Monday, November 2, 2009

By Baptism We Died With Christ And Were Buried With Him. Since We Died In Christ, We Will Live With Him.

Today’s First Reading is taken from the Book of Wisdom (3:1-9):

In the view of some people death is reckoned as defeat and utter destruction. But the truth is that the souls of the just are in God’s hand. In the eyes of the foolish, they may be punished, but they are at peace, and have a sure hope of immortality. Although there may be some period of chastisement, they will be greatly blessed, because God has tested them and found them worthy to live forever with him. He put the to the test, like gold in the crucible, and like a sacrificial offering, he has found them acceptable. At the moment of God’s coming, they will be as brilliant as flames, as sparks that sweep through stubble. They will judge nations, and rule over peoples, and the Lord shall be their king forever. Those who put their trust in him will understand that he is true, and the faithful shall abide with him in love; grace and mercy shall be with his holy ones, and his care with those whom he has chosen.

Today’s Second Reading is taken from the Letter of Paul to the Romans (6:3-9):

Brothers and sisters: Are you unaware that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we were joined him in his death? By baptism we died and were buried with Christ. And just as Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.

Since we have been united with Christ in his death, we also will be raised to life with him. We know that our sinful self has been crucified, so that sin might lose its power over us. We are no longer slaves to sin, for when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. Since we died with Christ, we know that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, who has been raised from the dead, will never die again. Death no longer has power over him.


Today’s Gospel is taken from Mark (15:33-39, 16:1-6)

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling for Elijah.’ And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.’ Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.

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A religion teacher told me many years ago that there are two kinds of children: those who have no trouble in believing that Jesus is divine, but scarcely see him as human; and those who see him as human but are very iffy about his divinity. Many older people, I think, would veer towards the first. For instance I once heard a preacher say that the most wonderful thing about Jesus was that he never doubted. He ought to have read St Ambrose (333 – 397), who wrote, “As human Jesus doubted. He experienced amazement. It is not his divinity that doubted, but his human soul. He had no difficulty being amazed because he had taken humanity fully to himself. In taking upon himself a human soul, he also took upon himself the feelings of a soul. As God he was not distressed, but as human he was capable of being distressed. It was not as God he died, but as man. It was in human voice that he cried: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” As human, therefore, he spoke on the cross, bearing with him our terrors. For amid dangers it is a very human response to think ourselves abandoned. As human, therefore, he was distressed, wept, and was crucified.”

If Jesus was not fully human, “like us in all things but sin,” there is no hope for us. It is very much in our interest to see that his death was a real death. If he had joined us in life but not in death, he would remain partly a stranger to us. If his death was not a real and complete death, then his resurrection was not real; and “if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor 15:17). His death and resurrection make sense of ours.

“Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and became as human beings are... And being found in human form he became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-8)). They are among the most moving words ever written. The Almighty God’s way with us is the way of powerlessness. And the sheer loneliness of his passion.... When you are going through something you can say: At least my friends are with me. But the disciples were nowhere in sight; they were gone, and they came back only when he was dead.

Death is our final poverty. It is our powerlessness, our emptiness. We too are found in human form and have to be obedient unto death. We die every day: many small deaths before the big one. We die a little when our loved ones die; we die when we are parted from anything or anyone who has been part of our life; we die when we experience rejection of any sort. The Lord is with us in all our deaths. He himself died many times. St Augustine wrote, “He was crucified at the third hour by the tongues of the populace [see Mark 15:25] and at the sixth hour by the hands of the soldiers.”

Donagh O’Shea O.P.

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