Dying and Living
We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair; we have been persecuted, but never deserted; knocked down, but never killed; always, where ever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body. Indeed, while we are still alive, we are consigned to our death every day, for the sake of Jesus, so that in our mortal flesh the life of Jesus too, may be openly shown.
2. Cor 4:8-11
hirty years ago I was invited to preach at the holy well in Ballyheigue on Pattern Day. As I prepared for that event I came across an old Irish prayer that said: “As I walk the road to Mass, I walk with Christ to Calvary.” I thought of those people down through the ages who walked to Mass in Ballyheigue in times of poverty and misery, in famine times, and in times of persecution. How true it was: they walked with Christ to Calvary. Not only did they meditate and pray about the Carrying of the Cross and the Crucifixion; not only did they celebrate it in the Mass: they lived it in their lives. It was then I saw clearly for the first time, that events we read about in the life of Jesus: we live them in our own lives.
I had seen this in the New Testament, but I had not paid attention to it. As St Paul thought about the huge amount of suffering in his life, he said, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” In all the troubles that Paul endured, he believed that he was living the crucifixion of Jesus. He wrote to the Corinthian community, “We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair; always, where ever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus.”
But it is not only his crucifixion that we live out in our lives, we live out his resurrection and new life as well. St. Paul went on to say that the reason we carry the death of Jesus in our own bodies is “that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.” The life of Jesus is a life of love and service. The experience of suffering could break our spirits and turn us in on ourselves, but by the grace of God, it also can broaden our hearts to love as Jesus loved.
Her heart as big as the whole world
This was the experience of Mary at the foot of the cross. “There is your son,” Jesus said to her, referring to his beloved disciple, John. At that moment she became the mother of all of God’s children; the bishops of Latin America said that Mary’s heart is as big as the whole world. I thought of this when I went to Lourdes with members of the Cystic Fibrosis Association. Among the pilgrims were mothers who had lost on or two children through this illness. They had stood by the foot of the Cross, and their hearts had been broken. But their hearts had also been broadened, and now they gave their time to the Association and helped other mothers and their children.
At the Easter Vigil we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, but we celebrate a dying and rising that is taking place in our own lives too. We renew our baptism promise to die to selfishness and sin - that often entails a real crucifixion – and we renew our promise to live and love as Jesus did. Where ever we see this kind of living it inspires us. I think of a family whose father died many years ago when the children were young. With courage and faith their mother brought them up well; they learned about generosity and sharing and about looking out for other each other and for their neighbours. Now they are grandparents themselves; they remain close to each other and they see the goodness in the lives of their children and grandchildren which they themselves inherited from their parents. In God’s design, the end of the story is never crucifixion but resurrection and new life.
through our prayerful meditation on your Word,
help us to understand the meaning
of your Son’s death and resurrection
and teach us to reflect it in our lives. Amen