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Rescued and redeemed, fought for and freed

Beginning on the Feast of Christ the King and going through the season of Advent, the parishes of the archdiocese will be re-proclaiming the kerygma — the Good News of the Gospel — in what is intended to be an archdiocesan-wide retreat. Over the next four weeks, the Denver Catholic will publish guest reflections penned by priests of the archdiocese on the four main parts of the kerygma: Created (read here), Captured (read here), Rescued and Response.* We encourage you to revisit these pieces throughout the Advent season and pray with the reflection questions provided, so that we may all come to know the saving power of the Gospel in an even deeper way and therefore live out the Lord’s mission for his pilgrim Church on earth! Also, be sure to stay tuned to denvercatholic.org each week to watch a special homily video series on the kerygma.

WATCH WEEK 1 HOMILY
WATCH WEEK 2 HOMILY
WATCH WEEK 3 HOMILY

By Father Sam Morehead
Pastor and Rector at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Superhero stories and fairy tales — there is something in the telling of these most basic narratives that at once strikes to the very depths of the human experience and reveals the loftiest heights of human aspiration.

As a priest, I have been blessed to engage much in the work of youth ministry over the last 10 years. Whenever I start up a new year of youth ministry or welcome a young person for the first time into a group, the icebreaker questions always play as a variation on the same theme: tell me your name, age, year in school, and — perhaps most importantly — a favorite fairy tale character. In asking this question, the teens always think I am joking, but as they reveal their choice Disney Princess, I am driving at something more profound: do we understand our lives as a conquest of heroic love?

Superhero stories and fairy tales alike present the same basic plot: one who is good and worthy of goodness is threatened, even taken captive, and such a one is not able to bring about his or her own liberation. As the story builds to a climax, a hero or Prince Charming must come, sacrificially engage the threat or foe, and secure a new-found freedom and happiness for the one threatened or mortally wounded. These are stories — and more than stories — of love in the rescuing.

How often do we stop, pause in a spirit of prayerful pondering, to ask ourselves from what we need rescuing? What are the fears, lies, insecurities, doubts, memories, vices, and sins which would capture us?

Superhero stories and fairy tales speak to the child and the childlike, because each one, wittingly or not, points the way to Jesus Christ and the very reality of the Christian narrative, which has played itself out in real-life history and which believers both know and feel to the be the very bedrock of reality as such. Having been created good by a loving God, we have found ourselves taken captive by the folly of our own willful disobedience. Having received a legacy of sin from our first parents, we have turned again and again to this woeful patrimony by every engagement of our selfish egoism, our blindness to the dignity of the other, our obstinacy to the will of God. Having chosen sin, we have become increasingly entangled in the gnarled grasp of sin. We have opened ourselves to the sway of the Evil One, whose one objective is to draw us away from the life of grace and glory. We human beings have brought upon ourselves the consequence of a lifeless, eternal death. And we cannot save ourselves.

Now comes the plot twist. Despite our indifference and ingratitude, our disobedience and distain, God the Most Holy Trinity would not abandon us, his good creation, to the lasting perdition of death, hell, and sin. By the masterwork of the Incarnation, God himself has come to the rescue. God the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit, has sent the Son to assume our nature, to become like us in all things but sin, and to achieve the great work of our healing and liberation: from all that is within and without us that would estrange us from eternal intimacy and delight with God. Although this Prince Charming shall indeed stride in on a white steed on the last day, when he came the first time, he needed no superpowers. Fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Is 52:2-3). Why? For he was marred, despised, rejected, so that by “his wounds we are healed” (Is 53:5).

As a most humble king come to do battle with the maleficent dragon, so Christ has come from heaven’s heights, has taught us deep truths, has performed life-changing miracles, and has sacrificially loved us right into the fullness of life. By his own sufferings and death, freely accepted and offered, he has taken our estrangement, brokenness, and punishment upon himself. By his resurrection, he has led us back to life: right-relationship and the more-than-restoration of the harmonious order between the human and the divine.

How often do we stop, pause in that same spirit of prayerful pondering, to ask ourselves exactly how much we have been undeservedly loved by God? Do we see and understand the Lord Jesus living out his Passion — here and now and personally — so to rescue me from my sins, darkness, captivity? How is Jesus, by his grace, working even now, constantly and consistently, to rescue me from all fresh forces of darkness and death?

As the beloved of every superhero or fairy tale, we have been rescued not only from a malign reality, but also — and more so — we have been rescued and are being rescued by Christ for some glorious new purpose. Marvellously, the Good News of the Gospel is not merely that we have been rescued from evil; rather, by his singular merits and victory, the Lord Jesus has enabled those of us who receive his sacraments and live by his grace to become the very beloved children of God: sons and daughters of the Father Almighty by our intimate personal participation and communion with his own person. One with Jesus, we die and rise with him. Through him, with him, and in him, we have been rescued. Through him, with him, and in him, we are called and enabled to live already the beauty of this human life on a new, free, and divine plane of existence. We are a new sort of being in Christ.

Which is your favorite superhero story, your favorite fairy tale? How then do you see and understand yourself to be the recipient and inheritor of an even greater love, an even greater freedom, won at an even greater cost? “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price,” St. Paul exhorts (1 Cor 6:20). “For freedom Christ has set us free!” (Gal 5:1). 

After reading this article, pray and meditate with the following questions. Listen for what the Holy Spirit might be trying to tell you. 

  1. How did the Lord rescue you in your life?

2. Do you live your life as if you have been set free by Christ? How is he calling you to do so in a deeper way?

3. Is there something in your life that you are holding back in allowing the Lord to rescue you from?

*These terms are borrowed from Father John Riccardo’s presentation of the Gospel in his retreats and writing. The Archdiocese has been blessed to be working with Father Riccardo and his apostolate Acts XXIX for the last year. The Denver Catholic recommends his book, Rescued: The Unexpected and Extraordinary News of the Gospel, for going deeper on these concepts.

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