We quite naturally tend to think of the word “Christ” as Jesus’ second name.

Ron Rolheiser, OMI


The word “Christ” is a title which, while it includes the person of Jesus, speaks of something wider than Jesus alone.  What’s the difference between “Jesus” and “Christ”?

Jesus refers to a concrete person who walked this earth for 33 years and is still today someone whom we understand and relate to as an individual person.

Christ refers to something larger, namely, the huge mystery of both creation and salvation of which Jesus, as the Christ, plays the foundational role but which includes the Eucharist, the Christian community, the historical Christian churches, the community of all sincere people who walk this planet, and physical creation itself. Jesus is a person with whom we seek to be in a relationship within friendship and intimacy, while Christ is a mystery of which we and all creation are part of and within which we participate.

This has huge implications, not least in how we understand spirituality and church. In essence, this is what’s at stake: What’s more central to us, what Jesus has done and asks of us or the person of Jesus himself?  Various Christian churches have different answers to that question. Are they more focused on the teaching of Jesus or on the person of Jesus? Are they more focused on Jesus or on Christ?

Christian discipleship, clearly, asks for both, intimacy with Jesus and attention to what he taught, personal piety and social justice, firm loyalty to one’s own ecclesial family and the capacity to also embrace all others of sincere heart as one’s faith family.

Soren Kierkegaard, who was a Protestant theologian once suggested that what Jesus really wants is followers, not admirers. 

We need to proclaim both the message of Jesus and Jesus himself.

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