January 19, 2023 –
Thursday of the 2nd Week in Ordinary Time
He warned them sternly not to make Him known.
At the end of today’s Gospel passage, after healing many persons, Jesus “warned [the unclean spirits] not to make Him known.” Why does Jesus issue this warning? “The Messianic Secret” is a phrase sometimes used to refer to the identity of Jesus, which fact He commands others—both friend and foe—not to reveal. This warning/command comes from the nature of Jesus’ mission on earth. How is this so?
God the Son was sent into our sinful world to become man, so that man might share in divine life. In itself, this mission is not scandalous, even if it seems incredible. However, the means by which God the Son would accomplish this mission did scandalize most of His friends and foes. The folly of the Cross turned away many whom Jesus came to save.
If Jesus revealed His identity, it was only to advance His mission. If Jesus was to advance His mission, He must reveal the glory of the Cross. In this sense, Jesus’ identity and mission were bound up together during His earthly life. To reveal one was to reveal the other. But to reveal His mission was to risk driving away persons whom He wished to save. The purpose of the “Messianic Secret”, then, is the prudential progression of His self-revelation. That is, the purpose seeks to save as many as possible from their own self-delusions of grandeur: delusions by which man believes that he can save himself, and that salvation comes from any source other than carrying one’s cross in union with the crucified Christ.