"A lay Catholic perspective"

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Jesus Our Redeemer

by Christine Kaskiw


?ECONCILIATION THROUGH the Cross" has been developed splendidly by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Redemptor Hominis. The encyclical is a rich document proclaiming Christ the Redeemer. What follows are some highlights that particularly struck home to me.

God placed within each of us the desire to love and serve him. The surrender of our hearts to Jesus' commandment "love one another as I have loved you"[1] satisfies this desire. Surrender opens us to embrace the cross of joy and suffering. The cross of Christ is revealed in our dealings with people or situations and the joy of the cross is revealed when we respond to them with faith. Practically speaking, the beatitudes are the basis of living Jesus' Gospel of love and reconciliation.

In Luke's Gospel, Jesus begins the beatitudes with the words, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly."[2] Our human response is usually quite opposite; yet the grace from welcoming the cross at these moments enables us to react with tenderness and peace. This joy of the cross springs from the fact that Jesus conquered death and revealed for all eternity that "love is greater than sin, and weakness... it is stronger than death; it is a love always ready to raise up and forgive."[3] Our obedience at times of suffering reflects the Kingdom of God in a real way and brings reconciliation with God to others. The kingdom of God in our world is often greeted with opposition. Pope John Paul tells us, "if this mission seems to encounter greater opposition nowadays than ever before, this shows that today it is more necessary than ever and, in spite of the opposition, more awaited than ever."[4]

The Eucharist and Penance

Two powerful sacraments sustain us in living the beatitudes. The first is the sacrament of the Eucharist. This sacrament transforms our lives because "Christ unceasingly and in an ever new manner 'bears witness' in the Holy Spirit to our spirit that each of us... has access to the fruits of the filial reconciliation with God."[5] The full effect of the Eucharist in our lives brings us to embrace penance as a way of life.

True penance acknowledges our failings and accepts God's forgiveness. Examining our actions towards others provides us with opportunities to receive Jesus' forgiveness. In turn we are able to express his mercy to others through prayer and acts of love.

The sacrament of Penance allows us to receive the healing forgiveness of Jesus in a sacramental way. Absolution for our sins inspires conversion in our hearts. The sacrament of Penance opens the door to the Eucharist where we celebrate the wonderful saving action of Jesus restoring us to the full dignity we have as sons and daughters of God. The dignity we receive as Christians is expressed as freedom, and "the best use of freedom is charity, which takes concrete form in self-giving and in service."[6] This service brings us to the spiritual maturity of living the beatitudes.

Our mature witness of the cross brings peace and reconciliation. Another fruit of the cross is effective intercession. Intercession offered for others through the cross brings results because it is rooted in faith in the saving love of Jesus.

Mary our Mother

Mary has the special role of leading us and those we love to Jesus. From the moment the angel Gabriel visited her and she agreed to be the Mother of God, Mary submitted her will and life to God. Whenever we experience difficulties following Jesus or we find ourselves concerned about someone, we should immediately place ourselves into her hands. Mary's love as a mother has a unique way of bringing us swiftly to Jesus. Mary's intercession is the simplest way we have to embrace the cross and receive reconciliation with our heavenly Father. Pope John Paul tells us,

Redemption took shape beneath the heart of the Virgin of Nazareth. From then on, under the special influence of the Holy Spirit, this heart, the heart of both a virgin and a mother, has always followed the work of her Son and has gone out to all those whom Christ has embraced and continues to embrace with inexhaustible love.[7]

[1] Jn 15:17;

[2] Lk 6:27;

[3] Redemptor Hominis, 9;

[4] Ibid., 11;

[5] ibid., 20;

[6] Ibid., 16;

[7] Ibid., 22