228 John preaches "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins". 229 A crowd of sinners 230 - tax collectors and soldiers, Pharisees and Sadducees, and prostitutes- come to be baptized by him. "Then Jesus appears." The Baptist hesitates, but Jesus insists and receives baptism. Then the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes upon Jesus and a voice from heaven proclaims, "This is my beloved Son." 231 This is the manifestation ("Epiphany") of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God.

536 The baptism of Jesus is on his part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God's suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners; he is already "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world". 232 Already he is anticipating the "baptism" of his bloody death. 233 Already he is coming to "fulfil all righteousness", that is, he is submitting himself entirely to his Father's will: out of love he consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins. 234 The Father's voice responds to the Son's acceptance, proclaiming his entire delight in his Son. 235 The Spirit whom Jesus possessed in fullness from his conception comes to "rest on him". 236 Jesus will be the source of the Spirit for all mankind. At his baptism "the heavens were opened" 237 - the heavens that Adam's sin had closed - and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Spirit, a prelude to the new creation.

537 Through Baptism the Christian is sacramentally assimilated to Jesus, who in his own baptism anticipates his death and resurrection. The Christian must enter into this mystery of humble self-abasement and repentance, go down into the water with Jesus in order to rise with him, be reborn of water and the Spirit so as to become the Father's beloved son in the Son and "walk in newness of life": 238

Let us be buried with Christ by Baptism to rise with him; let us go down with him to be raised with him; and let us rise with him to be glorified with him. 239

Everything that happened to Christ lets us know that, after the bath of water, the Holy Spirit swoops down upon us from high heaven and that, adopted by the Father's voice, we become sons of God. 240

Jesus' temptations

538 The Gospels speak of a time of solitude for Jesus in the desert immediately after his baptism by John. Driven by the Spirit into the desert, Jesus remains there for forty days without eating; he lives among wild beasts, and angels minister to him. 241 At the end of this time Satan tempts him three times, seeking to compromise his filial attitude toward God. Jesus rebuffs these attacks, which recapitulate the temptations of Adam in Paradise and of Israel in the desert, and the devil leaves him "until an opportune time". 242

539 The evangelists indicate the salvific meaning of this mysterious event: Jesus is the new Adam who remained faithful just where the first Adam had given in to temptation. Jesus fulfils Israel's vocation perfectly: in contrast to those who had once provoked God during forty years in the desert, Christ reveals himself as God's Servant, totally obedient to the divine will. In this, Jesus is the devil's conqueror: he "binds the strong man" to take back his plunder. 243 Jesus' victory over the tempter in the desert anticipates victory at the Passion, the supreme act of obedience of his filial love for the Father.

540 Jesus' temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him. 244 This is why Christ vanquished the Tempter for us: "For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning." 245 By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.

"The kingdom of God is at hand"

541 "Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying: 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe in the gospel.'" 246 "To carry out the will of the Father Christ inaugurated the kingdom of heaven on earth." 247 Now the Father's will is "to raise up men to share in his own divine life". 248 He does this by gathering men around his Son Jesus Christ. This gathering is the Church, "on earth the seed and beginning of that kingdoms". 249

542 Christ stands at the heart of this gathering of men into the "family of God". By his word, through signs that manifest the reign of God, and by sending out his disciples, Jesus calls all people to come together around him. But above all in the great Paschal mystery - his death on the cross and his Resurrection - he would accomplish the coming of his kingdom. "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." Into this union with Christ all men are called. 250

The proclamation of the kingdom of God

543 Everyone is called to enter the kingdom. First announced to the children of Israel, this messianic kingdom is intended to accept men of all nations. 251 To enter it, one must first accept Jesus' word:

The word of the Lord is compared to a seed which is sown in a field; those who hear it with faith and are numbered among the little flock of Christ have truly received the kingdom. Then, by its own power, the seed sprouts and grows until the harvest. 252

544 The kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, which means those who have accepted it with humble hearts. Jesus is sent to "preach good news to the poor"; 253 he declares them blessed, for "theirs is the kingdom of heaven." 254 To them - the "little ones" the Father is pleased to reveal what remains hidden from the wise and the learned. 255 Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross; he experiences hunger, thirst and privation. 256 Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and makes active love toward them the condition for entering his kingdom. 257

