I am taking classes to become a certified Catechist with my diocese. At this moment, I am taken a survey course on Catholic Doctrine, and we’ve been discussing the Paschal Mystery and God’s Mercy. The primary text that we have been using is an older text that I remember my Dad using when he entered into RCIA to become Catholic (He was Methodist, My Mother Catholic). The book is titled This Is Our Faith by Michael Pennock; it’s not a complex book to understand, but I do believe it touches on things that are fundamental to understanding the Grace and Mercy of God.
Pennock explains the purpose of the Incarnation of Christ—Jesus becoming man—as “The Word of God, the second person of the Trinity, entered human history for our benefit, to show God’s love, and to serve as a model for holiness.” (p. 64) Therefore, Jesus life’s purpose was to reveal that the Kingdom of God was at hand, and he revealed the Kingdom of God and God’s love by his compassion and healing. He associated with the outcasts of his day, as Pennock points out, “The poor, the sinners, the abandoned, widows and children….he gave them what they really needed: the healing touch of God’s forgiveness and the good news that they were loved.” (Ibid)
I think what best explains the purpose of Jesus’ suffering in life is the term the “Suffering Servant.” Pennock explains that “Jesus was not the kind of Messiah his contemporaries expected…[he] was the Suffering Servant of Isaiah who took on the burdens of his people and redeemed them. “ (p.53) Humanity since the first sin of our original parents have desperately needed salvation because in God’s plan we were always meant to live in perfect goodness and happiness. (p. 64) However, as humanity rejected God’s love, there has been a break in our relationship with God. The Incarnation of Christ, Jesus, is that bridge to God. My confirmation Saint is St. Philip the Apostle and when we encounter Jesus, we may ask something of the nature, ““Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” Only to be humbly rebuked by Christ, who says, ““Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (Jn 14: 8-9)
However, Jesus has several roles in the world in accordance to the Paschal mystery. He is also the Paschal lamb, which is why we sing in the Eucharistic liturgy “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.” Pennock explains that in the old covenant the “Jews offered their prized lambs at the Temple as sin offerings Jesus’ death was a perfect sacrifice undertaken by the Lamb of God for our benefit…Jesus’ death was a “ransom,” a “redemption” that defeated the powers of evil. Jesus Christ substituted for each of us” by taking on our spiritual death. (p. 65)
After his death, an empty tomb was found, not necessarily proof of the resurrection—but as Pope Benedict explains in his Jesus of Nazareth series a definite necessity for the resurrection. As Pennock explains that Resurrection is Christ’s final victory over death and sin. It confirms every teaching of Christ. St. Paul explains this saying “14 if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. “ (1 Cor. 15:14) Overall, the Pascal Mystery redeemed us from the slavery of sin—a real absolute concept—It tells us that no matter how many times we’ve rejected God’s love, his is a perfect love which will have an ultimate victory in the end.
Finally, Christ’s ascension is where he truly takes his position at the right hand of the Father. It is a glorified state, which is not limited to time in space, a place where Christ is true God and true Man. A place where we can still access him through the sacraments so that we may enter into a state of Grace with him. A place where he can guide us in the world through the teachings of the one true Apostolic Church. (p.69)
Of Course, Jesus taught all of this during his life. Christ’s central message was that the Kingdom of God was at hand. It was the main focus of his Sermon on the Mount when he spoke on the mount—a mount like Moses— with the authority of God. He says, “17 “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 5:17-19) Matthew through his Gospel creates the perfect typology of Jesus as the New Moses—the Living Torah, or law.
The New Law then teaches that God is a loving God, one that we can approach with confidence for our needs. This point is exemplified by the fact that God sent his only son to be slaughtered as the Paschal lamb for our salvation “that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16) Of course, because God is love, he is merciful to all those who turn towards him with a contrite heart wanting to shed their sin and praise and please God. (p. 61)
Finally, Christ teaches that salvation is meant for everyone (p. 62) It is a free gift from God that one cannot earn, but must be accepted and not rejected by showing our faith in God by following his commands and our love for humanity. He teaches us that all we have to do is accept him in his glory for the first will be last, and the last will be first to enter into the Kingdom. Christ teaches his disciples to step outside of our comfort zones to show all people there is love in the world, and that they should have a dignity that should be respected. It’s hard for someone to take pride in themselves if no one has ever taken a positive interest in them.
Everyone, every single sinner has dignity, but informing about sin and telling them to repent doesn’t strip them of this dignity. We are all made in the image of God. We can tell others to repent their sins, and if they don’t, we need to associate still with them, because this is the lesson that Christ has taught us—This is respecting their dignity. By associating with them, there’s no need to keep reminding them of their sin; they will be aware, and this will only create an unnecessary conflict. In time, they through our example by bringing Christ into their lives, they may still repent.