The ransom that was paid to free you … was not paid in silver or gold, but in the precious blood … of Christ (1 Peter 1.18-19)
Sometimes religious language is difficult. It does not come easily to people today. Younger people, who want everything instantly (think Wikipedia) are particularly impatient. So what are we to make of this language of ransom from our second reading, which is taken from the first letter of Peter?
Well, strangely enough, the terrible evil of ransom has begun to stalk our world once more. Pirates off the coast of Somalia even in the last month have resumed their attempts to hijack ships and hold their crews to ransom. Until the world’s navies mounted a campaign a few years ago, this used to be very lucrative. Ransom is still a reality in several countries in Latin America, where families will hear that their loved one has been kidnapped and a terrible fate awaits unless a ransom is paid. It is one of the many forms of extortion practised by Islamic State. So, if we keep attuned to the news, we will find that there are still demands for ransom in our world today.
Behind the language of ransom is the thought of being held captive. The writer of the letter we hear from today sees us as held captive by sin. Now, once again, sin is language that we find not widely accepted in the culture around us. And yet, we know that sin is a reality. Everywhere I see the word LOVE. It is on cards. It is in letters on bedroom windows. It is held up as how we want our world to be. And yet, at the same time all of us struggle with that which is not love: anger, resentment, jealousy, rivalry, selfishness, addictiveness, greed, thoughtlessness, heartlessness. Perhaps in our age we need to talk less about sin and more about human failure to live in the loving, generous way that we know is the right way to live. It is a kind of a trap. We are held captive.
Christ comes to set us free. The resurrection is the ultimate act of being set free. Jesus is the living ransom who has gone into the place where we are trapped. He has suffered as we suffer, and come through victorious. He comes to tell us that it is possible to find new life, to set out again – and again and again, if necessary. He has died so that we might live, and the story does not end with his death, but with his rising to life and bringing us the assurance that in God’s love, the same life is now his gift to us. It tells us that we are no longer captive. It tells us that God takes our situation so seriously that in Christ he has entered into it, so that we might be set free from everything that binds us. A price has been paid for human recklessness, but there is no thought of passing on the cost. Instead, God invites us to enter into his loving presence at the breaking of the bread.