Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Holy Week, Anno Domini 2009

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
- Romans 6: 10-11

The popular form of Christianity in America today says that the Gospel boils down to “good works” honoring the “common humanity” of others. This take on Christianity says that Jesus’ most important characteristic was his compassion, and thus the Church of the future will be about compassion, not doctrine or miracles.

There is much to commend in any form of Christianity putting compassionate service at the center of its life. Truly, Christ said, by serving “the least of these,” we serve him. Again and again, Our Lord models compassionate service for us and commands us to follow in his steps. But, he doesn’t stop there – not by a long shot.

Frankly put, we cannot do these good works or offer such compassion for long without fatigue. There is not enough goodwill or patience in the whole world to right all the wrongs humanity endures. That is why the Gospels do not simply record Jesus’ good works. They all end in an account of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection. Because Christ died and rose again to a New Life, and because we share in that death and resurrection through baptism, we also now live a New Life. No longer are we limited to our own vision, our own capacity. Together, we form a united Body with our Head, Christ Jesus. By entering into the historical fact of Christ’s death and resurrection, we enter into the fact and sustaining power of our Eternal Life in God.

This is why we put everything we have into the celebration of Holy Week and Easter. Only by being deeply immersed in the full mystery of Christ – his incarnation, teachings, ascetic practices, death, and resurrection – may we expect to know the power of the Gospel in difficult times. That is what is about to be offered again in our parish: let us all partake of what is so freely given that we might once more proclaim “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!”

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