Easter. Paschaltide. Springtime. A new flowering: "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims His handiwork". (Ps 19:1)
We deeply need this reassurance -- this annually renewed promise -- that God is truly with us, and that His gift of Redemption is offered freely to all.
Redemption is such a familiar term in Christianity that we may not always be fully aware of what the word means, and what it says about the human condition and the relationship of human beings to God our Creator and Redeemer. Why did Jesus "come to redeem the world"? Why do we need to be redeemed? From what?
The word "redeem" literally means "to take back" (re- + emere, to take). Thus it means to repurchase something that originally belonged to one; or to pay a ransom to free a captive, a person who has been enslaved or kidnapped or captured; or to remove an obligation to pay by making the payment (such as a bond); or to convert something of little actual worth into something of value (such as coupons or trading stamps).
The Christian meaning of redemption includes all of these meanings. We need a Redeemer because we, who belong to God from our conception, have been lost, through sin. We may be captivated by pleasure, or enslaved by selfishness, bad habits or addictions -- physical or psychological.
A slave is redeemed -- restored to freedom -- only when a redeemer pays the price. We are converted, made worthy, by our acceptance of this gift of redemption.
Every human institution is flawed because of man's sin. Entire nations, civilizations, as well as individuals, can be enslaved, lost, as we have seen over and over again in our time.
Recent events remind us why the world -- and every person on earth -- needs to be redeemed.
- The family -- instituted by God, and the fundamental building block of all society -- has been severely attacked at every level of government, from local to international, and even within some Christian bodies. Homosexual "marriage" issues -- following scandals involving clerical crimes of pederasty -- attack the most basic, most essential assumptions about the nature of human sexuality at their very root. A few weeks ago, the US bishops' National Review Board released its survey of the damage to the Church by "the scandals".
A review of Church teaching on the meaning of the family based on the unity of a man and a woman is needed, and in this issue we reprint excerpts from the 1994 papal Letter to Families and an article on the Holy See's "Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality".
- The intrinsic worth of human life itself is undermined: Technological developments (cloning, in vitro fertilization, etc.); "cost management" for health care; and "rights" involving abortion and euthanasia -- have far outstripped our ability to deal with the looming moral issues involved.
A United Nations agency on "human rights" recently called for a change in the law of Colombia prohibiting abortion, and the UN commission on women continues to insist that abortion is a "reproductive right" that women are entitled to.
The "women's rights" conflict that led to the formation of Women for Faith & Family in 1984 is no closer to being resolved than it was twenty years ago.
The continuing disputes over the situation of Terri Schiavo, a disabled woman in Florida, has highlighted the alarming disparity of views -- even among Christians -- over the essential meaning and value of human life, no matter how diminished.
A Vatican conference held in March reflected this conflict. Pope John Paul II's message to the closing session ringingly reaffirmed that administering food and water is necessary "ordinary care" of disabled people. The Holy Father's message (in Italian), was not available in English at press time; but will be posted on our web site as soon as it appears.
- Civilization -- East and West -- is deeply divided over religion. Terrorism of the most nihilistic sort -- murderous hatred -- is justified on the basis of religious beliefs. Fear engendered by global terrorism has fueled a different kind of terrorism -- hostility toward any religion's claims to Truth. (On March 11, exactly two-and-a-half years after "9-11", a terrorist attack in Madrid incited new panic.)
The US Supreme Court is currently hearing a case brought by an atheist in California, who claims that the words "one nation under God" in the American Pledge of Allegiance are dangerous to anyone who does not believe in God; and an Alabama judge was ousted last year because he refused to remove a sculpture of the Ten Commandments from the courthouse.
Reactions to a film, "The Passion of the Christ", released on Ash Wednesday, have reflected the deep animosity to Christianity that undergirds attacks on Christian teaching and core Christian beliefs that have largely shaped Western civilization.
But those who saw the film also demonstrated the deep response of people to "seeing Salvation", to witnessing, as intensely as modern technology and art can make possible, the self-sacrifice of Christ, the free gift of God-made-flesh, to redeem -- yes, redeem -- the lost, and to set mankind free.
What we are now seeing -- in vivid and constantly shifting examples -- is a demonstration of the abiding truth that Jesus Christ Himself is a sign of contradiction to the world. This is hardly new. But Christ came to make all things new (Rev 21:5), and He reveals Himself to as many as receive Him.
"God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoptions as sons... So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir... For freedom, Christ has set us free" (Gal 4:4-5, 7; 5:1)
Christ "gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father; to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen". (Gal. 1:4,5)
May the Light of Christ, Lumen Christi, symbolized by the Easter Candle that burns in our churches throughout Paschaltide, burn brightly in our hearts and lives as we confront the darkness that surrounds us -- and await in hope the Dayspring from on High who will deliver us.
Sincerely in Our Lord,
Helen Hull Hitchcock
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WFF is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Donations are tax deductible.
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