Before the Cross | The Lord's death, resurrection set us free
"Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2: 5-11).
We celebrate the Easter Triduum this week as the holiest time of the Church year. This is the time of year when we recall -- in the most vivid terms possible -- the supreme sacrifice that Jesus made for each one of us.
St. Paul tell us, in the words of an early Christian hymn, that Jesus humbled Himself and became a slave for our sake. Although He was God, He emptied Himself and became obedient to death -- even death on a cross. Jesus' death, and His resurrection from the dead, freed us from the slavery of sin and death. By His wounds we have been healed. By His victory over the power of death, we have been liberated.
And yet, far too many of our sisters and brothers throughout the world do not know what it means to live free.
Did you know that 12.3 million people are victims of forced labor, bonded labor and sexual exploitation each year? These are forms of slavery as cruel and inhuman as anything experienced by African-American slaves in our country 150 years ago.
Did you know that nearly 20,000 enslaved people (mainly women and children) are "trafficked" into the United States each year? Or that 100,000 American children are the victims of commercial sexual exploitation each year?
Traffickers lure vulnerable men, women and children with false promises of good jobs, an education, economic security and even love. Once lured, the traffickers are able to keep their victims from seeking help by confiscating identification documents, using threats of violence against the victim or their family, as well as subjecting the victim to physical, psychological and/or sexual abuse. No sector or industry is immune from human trafficking. Victims have been identified in factories, restaurants, construction work, agricultural fields, hotels, spas, nail salons, and even private residences.
Human trafficking exists because of the lack of laws against it, the lack of enforcement of such laws where they do exist, and the ease and ability to re-exploit individuals. Human trafficking has become the fastest growing source of profits for criminal enterprises worldwide. The Catholic Church has repeatedly condemned human trafficking, stating that human trafficking "constitutes a shocking offense against human dignity and a grave violation of fundamental human rights." For over a decade, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been a leader in U.S. and global response to human trafficking. The Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking consists of national and international Catholic agencies working to eliminate the scourge of human trafficking by:
• Formulating plans for combating trafficking and serving its victims
• Promoting development of services for trafficking victims and approaches to empowerment of trafficking victims
• Dialoging with government officials and others engaged in public policies affecting this issue
• Devising strategies for public education, awareness-raising and grass roots action.
The freedom won for us by our Lord's passion, death and resurrection cries out to heaven for liberty and justice for all regardless of their nationality, religious background, social or economic condition. All human beings were set free by the cross of Christ. All are equal in the sight of God. All are called to be united with each other and with Him.
This Easter, let's dedicate ourselves to proclaiming liberty for all who are enslaved -- whether by means of human trafficking or by more subtle forms of slavery caused by domestic violence, or addiction to alcohol, drugs or pornography. Let's put an end to the evils of human trafficking and sexual exploitation once and for all! And let's work to overcome the habits of self-indulgence and abusive behavior toward others that are so prevalent in our global culture.
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- Before the Cross | Parish's mission: to transform us into holy people of Christ
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