This was a question that was seriously discussed in high school through college through seminary catholic theology classes during the seventies. Seriously. It was. I was there.
And the answer the teachers led us to was generally “No”. Or–get ready for the subtle nuance, here– not at first. Not when he was an infant. Nor as a child, or a young man. He (probably) figured it out eventually sometime between his baptism by John and the resurrection. But like the rest of us earnest and angsty adolescents of the boomer generation, it took a while for Jesus to find himself.
The fact that you don’t hear of clergy floating this idea very often any more tells me that the Catholic Church really has made progress in leaving post-conciliar silliness behind.
But gather ’round, children, while I ease my creaking back into my rocker and tell you a true story. Seems like only yesterday I heard a cassette tape recording of a seminary prof–later to become a bishop–lecturing on the text, Who do men say that I am? According to this teacher, Jesus was asking the question not in order to give his disciples a chance to profess their faith. He asked them because he hadn’t quite figured it out himself and was looking for information! So when Peter made his response–you are the Christ–Jesus was hugely relieved.
And this prof’s commentary on Blessed are you, Simon son of John ? That was Jesus’ way of saying, “Thank you, Peter! I think that’s right, I feel that’s right, and I appreciate you affirming me in my identity as God’s son.”
Out of charity, I won’t reveal the name of this teacher-turned-bishop, God rest his soul. Pray for him.
It was the Office of Readings for the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel that took me on this little trip down memory lane today. In the second reading, Pope St.Leo the Great argues that the infinite power of God can certainly combine the grace of virginity with the blessing of divine motherhood. From there, he speaks of how seeming opposites were made one in the Incarnation:
He stooped down to take up our lowliness without loss to his own glory. He remained what he was; he took up what he was not. He wanted to join the very nature of a servant to that nature in which he is equal to God the Father. He wanted to unite both natures in an alliance so wonderful that the glory of the greater would not annihilate the lesser, nor the taking up of the lower diminish the greatness of the higher.
Yes, figuring out the interplay of the human and divine knowledge of Jesus is tricky. In fact, it’s a mystery, so our attempts to understand should always be tempered by the fact that we won’t get it just right this side of eternity. Pious devotiona lwritings of past centuries depict the infant Jesus proclaiming the gospel to his mother from the moment of his birth. That isn’t any sillier (if anything i’ts closer to the truth) than the confused Jesus of the 1970s. If God doesn’t know he’s God, how can he be God?
The glory of the greater would not annihilate the lesser, nor the taking up of the lower diminish the greatness of the higher.
Leo had it right. The rest is mere details.
The Office of Readings is a daily treasure from the wisest and holiest Christians that have ever lived. It’s worth the effort it takes to integrate it into your spiritual routine. Give it a try.