545 Jesus invites sinners to the table of the kingdom: "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." 258 He invites them to that conversion without which one cannot enter the kingdom, but shows them in word and deed his Father's boundless mercy for them and the vast "joy in heaven over one sinner who repents". 259 The supreme proof of his love will be the sacrifice of his own life "for the forgiveness of sins". 260

546 Jesus' invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching. 261 Through his parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything. 262 Words are not enough, deeds are required. 263 The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word? 264 What use has he made of the talents he has received? 265 Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to "know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven". 266 For those who stay "outside", everything remains enigmatic. 267

The signs of the kingdom of God

547 Jesus accompanies his words with many "mighty works and wonders and signs", which manifest that the kingdom is present in him and attest that he was the promised Messiah. 268

548 The signs worked by Jesus attest that the Father has sent him. They invite belief in him. 269 To those who turn to him in faith, he grants what they ask. 270 So miracles strengthen faith in the One who does his Father's works; they bear witness that he is the Son of God. 271 But his miracles can also be occasions for "offence"; 272 they are not intended to satisfy people's curiosity or desire for magic Despite his evident miracles some people reject Jesus; he is even accused of acting by the power of demons. 273

549 By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness and death, 274 Jesus performed messianic signs. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below, 275 but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God's sons and causes all forms of human bondage. 276

550 The coming of God's kingdom means the defeat of Satan's: "If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." 277 Jesus' exorcisms free some individuals from the domination of demons. They anticipate Jesus' great victory over "the ruler of this world". 278 The kingdom of God will be definitively established through Christ's cross: "God reigned from the wood." 279

"The keys of the kingdom"

551 From the beginning of his public life Jesus chose certain men, twelve in number, to be with him and to participate in his mission. 280 He gives the Twelve a share in his authority and 'sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal." 281 They remain associated for ever with Christ's kingdom, for through them he directs the Church:

As my Father appointed a kingdom for me, so do I appoint for you that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 282

552 Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve; 283 Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Our Lord then declared to him: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it." 284 Christ, the "living Stone", 285 thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakeable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it. 286

553 Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." 287 The "power of the keys" designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: "Feed my sheep." 288 The power to "bind and loose" connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgements, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles 289 and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom.

A foretaste of the kingdom: the Transfiguration

554 From the day Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Master "began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. . . and be killed, and on the third day be raised." 290 Peter scorns this prediction, nor do the others understand it any better than he. 291 In this context the mysterious episode of Jesus' Transfiguration takes place on a high mountain, 292 before three witnesses chosen by himself: Peter, James and John. Jesus' face and clothes become dazzling with light, and Moses and Elijah appear, speaking "of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem". 293 A cloud covers him and a voice from heaven says: "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" 294

555 For a moment Jesus discloses his divine glory, confirming Peter's confession. He also reveals that he will have to go by the way of the cross at Jerusalem in order to "enter into his glory". 295 Moses and Elijah had seen God's glory on the Mountain; the Law and the Prophets had announced the Messiah's sufferings. 296 Christ's Passion is the will of the Father: the Son acts as God's servant; 297 the cloud indicates the presence of the Holy Spirit. "The whole Trinity appeared: the Father in the voice; the Son in the man; the Spirit in the shining cloud." 298

You were transfigured on the mountain, and your disciples, as much as they were capable of it, beheld your glory, O Christ our God, so that when they should see you crucified they would understand that your Passion was voluntary, and proclaim to the world that you truly are the splendour of the Father. 299

556 On the threshold of the public life: the baptism; on the threshold of the Passover: the Transfiguration. Jesus' baptism proclaimed "the mystery of the first regeneration", namely, our Baptism; the Transfiguration "is the sacrament of the second regeneration": our own Resurrection. 300 From now on we share in the Lord's Resurrection through the Spirit who acts in the sacraments of the Body of Christ. The Transfiguration gives us a foretaste of Christ's glorious coming, when he "will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body." 301 But it also recalls that "it is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God": 302

