The Third Sunday of July is, for Redemptorists, worldwide, the Feast of the Most Holy Redeemer.
A Reflection: This writer still remembers the joy of insights experienced in reading the very first Encyclical of Pope John Paul 11, entitled ‘Redemptor Hominis’, or ‘The Redeemer of Humankind.’ In it he dealt with the core of our faith, the Person of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the World.
Two phrases still echo in my mind: ‘Christ the Lord. Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals us to ourselves and brings to light our most high calling”. In later years, he used this phrase over and over again, in addressing young people. One version I recall: “Jesus Christ not only shows God to you, but shows you to yourself!’
The other phrase that has stayed with me: ‘By his Incarnation, he, the Son of God, in a certain way united himself with each human being’. Those phrases collided joyfully in my heart, then and now, like the Swiss particles in Cern recently, and were a new revelation to me.
Seamus Devitt C.Ss.R.
Here below are some words from John Paul 11,from ‘Redemptor Hominis’ still full of primal wisdom. Let them play in your heart’s tunnel.
Christ, the Redeemer of the world, is the one who penetrated in a unique unrepeatable way into the mystery of humankind and entered the human “heart”. Rightly therefore does the Second Vatican Council teach: “The truth is that only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of every human take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a type of him who was to come (Romans 5:14), Christ the Lord. Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals us to ourselves and brings to light our most high calling”. And the Council continues: “He who is the ‘image of the invisible God’ (Col 1:15), is himself the perfect human being who has restored in the children of Adam that likeness to God which had been disfigured ever since the first sin. Human nature, by the very fact that it was assumed, not absorbed, in him, has been raised in us also to a dignity beyond compare. For, by his Incarnation, he, the Son of God, in a certain way united himself with each human being. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin”47, he, the Redeemer of humankind.
This revelation of the Creator’s love is also described as mercy; and in humankind’s history this revelation of love and mercy has taken a form and a name: that of Jesus Christ.
10 . The human dimension of the mystery of the Redemption
We cannot live without love. We remain beings that are incomprehensible for ourselves, our lives are senseless, if love is not revealed to us, if we does not encounter love, if we does not experience it and make it our own, if we do not participate intimately in it. This, as has already been said, is why Christ the Redeemer “fully reveals man to himself”, ‘fully reveals us to ourselves’. If we may use the expression, this is the human dimension of the mystery of the Redemption. In this dimension we find again the greatness, dignity and value that belong to our humanity. In the mystery of the Redemption we become newly “expressed” and, in a way, are newly created. We are newly created! “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”64. If we wish to understand ourselves thoroughly-and not just in accordance with immediate, partial, often superficial, and even illusory standards and measures of his being-we must with our unrest, uncertainty and even our weakness and sinfulness, with our life and death, draw near to Christ. We must, so to speak, enter into him with all his own self, we must “appropriate” and assimilate the whole of the reality of the Incarnation and Redemption in order to find ourselves. If this profound process takes place within us, we then bear fruit not only of adoration of God but also of deep wonder at ourselves. How precious must we be in the eyes of the Creator, if we “gained so great a Redeemer”, and if God “gave his only Son “in order that we “should not perish but have eternal life”.
In reality, the name for that deep amazement at our worth and dignity is the Gospel, that is to say: the Good News. It is also called Christianity. This amazement determines the Church’s mission in the world and, perhaps even more so, “in the modern world”. This amazement, which is also a conviction and a certitude-at its deepest root it is the certainty of faith, but in a hidden and mysterious way it vivifies every aspect of authentic humanism-is closely connected with Christ. It also fixes Christ’s place-so to speak, his particular right of citizenship-in the history of man and mankind. Unceasingly contemplating the whole of Christ’s mystery, the Church knows with all the certainty of faith that the Redemption that took place through the Cross has definitively restored our dignity to us and given back meaning to our lives in the world, a meaning that was lost to a considerable extent because of sin. And for that reason, the Redemption was accomplished in the paschal mystery, leading through the Cross and death to Resurrection.
The Church’s fundamental function in every age and particularly in ours is to direct our gaze, to point the awareness and experience of the whole of humanity towards the mystery of God, to help all people to be familiar with the profundity of the Redemption taking place in Christ Jesus. At the same time our deepest sphere is involved-we mean the sphere of human hearts, consciences and events.
(From Sections 8-10 of Redemptor Hominis, John Paul 11)