Redemptor Hominis by Pope John Paul II
Dr. Regis Martin
Saturday, September 26, 1992
Honors Seminar VIII – Honors 402
In his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, Pope John Paul II reflects on man’s redemption through the event of the Incarnation. He opens the work by discussing the duty of the Church, which, as his predecessor Paul VI stated, is to proclaim the whole truth given to man in the person of Christ (8). In spreading this truth, the Church must strive for Christian unity in such a way that the truth of the gospel is preserved without compromise (12).
The Church, always keeping its gaze upon Christ the Redeemer through constant reflection upon His words and the mystery of His redemptive work, must share the mystery of the Redemption with all humanity (15). In the midst of great technological progress, the modern world struggles with a sense of futility. Through the Redemption, however, the world is no longer subject to futility but is re-linked to God (16). Christ, in the mystery by which he has entered the very heart of man, reveals man to himself (16); in the Redemption, man discovers the dignity he has in being loved and called to love. By establishing a new covenant between God and man, Christ reveals God’s faithful love, a love that — greater than weakness and sin (18) — satisfies the longing of every human heart (20). In proclaiming the mystery of the Redemption, the Church strives to preserve each man’s unique dignity (22) by respecting the freedom of each person. The Church must promote authentic freedom, a freedom which comes from an encounter with the truth (23).
Jesus Christ is the way for the Church and the way to each man; the Church must be as committed as Christ to each man’s welfare (25). Since each man has been made in the image of God and has been redeemed by His Son, mankind is the primary and fundamental way for the Church in its mission (26-27).
In today’s society, man lives in fear of being subordinated by what he has created (28). This is the result of technological advancement without a corresponding moral advancement (29). The Church, concerned with humanity, desires that man be preserved from the slavery of a materialism which violates his dignity (32-33). It is possible and necessary for human dignity to be maintained in today’s world throuqh the conversion and commitment of the human community (33). Many modern political platforms — while championing the rights of mankind — have favored the rights of an elect few (37). If the common good is to be fully realized, the rights of each citizen must be secure, including the right to religious freedom (38).
The deep hunger in man revealed in modern materialism finds its satisfaction in the Holy Spirit (42). The Church calls upon the Spirit so that it may faithfully serve Christ as Christ served the Father (43). In order to adhere to divine truth and serve it, the Church needs a theology that can unite faith with reason (45). The responsibility for spreading divine truth belongs to the prophetic office of the whole People of God; every man has a part to play according to his vocation (45). John Paul II asserts that the Eucharist should be at the center of the life of the Church, for it is in this sacrament that the mystery of the Redemption is most completely signified and realized (48). The call to the Eucharist includes a call to repentance (49) — that is, to respond to love with love. The sacrament of Penance is an invaluable way for the individual to encounter personally the mercy of God in Christ (50).
Sharing in Christ’s kingship means service (51-52); man’s freedom is not an end in itself but is best used in self-giving (54-55). In this service, the faithful call upon the Mother of God, who shared in a special way in Christ’s redeeming work (56). Since Mary, above all other created beings, ushers man into the mystery of the Redemption, the Church may be sure that, because of Mary’s intercession, it is living Christ’s mystery (57).
Redemptor Hominis (Redeemer of Man), Pope John Paul II. March 4, 1979.