In light of Holy Week , it is a good time to reflect on the meaning of what happened on the cross and the implications for our lives. I believe a strong parallel exists between what Jesus death on the cross accomplished for us and the idea of human rights. Human rights are things to which all people are entitled to or allowed to have, by the nature of being human. Everyone should be entitled to these basic rights regardless of nationality, age, sex, ethnicity, race, religion, language, or other status. Human rights are not something to be earned or given. Nor should they be taken away. The idea of human rights is something that unites all of humanity, although unfortunately, this ideal is not being extended to all people in the world.
Similarly to human rights, I believe Jesus death on the cross applies to all people. Jesus had to die because humans sin. Not just some humans, all humans sin. And because of our sinful nature, humans will die. However, Jesus death pays the price for our sins and allows us to live eternal life by being reunited with God in heaven. Jesus’ death grants us a free gift of grace. This grace is the forgiveness of our sins, even though we don’t deserve it. I believe the important thing is to realize is that this grace is extended to all humans. Jesus didn’t just die for certain people. Jesus died for all humanity. All humans were made by God and therefore God loves all and sacrificed his son for all. In addition, much like human rights, this saving grace cannot be earned or taken away. It is automatically bestowed upon us as a result of the sacrifice which was made upon the cross. In the same way in which human rights should be granted to all humans, God’s grace is also granted to all humans.
This past summer, I had the privilege of walking the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, which is the path Jesus traveled carrying the cross on his way to the crucifixion. During this pilgrimage, I was able to reflect on some of these ideas about why Jesus had to die, who He died for, and what was accomplished from this sacrifice. After spending a week in Jerusalem I went to Ethiopia for two months volunteering in a village suburb teaching English and math to underprivileged children. The children at the school came from families who could not afford to take care of them and the school provided them a pace to learn, eat, and stay safe during the day. In the evening, the children would return to their homes throughout the village. On evening after school I was walking back through the village with Tamrat, one of the kids, and saw where he lived. It was nothing more than a few large sheets of tin leaned against each other over a dirt floor. That night it was rainy and cold like the whether usually is at that altitude in Ethiopia and I couldn’t help but think about how miserable Tamrat must have been.
Having just walked the path to Jesus crucifixion a few weeks earlier and thinking about how He died for everyone and realizing that He loved everyone so much, it was hard to accept how so many people in the world can be living in such poverty and lacking so many basic rights like food, water, shelter, and education that we take for granted in the United States. Understanding how God loves equally and how Jesus death was for everyone, it’s disturbing to find how the world does not work in this way.
There isn’t anything Tanrat or any of the Ethiopian kids should have to do to earn the basic human rights of food, shelter, and education. Just like there isn’t anything we can do to earn salvation from God. I think a lot of times we think good people go to heaven and we need to be banking up good deeds throughout our life so that one day we will have earned our way to heaven. But this isn’t the case. No amount of good deeds can get us to heaven. The only way is through Jesus death on the cross. Grace was given to all humans as a result of what happened on the cross and we just have to accept that free gift of grace and response to that through faith and love.
This love is where our role comes in on Earth. We are not meant to be here to judge others or determine who is worthy of having rights and privileges. Our role as Christians is to show the same love to others as God has to us. This means working toward ensuring that all humans, regardless of race, religion, gender, personality, or socio economic status have what should be entitled to them: basic human rights. God did not create a person to live in poverty. He did not create a person to be marginalized. Let us take after His model of loving all and sacrificing for all to work toward fair and equal rights for everyone on this Earth. Jesus died for us, now it is our turn to live for Him.
“Spencer Liechty will be graduating in May and is looking into various post grad volunteer programs. He says, “Highlights from my time here have been involvement in campus ministry through Athletes in Action and the 4pm mass. My time at Xavier has been the best years of my life and I would just encourage everyone to take advantage of every opportunity and treasure every relationship formed.”