Ashamed of the Son of Man?

06-06-2021Weekly Reflection

They who want to win the world for Christ must have the courage to come into conflict with it. – Blessed Titus Brandsma O.Carm, Martyr

Hearing (Mark 8:34ff) the following hard words of Jesus hit home: For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

For many contemporary Catholics, denying Jesus takes the form not of apostasy under duress but of "being ashamed" of him and his words -- not frequently, perhaps, but on those occasions when they are anxious not to appear uncouth or ignorant or in the grip of unfashionable moral hang-ups. Business luncheons, faculty receptions, museum benefit galas can by more subtle means accomplish what Tyburn* and the Coliseum could not.

(*Tyburn in London was a place of execution of numerous Catholics martyrs who refused to recognize a Church of England started by Henry VIII. An image of the Tyburn Martyrs hangs in our parish May they intercede for us.)

When a Christian finds himself in the company of prosperous scoffers, it's hard, particularly with a manhattan or glass of chardonnay in hand, to interrupt the flow of elegant blasphemy, and it's all too easy to feign agreement by one's silence. (There’s a maxim in the law: he who remains silent, consents.)In such circles, mention of the Son of Man -- i.e., positive, non-sarcastic mention -- is as unlovely as a brown tooth. Yet what Christian would have the honesty to admit that he kept quiet in such circumstances because he was ashamed of Jesus? It hurts to think about it. Readers of C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters will remember the demon Wormwood's attempt to damn his patient by acquainting him with "just the sort of people we want him to know -- rich, smart, superficially intellectual, and brightly skeptical about everything in the world." The senior devil Screwtape wants to make capital out of the tactical situation:

Tell me more. Did he commit himself deeply? I don't mean in words. There is a subtle play of looks and tones and laughs by which a Mortal can imply that he is of the same party with those to whom he is speaking. That is the kind of betrayal you should specially encourage, because the man does not fully realize it himself; and by the time he does you will have made withdrawal difficult.

No doubt he must very soon realize that his own faith is in direct opposition to the assumptions on which all the conversation of his new friends is based. I don't think that matters much provided that you can persuade him to postpone any open acknowledgment of the fact, and this, with the aid of shame, pride, modesty and vanity, will be easy to do. As long as the postponement lasts he will be in a false position. He will be silent when he ought to speak and laugh when he ought to be silent. He will assume, at first only by his manner, but presently by his words, all sorts of cynical and skeptical attitudes which are not really his. But if you play him well, they may become his. All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be.

The chilling fact is that a believing, ordinarily dutiful Christian can be brought to deny the Son of Man without any of the barbarities of the torture chamber, but simply through the desire to get a laugh or avoid a sneer. I wonder how much of the headway that the counter-Christians have made among Western élites is abetted by these trivial acts of moral cowardice on the part of believers who know better (and know they know better). I confess it's not clear to me what the Son of Man's "being ashamed of" will consist in — i.e., his being ashamed, when he comes in his glory, of those who were ashamed of him? Whatever form it takes, it's pretty horrible to contemplate. (Diogenes) (END)

NOTE: Jesus is referred to as the “Son of Man” 88 times in the New Testament. One meaning of the phrase “Son of Man” is as a reference to the prophecy of Daniel 7:13-14, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” The description “Son of Man” was a Messianic title. Jesus is the One who was given dominion and glory and a kingdom. When Jesus used this phrase, He was assigning the Son of Man prophecy to Himself. The Jews of that era would have been intimately familiar with the phrase and to whom it referred. Jesus was proclaiming Himself as the Messiah.

A second meaning of the phrase “Son of Man” is that Jesus is truly Man. God called the prophet Ezekiel “son of man” 93 times. God was simply calling Ezekiel a man:son of a man is a man. Jesus is fully God (John 1:1), but He is also truly Man (John 1:14). First John 4:2 tells us, “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” Yes, Jesus is the Son of God—He is in His essence God. Yes, Jesus is also the Son of Man—He is a man with a human nature. In summary, the phrase “Son of Man” indicates that Jesus is the Messiah and that He is truly Man as well as God.