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The Infinite Worth of Christ's Sufferings

("Meditations for Lent from St. Thomas Aquinas", pp. 88-90, 1937 Imp.)

 

Third Wednesday

 

THE PRICE OF OUR REDEMPTION


You are bought with a great price. -1 Cor. vi. 20.

 

The indignities and sufferings anyone suffers
are measured according to the dignity of the person
concerned. If a king is struck in the face he
suffers a greater indignity than does a private
person. But the dignity of Christ is infinite, for
He is a divine person. Therefore, any suffering
undergone by him, even the least conceivable
suffering, is infinite. Any suffering at all, then,
undergone by Him, without His death, would
have sufficed to redeem the human race.

 

St. Bernard says that the least drop of the blood
of Christ would have sufficed for the redemption
of us all. And Christ could have shed that one
drop without dying. Therefore, even without
dying he could, by some kind of suffering, have
redeemed, that is, bought back, all mankind.

 

Now in buying two things are required, an


amount equal to the price demanded and the
assigning of that amount to the purpose of buying.
For if a man gives a price that is not equal in
value to the thing to be bought, we do not say
that he has bought it, but only that he has partly
bought it, and partly been given it. For example,
if a man buys for ten shillings a book that is worth
twenty shillings, he has partly bought the book and
it has, partly, been given to him. Or again, if he
puts together a greater price but does not assign
it to the buying, he is not said to buy the book.

 

If therefore when we speak of the redemption
and buying back of the human race we have in
view the amount of the price, we must say that
any suffering undergone by Christ, even without
His death, would have sufficed, because of the
infinite worth of His person. If, however, we
speak of the redemption with reference to the
setting of the price to the purpose in hand, we
have then to say that no other suffering of Christ
less than His death, was set by God and by Christ
as the price to be paid for the redemption of
mankind. And this was so for three reasons:

 

1. That the price of our redemption should
not only be infinite in value, but be of the same kind
as what it bought, i.e., that it should be with a
death that He bought us back from death.

 

2. That the death of Christ would be not only
the price of our redemption but also an example of
courage, so that men would not be afraid to die
for the truth. St. Paul makes mention of this
and the preceding cause when he says, That, through
death, he might destroy him who had the empire of death
(this is the first cause), and might deliver them, who
through the fear of death were all their lifetime subject
to servitude (this for the second cause) (Heb. ii. 14, 15).

 

3. That the death of Christ might be a sacra-
ment to work our salvation; we, that is, dying
to sin, to bodily desires and to our own will through
the power of the death of Christ. These reasons
are given by St. Peter when he says, Christ who
died once for our sins, the just for the unjust; that he
might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in the
flesh, but enlivened in the spirit (1 Pet. iii. 18).

 

And so it is that mankind has not been redeemed by
any other suffering of Christ without his death.

 

But, as a matter of fact, Christ would have paid
sufficiently for the redemption of mankind not only
by giving His own life but by suffering any suffering
no matter how slight, if this slight suffering had
been the thing divinely appointed, and Christ would
thereby have paid sufficiently because of the

infinite worth of His person.

 

(Quodlib. 2 q i, a 2.)

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