III. THE ONLY SON OF GOD

441 In the Old Testament, “son of God” is a title given to the angels, the Chosen People, the children of Israel, and their kings.44 It signifies an adoptive sonship that establishes a relationship of particular intimacy between God and his creature. When the promised Messiah-King is called “son of God”, it does not necessarily imply that he was more than human, according to the literal meaning of these texts. Those who called Jesus “son of God”, as the Messiah of Israel, perhaps meant nothing more than this.45

442 Such is not the case for Simon Peter when he confesses Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God”, for Jesus responds solemnly: “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”46 Similarly Paul will write, regarding his conversion on the road to Damascus, “When he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…”47 “And in the synagogues immediately [Paul] proclaimed Jesus, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.'”48 From the beginning this acknowledgment of Christ’s divine sonship will be the center of the apostolic faith, first professed by Peter as the Church’s foundation.49

443 Peter could recognize the transcendent character of the Messiah’s divine sonship because Jesus had clearly allowed it to be so understood. To his accusers’ question before the Sanhedrin, “Are you the Son of God, then?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am.”50 Well before this, Jesus referred to himself as “the Son” who knows the Father, as distinct from the “servants” God had earlier sent to his people; he is superior even to the angels.51 He distinguished his sonship from that of his disciples by never saying “our Father”, except to command them: “You, then, pray like this: ‘Our Father'”, and he emphasized this distinction, saying “my Father and your Father”.52

444 The Gospels report that at two solemn moments, the Baptism and the Transfiguration of Christ, the voice of the Father designates Jesus his “beloved Son”.53 Jesus calls himself the “only Son of God”, and by this title affirms his eternal pre-existence.54 He asks for faith in “the name of the only Son of God”.55 In the centurion’s exclamation before the crucified Christ, “Truly this man was the Son of God”,56 that Christian confession is already heard. Only in the Paschal mystery can the believer give the title “Son of God” its full meaning.

445 After his Resurrection, Jesus’ divine sonship becomes manifest in the power of his glorified humanity. He was “designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his Resurrection from the dead”.57 The apostles can confess: “We have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”58

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II. THE FALL OF THE ANGELS

391 Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy.266 Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called “Satan” or the “devil”.267 The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: “The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.”268

392 Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels.269 This “fall” consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign. We find a reflection of that rebellion in the tempter’s words to our first parents: “You will be like God.”270 The devil “has sinned from the beginning”; he is “a liar and the father of lies”.271

393 It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels’ sin unforgivable. “There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death.”272

394 Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls “a murderer from the beginning”, who would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from his Father.273 “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”274 In its consequences the gravest of these works was the mendacious seduction that led man to disobey God.

395 The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries – of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature- to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but “we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.”275

Paragraph 7. The Fall

385 God is infinitely good and all his works are good. Yet no one can escape the experience of suffering or the evils in nature which seem to be linked to the limitations proper to creatures: and above all to the question of moral evil. Where does evil come from? “I sought whence evil comes and there was no solution”, said St. Augustine,257 and his own painful quest would only be resolved by his conversion to the living God. For “the mystery of lawlessness” is clarified only in the light of the “mystery of our religion”.258 The revelation of divine love in Christ manifested at the same time the extent of evil and the superabundance of grace.259 We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror.260