“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…He has made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:3,9).
God our heavenly Father had a plan for the universe: He would gather up all things in Jesus Christ. It’s an amazing, mysterious idea. Jesus is the summary of history. Every phase of human history is summed up and recapitulated in Christ. By living an exemplary life, Jesus impresses on all humanity the example of what the Father had in mind when He created man and woman. Anybody using Jesus as an example will be redeemed from the consequences of sinfulness. We should have been able to do this on our own; however, by choosing to challenge God’s will with our own, we fell incorrigibly into sinfulness, and God realized there was no way out—at least on our own.
Those who have computers well know what happens when something goes wrong: You may have shut down the machine improperly, or else an electronic gremlin worked its way into the innards of the system. The computers recognize the problem, and then go through all the programs and workings of the mechanism, defining and correcting the faulty mechanism in the process. Something like that, only on a human level, is what St. Paul is writing about. Jesus Christ the Son of God takes on a human nature so that in living as one of us He repeats the course of humanity’s existence, clearing out the illusions, delusions, wickedness and sinfulness that comprise our fallen nature.
The gift of renewal by accepting Jesus Christ as the new Adam, one who had purified the nature of us human beings from inside, may seem strange to modern people. We tend to emphasize our individualism, and we are leery of thinking in a way that smacks of racialism. Nevertheless, we do recognize the fact that we are both individuals as well as creatures from a common species. Our DNA record is not much different from those of all other humans past and present. When through human disobedience our evolutionary history went astray and nothing mankind could do would either reverse or correct it, God chose to bring it to a halt by death, then sending Jesus Christ to earth to set it aright. Jesus said as much.
A favorite expression we find in St. Paul’s epistles is “in Christ.” Following the above verse we read: In Christ we also have obtained an inheritance” [v. 11]. All other people in history, be they royalty, prophets, philosophers or great leaders, all are examples, but nothing more. We can be inspired by their lives and ought to be; however, they remain as individuals apart from us. Jesus Christ calls us to be baptized into Him, so that we can be liberated from our transgressions and be born again free from sin. He invites us to walk in the Holy Spirit, to be sealed with the gift of the Spirit and keep all evil outside of our souls. He calls us to take into ourselves Himself in the holy Eucharist.
More than that, Christ has made it possible to be Godlike in all ways except to share the divine essence. It’s a daring truth: Jesus Christ became human so that the human being through the grace of the Holy Spirit can become in all ways like Christ except to be the only-begotten Son of God. In the expression of St. Irenaeus of Lyons: The Word of God because of His love for mankind “became what we are in order to make us what He is.”