Sunday, March 30, 2003

On dying and rising; from the only "modern" work in my Lenten reading this year.

Lord Jesus, you had to die. In becoming a human being like us you did not exempt yourself from that event that is most human --- that is, dying.

Yet, in the Gospel narrative by St. John, you are always Lord of death. You lay down your life in response to your Father's will. Death, according to John, is that sinful state which separates from God, which drags us down, which leaves us a prey to the flesh, to the powers of evil. By meeting this kind of sinful death head-on you robbed death of its power, Lord. By emptying yourself for others you made death a way of life. But emptying yourself was done through love. It is love which conquers death. Death is sin and hatred and selfishness. Life is goodness and kindness. This you taught us, Jesus, by example.

You told us, too, dear Lord, if we would come after you, that we must deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow you. How unromantic this is, Jesus! But if your cross is to die to hate and to learn to love as you did, then I see how your yoke could be sweet!

Just as we move daily toward physical death, so, dear Lord, should we be dying to sin. In that way our physical death will be, as in your case, the result of and the sign of an interior dying to self. You taught us, however, Lord, that dying with you means rising with you. Baptism is a cycle; it is entering into your cycle of dying to sin and rising to new life. Our life is not a journey on a continuous path toward inevitable death, but a daily dying and rising. The seed of our dying, Jesus, is creative of new life. When sin and selfishness die, there is room for goodness and joy. When hate dies, there is room for love.

Again, your disciple John wrote: "That we have passed from death to life we know because we love each other. One who does not love is among the living dead." (1 Jn 3:14) The way we came to understand love was that you laid down your life, Jesus, for us; we, too, must lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

A Benedictine friend of mine from Arkansas told me the following story, Jesus. You will like it. It took place in the mid-1960's......A young college graduate was spending his first year out of school working for voter registration among the blacks of eastern Arkansas. It was dangerous work. The monks asked him one day if he had suffered violence because of his efforts. He quietly told of the times he had been beaten with chains, kicked, and spat upon. "Why didn't you fight back?" the monks asked him. "At first I did," he responded. "But then I realized that hate must die. If I respond to hate in kind, it bounces off me back into the world. It continues to arch out and harm people. Somewhere this hate has to come to rest. I know now that I must let it die in my body."

Jesus, let hate die in all our bodies, so that slowly this world can be transformed. Love is born of hate that dies.

Suffering and sadness, morbidity and pessimism are not the story of Good Friday, Lord. Nor is bubbly, flighty giddiness the story of Easter Sunday. Our vibrant joy of Easter will come, Lord, when we have died to violence, hatred, dishonesty, greed, and passion. Teach us the meaning of Good Friday, Jesus, so that we can rise with you each day in Easter joy. Teach us each time we join with others at the Eucharist that it is our Good Friday and Easter Sunday, too. It is our dying and rising. Each sacrament, Lord Jesus, we know is our insertion into your paschal mystery. Keep us aware of you as we bring our daily crosses to be transformed and resurrected.


[Rembert G. Weakland, O.S.B., All God's People, Paulist Press, 1985, pp. 134-136]

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