Josh Raymond recalled a story from a while back when he was preparing to smoke a brisket for the next day’s dinner. He told his family that he would be getting up at 4 am to prepare the meat and get it onto the smoker by 5. That way, it could cook all day and it would be ready for an 8 pm dinner. His son, Sam, said he wanted to get up early the next day to help.
So, the next morning, Josh awoke his son, and they went downstairs and throughout the process, Josh recalled that it was nice to have the extra pair of hands. He was still doing the heavy lifting, but it was the little things that helped, like when his son fetched the matches and held the door open for him. And when they were done, they made hot chocolate and coffee and said the rosary on the patio as the sun rose. And come dinnertime, everybody complimented the food, and Josh gave credit to Sam for his help. He was overjoyed, not because he was getting credit, but because he had been allowed to participate in making that meal.
Josh clarified that while he could’ve prepared the meal, the fixings, and the sides by himself, Sam’s participation had created this beautiful and heartwarming memory for his father and family.
On a spiritual level, we have a similar role in God’s work of redemption. At its core, God’s work doesn’t require us: He could easily accomplish all of this without us. But what He is doing is allowing us to participate in His plan so that we may benefit through eternal salvation. Josh welcomed Fr. Michael Giesler onto The Inner Life to talk about this idea of Co-Redemption and why we matter in the work of Christ.
Josh began the conversation by asking Fr. Michael how the idea of Co-Redemption is possible, given that nothing was, is, or ever will be lacking from Christ’s ultimate sacrifice for our sins. St. Paul even says, “…I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body…” (Colossians 1:24) Fr Michael answered, saying that Christ is the only Redeemer, and all men were saved by His death and resurrection, a contention that St. Paul obviously would not argue.
According to St. Thomas Aquinas’s analysis of St. Paul’s letter, he is “actually speaking about the application of Jesus’s merits throughout time.” While Jesus is the one and only Redeemer, He is so good that He allows us to participate in the redeeming act by distributing grace throughout the world and throughout all time.
To that effect, Josh pointed to the fact that we can participate in Christ’s work through offering our sufferings, but also through more than that. Fr. Michael explained that if you continue to read that passage from Paul, he also says, “For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me.” (Colossians 1:29) Christ works in us in everything we do, including our thoughts, our words, our joys, our suffering, and our work.
Fr. Michael broke down the term “co-redemption” and why we use that, even though we are not equal participants in God’s work. “We are not Co-Redeemers like we could be a co-pilot of an airplane, or even a co-author of a book,” he said. “We are Co-Redeemers precisely because Christ asks us and enables us to redeem with Him.” It is not by our power or desires that we are able to work for God. But the word “Co-Redemption” is appropriate in the sense that we aren’t just appendages being used by God against our will. By the power of God, we have the free will to actively make a difference in the world.
Josh spoke about members of the religious who may live cloistered, isolated lives. They are dedicated entirely to simply praying for the world and yet they are participants in the redemptive work. “I would say real contemplation and prayer is redemptive when it’s offered for the good of souls,” said Fr. Michael. “Prayer is all-powerful when it’s connected to Jesus Christ, who is the only Redeemer.”
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