Peter did not yet understand this when he wanted to remain with Christ on the mountain. It has been reserved for you, Peter, but for after death. For now, Jesus says: "Go down to toil on earth, to serve on earth, to be scorned and crucified on earth. Life goes down to be killed; Bread goes down to suffer hunger; the Way goes down to be exhausted on his journey; the Spring goes down to suffer thirst; and you refuse to suffer?" 303

Jesus' ascent to Jerusalem

557 "When the days drew near for him to be taken up [Jesus] set his face to go to Jerusalem." 304 By this decision he indicated that he was going up to Jerusalem prepared to die there. Three times he had announced his Passion and Resurrection; now, heading toward Jerusalem, Jesus says: "It cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem." 305

558 Jesus recalls the martyrdom of the prophets who had been put to death in Jerusalem. Nevertheless he persists in calling Jerusalem to gather around him: "How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!" 306 When Jerusalem comes into view he weeps over her and expresses once again his heart's desire: "Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes." 307

Jesus' messianic entrance into Jerusalem

559 How will Jerusalem welcome her Messiah? Although Jesus had always refused popular attempts to make him king, he chooses the time and prepares the details for his messianic entry into the city of "his father David". 308 Acclaimed as son of David, as the one who brings salvation (Hosanna means "Save!" or "Give salvation!"), the "King of glory" enters his City "riding on an ass". 309 Jesus conquers the Daughter of Zion, a figure of his Church, neither by ruse nor by violence, but by the humility that bears witness to the truth. 310 And so the subjects of his kingdom on that day are children and God's poor, who acclaim him as had the angels when they announced him to the shepherds. 311 Their acclamation, "Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord", 312 is taken up by the Church in the "Sanctus" of the Eucharistic liturgy that introduces the memorial of the Lord's Passover.

560 Jesus' entry into Jerusalem manifested the coming of the kingdom that the King-Messiah was going to accomplish by the Passover of his Death and Resurrection. It is with the celebration of that entry on Palm Sunday that the Church's liturgy solemnly opens Holy Week.

IN BRIEF:

561 "The whole of Christ's life was a continual teaching: his silences, his miracles, his gestures, his prayer, his love for people, his special affection for the little and the poor, his acceptance of the total sacrifice on the Cross for the redemption of the world, and his Resurrection are the actualization of his word and the fulfilment of Revelation" John Paul II, CT 9).

562 Christ's disciples are to conform themselves to him until he is formed in them (cf. Gal 4:19). "For this reason we, who have been made like to him, who have died with him and risen with him, are taken up into the mysteries of his life, until we reign together with him" (LG § 4).

563 No one, whether shepherd or wise man, can approach God here below except by kneeling before the manger at Bethlehem and adoring him hidden in the weakness of a new-born child.

564 By his obedience to Mary and Joseph, as well as by his humble work during the long years in Nazareth, Jesus gives us the example of holiness in the daily life of family and work.

565 From the beginning of his public life, at his baptism, Jesus is the "Servant", wholly consecrated to the redemptive work that he will accomplish by the "baptism" of his Passion.

566 The temptation in the desert shows Jesus, the humble Messiah, who triumphs over Satan by his total adherence to the plan of salvation willed by the Father.

567 The kingdom of heaven was inaugurated on earth by Christ. "This kingdom shone out before men in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ" (LG 5). The Church is the seed and beginning of this kingdom. Its keys are entrusted to Peter.

568 Christ's Transfiguration aims at strengthening the apostles' faith in anticipation of his Passion: the ascent on to the "high mountain" prepares for the ascent to Calvary. Christ, Head of the Church, manifests what his Body contains and radiates in the sacraments: "the hope of glory" (Col 1:27; cf.: St. Leo the Great, Sermo 51, 3: PL 54, 310C).

569 Jesus went up to Jerusalem voluntarily, knowing well that there he would die a violent death because of the opposition of sinners (cf. Heb 12:3).

570 Jesus' entry into Jerusalem manifests the coming of the kingdom that the Messiah-King, welcomed into his city by children and the humble of heart, is going to accomplish by the Passover of his Death and Resurrection.

