Questo articolo è disponibile anche in: English Italian

Good morning Father Angelo,

I have a question about Christology and soteriology. The Holy Church has always taught that the violent death of Our Lord belongs to the mystery of the eternal salvific design of God the Father who, in His ineffable love, donated His Son to us. As a consequence, it is claimed that Our Lord Jesus died “as an atoning sacrifice for our sins”.

Maybe it ought to be said that God the Father realised our salvation despite the death sentence and execution of Our Lord.

After all, His death was our doing, or at least of the Sanhedrim and the Roman authorities that carried out the sentence. What saved us are the Love of our Lord and His forgiveness (and total self-giving) that He donated us from the cross (despite the fact that they were killing him), but surely we weren’t saved by His mere death.

The mere thought of God the Father demanding the blood of His only Son to cancel our sins appears as a horrible blasphemy to me, because it makes Him look like a bloodthirsty butcher. I don’t want to be impertinent, I simply ask if you could explain this (maybe only apparent) misconception.

I thank you for the answer and I wish you all the best for your ministry. A mutual prayer.

Valentino


Dear Valentino,

1.  There are several inaccuracies in your email and there are expressions that pain the heart just by reading them, like this one that you wrote and that some theologians (but are they, though?) say, repeat and teach to their alumni and seminarians: “the mere thought of God the Father demanding the blood of His only Son to cancel our sins appears as a horrible blasphemy to me because it makes Him look like a bloodthirsty butcher“.

This expression hurts the soul because it shows contempt for the sanctity of God and for the infinite love He has for us.

2.  First of all, it is not the Church that proclaims that Christ became an atoning sacrifice for our sins, but it is God Himself: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins” (1 John 4,10).

Any theologian should open up to the Divine Revelation and above all to the Sacred Scripture. Now, the passage I just quoted is perfectly clear. It is God the Father who sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

3.  It was the precise will of God for sin to be expiated with blood. Here’s what Saint Peter writes: “you were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb”(1 Peter 1, 18-19).

Whereas Saint Paul said: “Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3,13).

And also: “He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all” (Romans 8, 32).

And also: “Christ humbled himself, becoming obedient to the Father to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2, 8).

4.  And here’s what Saint Thomas said: ” Christ suffered voluntarily out of obedience to the Father (Philippians 2, 8). Hence in three respects God the Father did deliver up Christ to the Passion. In the first way, because by His eternal will He preordained Christ’s Passion for the deliverance of the human race, according to the words of Isaias (53:6): “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquities of us all”; and again (Isaiah 53:10): “The Lord was pleased to bruise Him in infirmity.” Secondly, inasmuch as, by the infusion of charity, He inspired Him with the will to suffer for us; hence we read in the same passage: “He was offered because it was His own will” (Isaiah 53:7). Thirdly, by not shielding Him from the Passion, but abandoning Him to His persecutors: thus we read (Matthew 27:46) that Christ, while hanging upon the cross, cried out: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” because, to wit, He left Him to the power of His persecutors, as Augustine says (Ep. cxl)” (Summa Theologiae, III, 47, 3).

5.  And then he added: “It is indeed a wicked and cruel act to hand over an innocent man to torment and to death against his will. Yet God the Father did not so deliver up Christ, but inspired Him with the will to suffer for us. God’s “severity” (cf. Romans 11:22) is thereby shown, for He would not remit sin without penalty: and the Apostle indicates this when (Romans 8:32) he says: “God spared not even His own Son.” Likewise His “goodness” (Romans 11:22) shines forth, since by no penalty endured could man pay Him enough satisfaction: and the Apostle denotes this when he says: “He delivered Him up for us all”: and, again : “Whom”—that is to say, Christ—God “hath proposed to be a propitiation through faith in His blood” (Romans 3:25)” (Ibidem, ad 1).

6.  And he also said: “Christ as God delivered Himself up to death by the same will and action as that by which the Father delivered Him up; but as man He gave Himself up by a will inspired of the Father. Consequently there is no contrariety in the Father delivering Him up and in Christ delivering Himself up” ( Ibidem, ad 2).

And: “The same act, for good or evil, is judged differently, accordingly as it proceeds from a different source. The Father delivered up Christ, and Christ surrendered Himself, from charity (John 3, 16; Ephesians 5, 2), and consequently we give praise to both: but Judas betrayed Christ from greed (Matthew 26, 14ss), the Jews from envy (Matthew 27, 18), and Pilate from worldly fear (John 19, 12ss), for he stood in fear of Caesar; and these accordingly are held guilty” (Ibidem, ad 3).

7.  How can one say that the infinite love by means of which God wanted to atone our sins with blood makes him a bloodthirsty butcher? 

Now, that is blasphemous.

Christ redeemed the world not despite His condemnation to death, but exactly because he wanted it. And that’s why he incarnated “in the fullness of time”, that is at the right moment when He knew that the high priests and Pilate would have treated him that way.

8.  I want to conclude with a few passages by Saint Caterina from Siena, doctor of the Church and incomparable teacher in theology.

In the sacrifice of Christ, she saw how obnoxious sin is: “(sin) displeased and displeases God so much that he sent the Word, His only Son, to punish the sin of Adam and wanted to punish it over His body, even though the poison of sin wasn’t in Him.

In order to have satisfaction for the sin of man and to avoid leaving it unpunished, he punished it upon His only Son.

Therefore Christ was our justice (1 Corinthians 1,30), the justice and the suffering that shall have been endured by man were taken up by Him; and, as in love, he went for the opprobrious death of the holy cross to obey the Father and fulfil our salvation” (letter 287).

9.  And also: “the justice and mercy of God are revealed to us in the blood of Christ. In fact, If God wasn’t so saddened by our guilt which was so harmful to our health, he wouldn’t have given us the Word, His only Son, making him as an anvil, punishing our sins upon His body (Ephesians 2, 14-16): but He wanted to get justice for the fault committed.

And the Son wouldn’t have given His life for us, spilling His blood as the price for our salvation with such a great fire of love, bathing us in it and washing away the leprosy of our guilt: and all this wasn’t done for debt, but for mercy” (letter 76).

I think that what I wrote is sufficient to stand before the cross of Christ with greater humility and love for the Lord.

I wish you all good, I bless you and assure you of remembrance to the Lord.

Father Angelo