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Catholic Spiritual Direction

Why did Jesus die?

May 31, 2013 by  
Filed under Fr. McCloskey, Redemption

We are taught to believe as Catholic Christians Jesus died for our sins,” yet that is not Crucifixion Triptyque_de_Oberto_Villa Wikimedia Commonsthe reason he was killed.  He was killed by the Jews because he was a threat and a heretic, and by the Romans who saw him as threat to their own authority. Why are we taught as we are?

Good question—which I will now try to answer to your satisfaction. But first let me back up a bit and run through some of the (very) ancient history underlying behind your question. The most fundamental answer is that Christ’s death was the means to redeem mankind from the Original Sin of our first parents Adam and Eve. That sin left us as damaged goods incapable of enjoying God’s original plan: that we live in an earthly paradise and then enjoy his presence in heaven. To put it bluntly, Adam and Eve did us in with the diabolical help of the Serpent. You might ask them for a blow-by-blow account when you get to heaven.  No doubt they repented, but I don’t think they are at the top of the celestial pyramid.

Now let’s move a bit closer to the heart of the matter: Why, then, did Jesus die? Well, because of God’s love for his creatures (that is us). Remember, we are made in his image and likeness. We are his children and what good Father does not want to see his children, holy, happy, and joyful, even if they have seriously displeased him?

But how could that Original Sin be pardoned, given the gravity of the crime against God? Here we arrive at the great triune mystery of God only unveiled with the coming of Christ. Our Father God is not alone in his Godhead, but has a Son and a Spirit. Together in eternity they are  three in one God. I will not go further into the Trinitarian dogma of the Church, as it is off topic. (You recite the Creed every Sunday any case.)

Suffice to say that according to our Church each member of the Holy Trinity has a special task attributed to that member.  And the Son was sent particularly by His Father to redeem us from the Original Sin of our renegade parents so heaven would be open to us. The Son became one of us while remaining God, because such an egregious crime of rebellion against God could only be forgiven by the sacrifice of the God-Man Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Now let’s go to the big hitter in explaining knotty questions of our faith—the Catechism of the Catholic Church. After all, this is the Year of Faith, which in part celebrates publication of this great offshoot of the Second Vatican Council, completed a few decades after its close. (By the way, a little advice: Try to always to take the Catechism of the Church and a pocket New Testament with you in case an evangelizing moment presents itself. You will be well-armed for a pleasant discussion and may save some souls while you are at it.)

But back to business, as we close in on the heart of your question. First read the Catechism’s paragraph 599 on your own. Now slowly read paragraph 600 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

To God all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of “predestination”: he includes in it each person’s free response to grace: “in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness.

In other words, God’s plan to redeem the human race and open the gates of heaven took into account the motives and actions (foreseen in God’s eternal present) of all the players, including “Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel.”

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About Fr. C.J. McCloskey

Father C. John McCloskey, III, STD is a priest of the Prelature of Opus Dei and Research Fellow, Faith and Reason Institute, Washington DC. From 1985-1990, he served as a Princeton University chaplain; 1998-2002, Director, Catholic Information Center, Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. and is known for guiding Dr. Bernard Nathanson, Lawrence Kudlow, Robert Novak, Judge Robert Bork, Senator Sam Brownback, Alfred Regnery and General Josiah Bunting into the Church. His articles, reviews, and doctoral thesis, have been published in major Catholic and secular periodicals, including Catholic World Report, First Things, L'Osservatore Romano, the Sacred Architecture Journal, Wall Street Journal, National Catholic Register, Washington Times, Washington Post, New York Times, Chronicles, and ACIPRENSA. Fr. John has worked in radio and television including EWTN (hosting various series on Cardinal Newman, Thomas More, Catholic authors, Ecclesial Movements, the role of the laity in the Church, and Church history), has been a Papal trip commentator and commentator on network television, satellite and cable channels, including CNN, CNBC and Fox News. He is co-author (with Russell Shaw) of Good News, Bad News: Evangelization, Conversion, and the Crisis of Faith, co-editor of "The Essential Belloc" and is a principal essay contributor to Cardinal Newman Society's "How to Choose a Catholic College". A native of Washington, D.C., he has a degree in Economics from Columbia University (1975). After working professionally on Wall Street, he studied in Rome and Spain, where he received a doctorate in Theology with a specialty in Church History. Ordained in Spain in 1981, he has spent much pastoral work counseling university students, fellow priests, offering spiritual direction and preaching retreats. He serves as an advisor to Christendom College, the Mary Foundation, Cardinal Newman Society, and Ave Maria Single Catholics Online, and was U.S. representative for the ecclesiastical faculties of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome and the University of Navarre in Pamplona, Spain from 1984-2003. An avid squash player, he's a member of the U.S. Squash Racquets Association.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/wulfrano.ruizsainz Wulfrano Ruiz Sainz

    Many are called but few are chosen.

  • patricia

    Thank you Father for inspiring meditation

  • LizEst

    Christ could have slipped away from his persecutors, as we saw Him do many times in the gospel. He only permitted His passion when His hour had come, when He chose to lay down His life for us. “I lay down my life for my sheep…For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father” (John 10:15b, 17-18).

  • Mike Ferris

    The list is to long. Let me just acknowledge your grace and thank you for all that I have, in Jesus reverent and holy name, Amen

    • LizEst

      Beautiful! Thanks, Mike…and God bless you!

  • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

    Thank you, Father, for the clarity of this Post. As you state, apart from carrying the CCC, it is even better to read it often to keep alive the richness of our Catholic Faith

  • isac

    If Jesus died for our original sin and our original sins are forgiven, why infant baptism is needed for the original sin again.

    • Liz Estler

      Short answer: First of all, Christ commanded baptism in Matthew 28:19-20. Secondly, baptism is a participation in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. So, it is through baptism that we appropriate the graces and benefits of His resurrection to ourselves. The Church recognizes three types of baptism: Baptism of water — this is what most receive, baptism of blood — those who are martyred for their faith before they’ve received the baptism of water, and baptism of desire — those who die before being able to receive the baptism by water but who have desired to be baptized.

    • LizEst

      Short answer: First of all, Christ commanded baptism in Matthew
      28:19-20. Secondly, baptism is a participation in the death and
      resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. So, it is through baptism that
      we appropriate the graces and benefits of His resurrection to ourselves.
      The Church recognizes three types of baptism: Baptism of water — this
      is what most receive, baptism of blood — those who are martyred for
      their faith before they’ve received the baptism of water, and baptism of
      desire — those who die before being able to receive the baptism by
      water but who have desired to be baptized.

  • LizEst

    Isac — Please see my answer below.