Beyond Redemption?

During the Lenten season, some of us tend to reflect more than usual upon the sacred mysteries of our Catholic faith. Many ‘R’ words, such as resurrection, repentance, renewal, redemption, spring to mind. My penchant for words and their definition led me to reveal three meanings for the word ‘redemption’. From a business point of view, it is to regain possession of something in exchange for payment; in Christian theology, ‘redemption’ refers to the deliverance of Christians from sin. But since I’m not very conversant with financial matters, and there are those who would try to explain away God with the brush of a hand, my thoughts will rest upon the third sense of the word: ‘redemption’ as an act of atoning for a fault or a mistake.

One of my favourite books is Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner”, which relates the story of two friends, Hassan and Amir, who enjoy kite-fighting. One day, when Hassan is cornered by bullies, Amir hides in the shadows, too afraid to run to the rescue of his best friend. While Hassan is abused, Amir pretends that he never saw a thing. Following the incident, the two boys, who were once like brothers, are torn apart by a wall which now separates their friendship.

“The Kite Runner” is not the only literary example of redemption. What about Fantine, in “Les Miserables”? She is convinced that she is unlovable after having crossed the line in society to work as a prostitute. Or Gehrin, in Michael Fletcher’s dark series (not quite my cup of tea), who abandons a horrible mission to ultimately love and serve?

As humans, we are inherently neither good nor evil, but we display an equal capacity for both

I think that we have all, at some point of our lives, acted in a similar fashion, or done things which we are certainly not proud of. Not just by doing something wrong but rather, even by the very fact of neglecting to do something good, something which may have helped a situation to become better. Yet nobody is beyond redemption. What a fine example Jesus Christ offers us of this when he redeemed the penitent thief at the very last moment before his death.

As humans, we are inherently neither good nor evil, but we display an equal capacity for both. When we do something wrong or harmful, we tend to rationalize and argue to the point of persuading ourselves that our actions are justified, framing the situation in such a way as to make our conduct more palatable; but we can never completely escape the notion that our behaviour was simply not acceptable. We live with guilt for a long time and ponder over whether we ought to offer an apology or not: will we ever be forgiven for our mistake? The longer we ruminate over it, the more we risk losing faith in our own goodness and this lowers our self-esteem.

There are no bounds to forgiveness, and although the path to redemption is difficult, it is not impossible to follow. It takes courage to painfully recognize our wrong-doings and accept full responsibility for them. Once we determine never to make the same mistake AND apologise to those concerned, then we may find ourselves on the road to recovery and acceptance.

So, are there events and choices which you have made that haunt you? Were Hassan and Amir ever reunited? What became of Fantine? Read the books and find out…… I’m sure you’ll be pleased to discover that redemption remains a possibility for us all.

This article was first published by Times of Malta.

Christine Galea studied at the University of Malta, where she obtained a Master of Arts in Family Ministry in 2012. She is the Secretary-General of the Cana Movement and teaches Theology of Marriage and the Family at the Institute of Pastoral Formation. Christine is also a Board member of Genesis2 – Institute for Marriage and the Family, which promotes reflection about the person, marriage and family from several perspectives, through training, witness and peer support.

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