How Christ Frees Slaves
Fr Ralph de Hahn – This Holy Week we will hear a lot about redemption and how Christ’s death on the cross redeemed mankind.
In our modern usage, to redeem something means “to buy it back”; and in Holy Week we can use that idea.
Our history tells of human beings sold in slavery, who in order to regain their freedom had to be “bought back”.
Slaves had no power to free themselves; they had to be redeemed; a ransom had to be paid.
As Christians, we are fully aware of the worst of all slavery — our own slavery to sin!
Our slavery to sin
This frightening state robs us of the freedom which God intended us to have. Through sin, we land up in the enemy’s camp.
When Christ Jesus redeemed us on the cross, he bought — and keeps bringing — us back from that slavery.
It cost him inexorable suffering and a cruel death: yes, the shedding of blood! We relive that experience when we celebrate the Passover mystery, a mystery far beyond our understanding. For Jesus came to pay a debt he did not owe — because we owed a debt we cannot possibly pay.
Pope Francis insists on the truth that Christ redeemed all mankind — believers and unbelievers, every human soul — and that this message must be proclaimed to all the world. “He gave his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28).
Sadly, not everyone chooses to accept God’s generous invitation, yet we know that it is his will that “all should be saved and come to the full knowledge of the Truth” (1 Tim 2:4).
Although we are a redeemed people, and God’s possession, we are still called to repentance and conversion, for the Christian life is ever on the conversion trail.
That is a daily struggle for every sincere seeker. Our spiritual journey is never stationary.
Conversion is Being Reborn, Not Changing Religion
There is a mistaken belief that conversion is the “changing of one’s religion”. We use the term when one enters the Catholic Church or comes to accept the existence of God, or whatever.
However, St Paul is very explicit on the meaning of conversion and repentance: “You must give up your old way of life, your old self — so corrupted by following illusory desires; your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution” (Eph 4:22-24).
It is to be a fresh way of thinking. This reformation of one’s life demands sincere repentance.
Possibly, a shocking revelation that what we once accepted as good and “just natural” was wrong. So, indeed, real repentance is rare. Most people come to confession to be reconciled with their own troubled conscience, or the neighbour, or household because they are disturbed by some unwanted behaviour and some uneasy relationship with another.
Always Repenting and Turning Back to God
Here, a confession of guilt is good, and will help. However, it is not a conversion repentance. We are called to a higher value scale, a change of direction, a deep regret of many former judgments, a whole new life as we learn the Jesus standard, to hear the call of the Master, and to sincerely yearn to follow his way.
Lent is the season to come to grips with the real meaning of our redemption and road to conversion, and if we have not started with that yet, now is the time.
Pope Francis has offered a useful way of fasting: he suggests fasting from hurting others by word; from worry by trusting God as a father, from bitterness by offering joy; from selfishness to be more compassionate, from grudges to be reconciled; and to speak only when able to improve upon the silence and the prevailing conversation.
Lent offers a challenge and much joy. And here’s the good news: what we are starting in Lent we can live all year around, beyond Good Friday and Easter.