The world needs a redeemer


After every act of creation, the Book of Genesis sings the refrain: "And God saw that it was good." All the splendour of the natural world — the butterfly emerging from its cocoon, the swirling images from the Hubble telescope, the perfect fingernail of a newborn baby — is self-evidently good.

Fr. Raymond de Souza

Genesis reminds us of precisely that, because we need to be reminded. There are times when creation seems more wicked than good. The day after Christmas last year, the seabed quaked and the Indian Ocean rose up and swept away nearly a quarter of a million lives. The Earth kept shaking all year, bringing sudden death to thousands in Iran and Indonesia in the spring, and to tens of thousands in Pakistan in the autumn. Then cameth the rain, producing floods in China, which forced two million people to flee in terror, and ferocious landslides in India. And the hurricanes, one after another after another: Katrina and Rita and Stan, churning through the Gulf of Mexico and visiting death and devastation from the whirlwind upon New Orleans, Mississippi, Guatemala, El Salvador, the Bahamas and Cuba.

And did God see all this, too?

Saint Paul addressed that question when writing to the Romans: "For creation waits with eager longing for the revelation of the sons of God… because creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies."

We know all too well that we groan inwardly for the day of redemption, when justice will triumph and peace reign. It is a universal aspiration, and history has produced many who were not content to wait on the Lord for that deliverance, and sought to achieve redemption through technology, or politics or even escapes into hedonism.

Creation was not intended to be a place of hurt or destruction. We have made it so, and the angels sing at Bethlehem because of the birth of the One who will restore it all to its original harmony.

The believer trusts in the Lord for redemption, knowing is not within our ability to achieve enduring deliverance from the sufferings of this world. The task is too great, for even the natural world is in rebellion, having somehow lost its original harmony. John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote that because there is a God, and yet the world is as it is, then mankind and all creation must be implicated in a great "aboriginal calamity." Something terrible has happened. That's the Christian doctrine of original sin, wherein man's original rebellion against God has cosmic consequences. That doctrine is rather neglected today, precisely when it explains so much.

So the world groans awaiting the redemption — that saving act by which the aboriginal calamity can be somehow be undone. This year we have heard the world groaning in travail, crying out as if in an anguished prayer for that blessed day when there will be gentle rains and brilliant rainbows, all for nourishment and none for destruction.

The joy and faith of Christmas is that such a day is already promised by the coming of the Child born in Bethlehem, the One about whom Isaiah prophesied: "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."

Creation was not intended to be a place of hurt or destruction. We have made it so, and the angels sing at Bethlehem because of the birth of the One who will restore it all to its original harmony. The world manifestly needs a redeemer, and at Bethlehem a redeemer has come. God saw that it was good in the beginning, and saw even then, that it would be made good again in Jesus Christ.

A happy and holy Christmas to all.


Father Raymond J. de Souza, "The world needs a redeemer." National Post, (Canada) December 24, 2005.

Reprinted with permission of the National Post and Fr. de Souza.


Father Raymond J. de Souza is chaplain to Newman House, the Roman Catholic mission at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. Father de Souza's web site is here. Father de Souza is on the advisory board of the Catholic Educator's Resource Center.

Copyright © 2005 National Post

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