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Dear Father Angelo,

I am a practicing young man, and I am writing to you for some clarifications in matters of faith. Although these may be obvious questions for many believers, yet for me they are not.

I’ll be brief to be more clear:

1) Why did Christ come to earth?

2) What does the statement mean that we too, by our daily actions, work activities, study, participate in the activity of Redemption?

Thank you!

Dear friend,

1. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in an admirable page, summarizes the reasons for the incarnation of God.

The succession with which it expounds them also suggests a hierarchy among these motivations.

2. Beyond theological schools, the Catechism remains adherent to the dictate of Holy Scripture.

It is through it that the Lord reveals the reasons for his incarnation.

3. The page I mentioned bears this title, “Why did the Word become flesh?” and immediately afterwards reminds us that the reason for the incarnation is us, our salvation: “With the Nicene Creed, we answer by confessing: «For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man»” (CCC 456).

It is therefore a great act of love.

4. And here is the first reason: “The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God, who «loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins» (1 Jn 4:10): «the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world» (1 Jn 4:14), and «he was revealed to take away sins» (1 Jn 3:5)” (CCC 457).

This is why St. Thomas says: “There are different opinions about this question.

For some say that even if man had not sinned, the Son of Man would have become incarnate.

Others assert the contrary, and seemingly our assent ought rather to be given to this opinion.

For such things as spring from God’s will, and beyond the creature’s due, can be made known to us only through being revealed in the Sacred Scripture, in which the Divine Will is made known to us.

Hence, since everywhere in the Sacred Scripture the sin of the first man is assigned as the reason of the Incarnation, it is more in accordance with this to say that the work of the Incarnation was ordained by God as a remedy for sin; so that, had sin not existed, the Incarnation would not have been.

And yet the power of God is not limited to this; even had sin not existed, God could have become incarnate” (S. th., III, 1, 3).

5. As evidence of the above, he quotes St. Augustine, who “says, expounding what is set down in Lk 19:10, «For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost»; «Therefore, if man had not sinned, the Son of Man would not have come». And on 1Tim 1:15, «Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners», a gloss says, «There was no cause of Christ’s coming into the world, except to save sinners. Take away diseases, take away wounds, and there is no need of medicine»” (Ib., Sed contra).

6. The CCC reports the motivation of St. Gregory of Nyssa: “Sick, our nature demanded to be healed; fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again. We had lost the possession of the good; it was necessary for it to be given back to us. Closed in the darkness, it was necessary to bring us the light; captives, we awaited a Saviour; prisoners, help; slaves, a liberator. Are these things minor or insignificant? Did they not move God to descend to human nature and visit it, since humanity was in so miserable and unhappy a state? (Oratio catechetica, 15)” (CCC 457).

Therefore, the first motivation for the Incarnation is due to the sin that prevented man from Communion with God and prevented him from taking possession of all his possessions. While for this very reason God had created it.

7. The second reason given by the CCC: “The Word became flesh so that thus we might know God’s love: «In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him» (1Jn 4:9). «For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life» (Jn 3:16)” (CCC 458).

The incarnation of God was unthinkable by man.

Leaving aside the Greek-Roman mythology, where gods are not God but idols, therefore constructed by human imagination, man could never, ever have hypothesized the incarnation of God.

The great ancient philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, did not even consider this possibility.

But God did: through the incarnation he wanted to reveal and communicate himself to man so that man could become his friend and family member.

Saint Paul says: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Eph 2:4-5).

8. The third ground presented by the CCC: “The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness: «Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me» (Mt 11:29). «I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me» (Jn 14:6). On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: «Listen to him!» (Mk 9:7). Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: «Love one another as I have loved you» (Jn 15:12). This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example” (CCC 459).

This motivation is the one that some bring up first: God could have become incarnate even if man had not sinned.

They say: we cannot bind God’s freedom to man’s sin.

This is very true.

But Sacred Scripture, as we have seen, as its first motivation brings another one: the one reported by the Creed (For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven), St. Thomas, St. Augustine and the CCC.

9. Finally, but intimately related to the first reason, the CCC says: “The Word became flesh to make us «partakers of the divine nature» (2 Pt 1,4): «For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God» (St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres., 3, 19, 1). «For the Son of God became man so that we might become God» (St. Athanasius, De Incarnatione, 54, 3). «The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods» (St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusculum 57 in festo Corporis Christi, 1-4)” (CCC 460).

10. In conclusion, I like to report what St. Thomas further observes: “All the other causes which are assigned in the preceding article have to do with a remedy for sin.

For if man had not sinned, he would have been endowed with the light of Divine wisdom, and would have been perfected by God with the righteousness of justice in order to know and carry out everything needful.

But because man, on deserting God, had stooped to corporeal things, it was necessary that God should take flesh, and by corporeal things should afford him the remedy of salvation” (S. Th., III, 1,3, ad 1).

11. We now come to the second question: “What does the statement mean that we too, by our daily actions, work activities, study, participate in the activity of Redemption?”.

Of course, Christ’s redemption was more than enough and has infinite value to which nothing can be added.

But the Lord wanted us, sinners and in need of redemption, once redeemed, to become instruments of redemption together with Him: not in the sense of adding anything, but to open up passages in ourselves and in the hearts of others so that the treasures of redemption could be poured in.

Then all our actions, performed in grace, that is, grafted into Christ, by virtue of the charity of Christ that we circulate in our thoughts and affections, benefit the purification and sanctification of ourselves and at the same time of many.

In this sense, St. Paul said: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Col 1:24).

With the hope that all your actions, including thoughts, may lead to this, I assure you of my remembrance in the Lord and bless you.

Father Angelo