Catholic Theology

The heart of the Christian faith is the person of Jesus Christ, who is affirmed to be truly God and fully
human. Within Catholicism, there also exists a special devotion to the person of Mary, who, while understood
as fully human and NOT divine within Christianity, is venerated in such a manner as to put her on a pedestal
like a goddess. Both Brennan Hill and Elizabeth Johnson, in their exploration of the humanity of Jesus and
Mary respectively, argue that a retrieval of their humanity allows us to more fully appreciate their roles in
the Catholic understanding of salvation (i.e., how God saves). We can more fully appreciate the role of Jesus
as savior if we understand him as simultaneously being truly divine and fully human. And we can better honor
the sacrifices of Mary and be inspired by her example if she is taken down from the pedestal upon which
tradition has put her and she is returned saint among the communion of saints. How does an understanding of
the humanity of Jesus help deepen the appreciation and understanding of how Jesus may be understood as savior
today? And why would taking Mary down from her pedestal and understanding her as Mariam of Nazareth allow us
to better see her as a liberating example of womanhood as opposed to an idealized and oppressive model for

1. Who is Jesus of Nazareth? Who is the historical Jesus constructed by contemporary scholars? What can we
know about him by understanding the context in which he was born and the culture in which he was raised?
2. What is the significance of understanding that the accounts of Jesus in the Bible reflect the resurrection
faith of the communities for which the four Gospels where written? If the Gospels are not straightforward
historical accounts of the life of Jesus, then what can we learn from them?
3. How has tradition understood Jesus as savior? How do we make sense of the idea of Jesus as savior today?
How does understanding the fullness of his humanity help us construct a meaningful understanding of how he
might save today?
4. What does the Church teach about the person of Mary? How has the image of Mary as the ideal feminine, the
Virgin Mother, make her less relatable to real women?
5. What is the significance of affirming her humanity and counting her among the saints, understood not simply
as intercessors (those who mediate between human beings and God) but as models and companions in life?s


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