April 19, 2019


We celebrate our redemption

This weekend, we Christians observe the most important dogmas of our Church as we celebrate our redemption achieved through the paschal mystery: the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.

We celebrate the Holy Trinity because our redemption is a work of sheer love and mercy on the part of the three persons of the Trinity. Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote, “The work accomplished here between Father and Son with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit is utter love, the purest love possible.”

We celebrate the incarnation in March because our God chose that our reconciliation with him be done by a human. But our redemption could not be achieved by just any human. As St. Augustine wrote, “God had no power of himself to die for us: he had to take from us our mortal flesh. This was the way in which, though immortal, he was able to die.”

Thus the Second Person of the Trinity became human while retaining his divinity. He came because “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16), mandating that his Son be the Lamb of God that will lay down his life for his sheep (Jn 10:15).

Jesus does so willingly. He says, “I lay down my life of my own accord” (Jn 10:17), and, “What should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour” (Jn 12:27).

He was fully human though, so he dreaded the suffering that he knew was coming. Therefore, in the Garden of Olives, he prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will” (Mt 26:39).

Therefore, Jesus endured the torture of the Roman soldiers who scourged him with the cruel flagellum, a short whip made of leather thongs with pieces of metal attached that would quickly remove the skin. They mocked him with a crown of thorns. He was then crucified on a cross.

On the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished” (Jn 19:30), indicating that his mission had been accomplished; he had redeemed the world in accordance with his Father’s will.

But who would have known that he accomplished that if he had not risen from the dead? The Resurrection confirms Jesus’ divinity, that it was true when he said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (Jn 8:58) and the many times he said that he and his Father were one.

The early Christians didn’t just believe that Jesus rose from the dead; they knew that it was an historical fact. Eyewitnesses saw the risen Christ.

As St. Paul told the Corinthians, “I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:3-6).

It helps that the Apostles at first refused to believe Mary Magdalene and the other women when they said they had seen Jesus alive. Jesus had to convince them that it was really he, allowing them to touch him. “Touch me and see,” he told them, “because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have” (Lk 24:39). Then he ate a piece of baked fish, something else that a ghost wouldn’t do

But his body was different. Jesus didn’t simply return to earthly life as did those he raised from the dead: Lazarus, the daughter of Jairus, and the son of the widow of Nain. Jesus was now the Risen Christ, spiritual and glorified, no longer subject to the limitations of material beings and the human body. He could go through a locked door and appear unrecognized to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. In his risen body, he passed from death to another life beyond space and time—as we will do some day.

It’s all this that we celebrate this weekend.

—John F. Fink

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