When Jesus had finished washing the feet of his disciples, he rose and resumed his place at the table and asked them a simple question: “Do you know what I have done for you?” There are several ways to take this question which Jesus posed to us, his followers; let me suggest two.
What Jesus Has Saved Us From
The first possible meaning relates to what Jesus has done for us by his sacrificial act on the cross:Do we know what Jesus has saved us from?
You may know enough to say,“Jesus has redeemed us from the bondage of original sin,” but unless you know what the lived consequences of this sin are, you cannot fully appreciate what Jesus has saved you from.The Catechism of the Catholic Church spells out the nature and effects of original sin in paragraphs 397–412. Here I briefly summarize this teaching and contrast it with how Jesus has reversed the “curse” of original sin.
First, in the sin:
•Man “let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and,abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command” (CCC 397). — Jesus trusted in God completely, even to death on the Cross, praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, “not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). •Man “preferred himself to God,” thereby turning his back on the Creator (CCC 398). — Jesus, though he was the form of God, did not deem equality with God; rather, Jesus lowered himself, taking the role of a servant (see Philippians 2:6–7). As a result of original sin: •People are “afraid of the God of whom they have con-ceived a distorted image” (CCC 399). 25 — At the Conception of Jesus, his Mother was told: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). — Jesus told his followers, “I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten by God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:5–7). •The original “harmony in which they [Adam and Eve] found themselves … is now destroyed” (CCC 400). — Jesus set the example of reversing this disharmony, so that St. Paul would pray, “May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus” (Romans 15:5). •“The control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered” (CCC 400). — Jesus’s death and our incorporation into it at baptism restore the right order, as St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under the law but under grace” (Romans 6:12–14). •“The union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination” (CCC 400). — Jesussaid, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:4–6). 26 — St. Paul instructed the followers of Christ that “the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Corinthians 7:4) and in an often misquoted passage he told the Christian husband to love his wife “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). •“Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man” (CCC 400). — Jesus commanded nature and nature obeyed, both in healing the sick and calming the storm. He told his disciples, “In my name … they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:17–18). •“Death makes its entrance into human history” (CCC 400). — Jesus raised the dead and was raised from the dead, and promised eternal life to anyone who believed in him, proclaiming himself to be “the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:58).
Knowing what Jesus has done for us will give us a greater appreciation of the Bread of Life that we receive when we approach his altar at every Eucharistic celebration. It is literally a matter of our life or our death!
LIVING THE E UCHARIST
Is your Christian life dominated by the fallen worldview?Do you strive with the help of the Holy Spirit and the nourishment of the Eucharist to live the new life of the kingdom that Jesus offers?