“Though he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-8).
In his General Audience of February 17, 1988 entitled Jesus Christ Emptied Himself, John Paul II shows how this term applied to Jesus’ life from beginning to end.
“To express this mystery the apostle uses first of all the words “emptied himself,” which refers especially to the reality of the Incarnation. “The Word became flesh” (Jn 1:14). God the Son assumed human nature, humanity, and became true man, while remaining God!…
In this context, his becoming like man involved a voluntary renunciation, which extended even to the privileges he could have enjoyed as man. He assumed “the form of a slave.”
We see in the Gospels that Christ’s earthly life was marked by poverty from the very beginning. This was clearly set out in the account of his birth, when the evangelist Luke observed that “there was no room for them [Mary and Joseph] in the inn,” and that Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger (cf. Lk 2:7).”
“From Matthew we learn that already in the first months of Jesus’ life, he experienced the lot of a refugee (cf. Mt 2:13-15).
His hidden life at Nazareth was lived in extremely modest conditions; the head of the family was a carpenter (cf. Mt 13:55) and Jesus himself worked with his putative father (Mk 6:3).”
“When he began his teaching, his situation continued to be one of extreme poverty, as he himself bore witness to in a certain way by referring to the precarious conditions of life imposed by his ministry of evangelization. ‘Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head’ (Lk 9:58).
From its beginning, Jesus’ messianic mission encountered opposition and misunderstanding, despite the signs which he worked. He was observed and persecuted by those who had power and influence over the people.”
“Finally, he was accused, condemned and put to death on a cross, the most infamous of all forms of capital punishment. It was applied only for crimes of extreme gravity, especially to those people who were not Roman citizens, and to slaves. For this reason also it can be said with the Apostle that Christ literally took “the form of a slave” (Phil 2:7).
He wrote that Jesus Christ ‘humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross’ (Phil 2:8). Here Christ’s kenosis is described in its definitive dimension. From the human point of view it is the dimension of the self-emptying by means of his passion and cruel death.”
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