Redemption in Saint Alphonsus and in the life of the Redemptorists


The key to reading Alphonsian spirituality is LOVE

Much has been said about the Redemptorist Missionaries, sons of Saint Alphonsus, who preach the Spirituality of Redemption. Still, in the light of  Holy Week, the word redemption is on the rise, and as heirs of a redemptive spirituality, it becomes almost an obligation for Redemptorists to have clear inspirations about what Theology understands by redemption.

Therefore, as a follower of Alphonsus, Fr. Evaldo Caesar, C.Ss.R shares with us some of these inspirations that motivate the way of being a Redemptorist missionary.

To do so, let us quickly return to the historical context in which Alphonsus lived: the city of Naples in the 18th century. Among many spiritual lines, there was a strong current called Jansenism, a rigorist, extremist, exclusionary spirituality.

For Jansenists, Jesus was a severe judge, whose death saved a chosen few; the world for the Jansenist was evil and depraved;  they were rigorists with penitential practices and preached that communion was reserved for very few people, whose sanctity was rigorously proven.

But Alphonsus did not think like that and dared to question this evil and petty spiritual line. For him, God wants everyone, without exception, to be saved in Christ, through Jesus’ passionate love for sinful humanity. The key to reading Alphonsian spirituality is love: God’s love for man and man’s effort, recognizing this love, to love God.

For Saint Alphonsus, the incarnation is a possibility of redemption, of loving healing for the injured human being. God did not send his Son Jesus to pay for our sins but to teach us unconditional love for Him, which is capable of rescuing us from human turpitude. In freedom and love, Jesus offers himself to the extreme so that our desire to be closer to God may be extreme.

Jesus’ suffering is seen as an act of radical ‘passion’;  the madness of the cross is the madness of love. When suffering, Afonso teaches us, Jesus Christ wants to provoke in us a quick response of love, which heals and alleviates suffering. This answer, however, is always personal. And prayer is a clear sign that there is a sincere desire to be in Christ. Hence, Alphonsus’ lapidary statement: “Whoever prays is saved; whoever does not pray condemns himself.”

Redemption is born within the person and spills over into the mission. There is no redeemed mission or pastoral; There are men and women who, seeking redemption, produce redemptive actions around them. For Afonso, redemption is visceral, loving, and liberating. He did not convert to Christianity, but he converted to Jesus Christ. Redemptorist spirituality and our love for redemption were born more from the heart than from reason.

Alphonsus goes through theories of redemption, going from atonement and satisfaction to the thesis of Jesus’ loving donation for humanity, establishing a positive vision of Creation and Man. Redemption is not an act to safeguard God’s honor (satisfaction), but to recover the meaning of love in humanity, of men towards God who loves them infinitely (giving). Redemption did not come to correct Creation but to give fullness to everything that God touched with his hands.

Redemptorists, spiritual heirs of Saint Alphonsus, have a radical obligation to open themselves to the cultural plurality of redemption. We are all over the world, in different ways of understanding life, and in all of them, the sense of redemption will be unique.

Redemptorists are called to never succumb to real evil in the world. At the same time, they must be aware that evil will never be eliminated by the evangelization of the Church, however perfect it may be. The definitive and full redemption is from Jesus Christ and in Him alone!


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