Let’s finish up It Is Christ Himself
The mystery or sacrament of pietas, therefore, is the very mystery of Christ. It is, in a striking summary, the mystery of the incarnation and redemption, of the full passover of Jesus, the Son of God and son of Mary: the mystery of his passion and death, of his resurrection and glorification. What St. Paul in quoting the phrases of the hymn wished to emphasize was that this mystery is the hidden vital principle which makes the church the house of God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth. Following the Pauline teaching, we can affirm that this same mystery of God’s infinite loving kindness toward us is capable of penetrating to the hidden roots of our iniquity: in order to evoke in the soul a movement of conversion, in order to redeem it and set it on course toward reconciliation.
This is the importance of the Incarnation and Paschal Mystery: we do not simply gaze on the pictures. The point is to watch, dive in, and go deeply into the experience. Where does Jesus touch our experience of recognizing our sins and walking with us?
St. John too undoubtedly referring to this mystery, but in his own characteristic language which differs from St. Paul’s, was able to write that “anyone born of God does not sin, but (the one) who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch (them).”(1 Jn 5:18f) In this Johannine affirmation there is an indication of hope, based on the divine promises: The Christian has received the guarantee and the necessary strength not to sin.
Hmmm, a surprising thought. How does this work? Simply this: grace.
It is not a question therefore of a sinlessness acquired through one’s own virtue or even inherent in man, as the Gnostics thought. It is a result of God’s action. In order not to sin the Christian has knowledge of God, as St. John reminds us in this same passage. But a little before he had written: “No one born of God commits sin; for God’s seed abides in (them).”(Ibid., 3:9) If by “God’s seed” we understand, as some commentators suggest, Jesus the Son of God, then we can say that in order not to sin or in order to gain freedom from sin the Christian has within himself the presence of Christ and the mystery of Christ, which is the mystery of God’s loving kindness.
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