A LOVING AND REDEEMING PRESENCE

July 18, 2021 – Solemnity of the Most Holy Redeemer

Is 55:2b-6; Is 12:2-6; Rm 5:12-21; Jn 3:13-18,21

How was your God-experience when you were a child?

Certainly, each of us has our own experiences of God. Our God experiences and even image of God during our childhood would somehow paint the picture of God’s image as we grow older. Our early thoughts and ideas about God would somehow color also on how we relate with Him. Moreover, these thoughts and ideas were greatly influenced by our human experiences. How we were being brought up by our parents and adults around us will surely have an influence.

In fact, this has been the personal experience of St. Alphonsus Ma. De Liguori, our holy founder of the Redemptorist Missionaries. As it was the culture and popular belief at that time, the young Alphonsus was introduced to a God who immediately would punish the sinner. God was believed to be too far and too high and remote. Yet, God was terrifying because God can put a person into eternal misery and damnation.

St. Alphonsus Ma. de Liguori, Founder of the Redemptorists.

This was in the consciousness of the young Alphonsus. Such belief in this kind of God was even reinforced because of his upbringing at home. His father who was a naval officer and a captain was a strict disciplinarian. One would just expect that Alphonsus must have been terrified by his father. If Alphonsus would commit any mistake, surely, Alphonsus would receive beatings or insults from his father.

No wonder, Alphonsus became a scrupulous person who was overly concerned that something he thought or did might have been a sin. In modern language, Alphonsus could have suffered OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Alphonsus was always terrified that he might have done something wrong, that he might have sinned and will be damned to the point that his guilt would haunt him.

However, later on, slowly Alphonsus realized God’s true character. Experiences would actually tell him that God is kind and generous, loving and forgiving. Alphonsus felt this as he allowed himself to be at the service of the poor and the sick. This realization of Alphonsus was the very reason of the name of our congregation, the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.

Christ and his loving and redeeming presence and action brings out God’s true character. God does not condemn. God does not desire our death and eternal misery. God rather desires life that is free and filled with joy for us.

This is the very message that Alphonsus preached, wrote and sang about that Jesus redeems us and liberates us from sin and death and to whatever that makes us miserable and lifeless. And this is God’s initiative because it is God’s desire.

Our first reading and Psalm proclaimed about this. The first reading told us how Yahweh made an everlasting covenant with His chosen people. God makes the initiative to relate to us in love. Our Psalm reminds us about the faithfulness of God that we should rather not fear God but trust Him because God is our strength.

This revelation tells us that God does not threaten us with God’s power to punish and bring us to eternal death. God rather related with us in the most personal and intimate way. This is what we affirm as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Redeemer.

The scriptures tell us that the God who created the world is a God who hears the cry of the poor and the entire creation. This God is neither apart nor alien to us but a God who is near and close to us. Our God is not “somewhere out there” but rather “here with us” who tirelessly journeys and lives with us from the beginning.

Thus, despite our sinfulness, stupidity, and unfaithfulness, God never surrenders on us. St. Paul proclaimed in his letter to the Romans, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”

This is how the Gospel reminds us too that God “so loved” the world that he gave his only Son. In our pains and struggles in life, God stays with us. With Jesus, God walks and speaks to us. God even laughs with us and cries with us and to the point of suffering and dying for us.

See, though God is almighty and all-powerful but God never threatened us with His power of control and dominance. God builds intimate friendship with us, showing care and compassion, offering healing and salvation.

Hence, this feast of the Holy Redeemer is all about that relationship with a God who desires to be with us and to share life with Him.

This is how we are invited to grow today – that we too will also live in friendship with others, by showing concern and love, offering healing and peace.

We have to be watchful then, when we gain power over others and will tend to exercise control and dominance over them. With this tendency, we will be inclined to abuse the weak and that instead of building bridges, we build walls, instead of developing friendship, we promote fear. As a result, we will become indifferent to the struggles of others and intolerant to the mistakes of those who are around us. This is not what God wants us to be.

God wants us to make friends, to show our affection and concern in the way Jesus makes us his friends so that we too shall learn to become individuals and a community with a loving and redeeming presence. Hinaut pa.

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