Notes:

228 Cf. Lk 3:23; Acts 1:22.

229 Lk 3:3.

230 Cf. Lk 3:10-14; Mt 3:7; 21:32.

231 Mt 3:13-17.

232 Jn 1:29; cf. Isa 53:12.

233 Cf. Mk 10:38; Lk 12:50.

234 Mt 3:15; cf. 26:39.

235 Cf. Lk 3:22; Isa 42:1.

236 Jn 1:32-33; cf. Isa 11:2.

237 Mt 3:16.

238 Rom 6:4.

239 St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 40, 9: PG 36, 369.

240 St. Hilary of Poitiers, In Matth. 2, 5: PL 9, 927.

241 Cf. Mk 1:12-13.

242 Lk 4:13.

243 Cf. Ps 95:10; Mk 3:27

244 Cf. Mt 16:2 1-23.

245 Heb 4:15.

246 Mk 1:14-15.

247 LG 3.

248 LG 2.

249 LG 5.

250 Jn 12:32; cf. LG 3.

251 Cf. Mt 8:11; 10:5-7; 28:19.

252 LG 5; cf. Mk 4:14, 26-29; Lk 12:32.

253 Lk 4:18; cf. 7:22.

254 Mt 5:3.

255 Cf. Mt 11:25.

256 Cf. Mt 21:18; Mk 2:23-26; Jn 4:6-7; 19:28; Lk 9:58.

257 Cf. Mt 25:31-46.

258 Mk 2:17; cf. l Tim 1:15.

259 Lk 15:7; cf. 7:11-32.

260 Mt 26:28.

261 Cf. Mk 4:33-34.

262 Cf. Mt 13:44-45; 22:1-14.

263 Cf. Mt 21:28-32.

264 Cf. Mt 13:3-9.

265 Cf. Mt 25:14-30.

266 Mt 13:11.

267 Mk 4:11; cf. Mt 13:10-15.

268 Acts 2:22; cf. Lk 7:18-23.

269 cf. Jn 5:36; 10:25, 38.

270 Cf. Mk 5:25-34; 10:52; etc.

271 Cf. Jn 10:31-38.

272 Mt 11:6.

273 Cf. Jn 11:47-48; Mk 3:22.

274 Cf. Jn 6:5-15; Lk 19:8; Mt 11:5.

275 Cf. Lk 12:13-14; Jn 18:36.

276 Cf. Jn 8:34-36.

277 Mt 12:26, 28.

278 Jn 12:31; cf. Lk 8:26-39.

279 LH, Lent, Holy Week, Evening Prayer, Hymn Vexilla Regis: Regnavit a ligno Deus.

280 Cf. Mk 3:13-19.

281 Lk 9:2.

282 Lk 22:29-30.

283 Cf. Mk 3:16; 9:2; Lk 24:34; I Cor 15:5.

284 Mt 16:18.

285 I Pt 2:4.

286 Cf. Lk 22:32.

287 Mt 16:19.

288 Jn 21:15-17; Cf. 10:11.

289 Cf. Mt 18:18.

290 Mt 16:21.

291 Cf. Mt 16:22-23; 17:23; Lk 9:45.

292 Cf. Mt 17:1-8 and parallels; 2 Pt 1:16-18.

293 Lk 9:31.

294 Lk 9:35.

295 Lk 24:26.

296 Cf. Lk 24:27.

297 Cf. Isa 42:1.

298 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 45, 4, ad 2.

299 Byzantine Liturgy, Feast of the Transfiguration, Kontakion.

300 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 45, 4, ad 2.

301 Phil 3:21.

302 Acts 14:22.

303 St. Augustine, Sermo 78, 6: PL 38, 492-493; cf. Lk 9:33.

304 Lk 9:51; cf. Jn 13:1.

305 Lk 13:33; cf. Mk 8:31-33; 9:31-32; 10:32-34.

306 Mt 23:37.

307 Lk 19:41-42.

308 Lk 1:32; cf. Mt 21:1-11; Jn 6:15.

309 Ps 24:7-10; Zech 9:9.

310 Cf. Jn 18:37.

311 Cf. Mt 21:15-16; cf. Ps 8:3; Lk 19:38; 2:14.

312 Cf. Ps 118:26.

English Translation of the Cathechism of the Catholic Church for the United States of America © 1997, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

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