Friday, September 26, 2014

The Right Person to Set Others Free

In on one his commentaries on the Psalms, St. Ambrose of Milan writes the following words about Christ, his being without sin, and our need for redemption. He also reminds us that we have nothing to “prove” as Christians. God has “proved” everything for us in Christ. So, instead of carrying the heavy burden of self-justification and self-sacrifice to overcome a sense of unworthiness or brokenness in life, we really must turn to Christ in adoration and acceptance that he has done “the heavy lifting” of salvation, bourn the weight we cannot. And this sets us free to respond to the unique mission with the unique gifts given each of us so that we may join him in his work of redemption in the way we can—and must.

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In reconciling the world to God, Christ stood in no need of reconciliation for himself. What sin of his was there to atone for, sinless as he was? When he was asked for the temple-tax, a sin-offering imposed by the law, he said to Peter: Simon, from whom do the kings of the earth receive tribute or tax? From their own sons or from strangers? Peter replied: From strangers. The Lord said to him: Then the sons are free. But so as not to give scandal to them, cast a hood and take the first fish that comes; open its mouth, and you will find a shekel. Take it and give it to them for me and for you.

Christ shows that he does not need to atone for sin on his own behalf: he is no slave of sin but, as Son of God, is free from all sin. The Son sets free, a slave remains in his sin. Christ is therefore free of all sin, and does not pay the price of his own redemption. His blood could pay the ransom for all the sins of the whole world. The one who has no debt to pay for himself is the right person to set others free.

It is not only that Christ has no ransom to pay or atonement to make for his own sins; if we apply his words to every individual man they can be taken to mean that individuals do not need to make atonement for themselves, for Christ is the atonement for all, the redemption for all.

Is any man's blood fit to redeem him, seeing that it was Christ who shed his blood for the redemption of all? Is anyone's blood comparable to Christ's? Is anyone great enough to make atonement for himself over and above the atonement which "Christ has offered in himself, Christ who alone has reconciled the world to God by his blood? What greater victim, what more excellent sacrifice, what better advocate can there be than he who because the propitiation for the sins of all, and gave his life for us as our redemption?

We do not need, then, to look for an atonement or redemption made by each individual, because the price paid for all is the blood of Christ, that blood by which the Lord Jesus has redeemed us, he who alone has reconciled us to the Father. He has labored even to the end, shouldering our burdens himself. Come to me, he says, all you that labor, and I will refresh you. 

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