Don't Just Die. Rise.
A strange phenomenon happened to me recently. When praying the rosary, I became disappointed if the day called for meditation on the Glorious Mysteries. The stories of Jesus’ early life (Joyful Mysteries,) those of his ministry (Luminous Mysteries,) and those of his passion and death (Sorrowful Mysteries,) felt relatable while the Glorious Mysteries seemed to apply less to my day-to-day existence.
But I was getting it all wrong. The Resurrection is what it’s all about. The Resurrection is the linchpin, the cornerstone, the climax. As Pope Saint John Paul II said on November 30, 1986 (just four days after I was born!) “We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song!” We are an Easter people. This means we are a people whose very identity is shaped by the fact that our God was killed and then rose from the dead. This reality is meant to fashion who we are, right to our very core.
We aren’t a people who live with the heavy aura of Good Friday. In Christ, we have thrown off the yoke of death and approach life with the eternal perspective that we will someday follow Him from death to bodily resurrection. Because of this, “Alleluia” should fly from our lips even more readily than “Offer it up.”
It’s important to learn from Good Friday that love requires sacrifice and death to self. This is what Jesus demonstrated when He offered His life on the cross for us. But it didn’t stop there for Him and it mustn’t stop there for us. We aren’t meant to just sit in the “little deaths” of Christian living. Fixating on these little deaths will lead to complaining, bitterness, and despondency.
We are meant to rise into newness of life. A life that transforms sacrificial love from a burden to a joy. St. Mother Teresa articulated this well when she said, “I have found the ultimate paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” There is a difference between doing my Christian duty while continually “offering up” complaints about it and doing my Christian duty with lighthearted joy. The grace of the Resurrection is what gives us that joy. It’s what allows us to move through death and into life.
In light of all this, we shouldn’t view Good Friday and Easter Sunday as two separate events. Instead, they are woven together into one reality. We don’t have Easter Sunday without Good Friday, and that Friday wouldn’t have been very good if it didn’t lead to Easter Sunday. His death, burial, and resurrection are all part of the same action. By this action, Jesus didn’t just die for us, He conquered death for us.
Sin, suffering, pain, betrayal, pride…He puts it all to death on the cross so that new life can rise. It’s not enough to overcome our sins or accept our sufferings. After we’ve done these things, united to God’s grace, we rise above them.
Here are a few concrete examples of what putting sin to death and rising to new life can look like. A man who struggles with lust can kill his lust by never again looking at a woman. But he can rise from his lust when he begins to look upon women with authentic love. A gossiping woman can kill her tongue by keeping silent. But she will rise from this sin when she speaks kindly about others. A husband and wife may kill anger against one another by keeping the peace at all costs; simply becoming co-workers in their household. But this couple will rise to new life when they choose to love one another intimately and pursue one another passionately in good times and bad.
This grace of new life applies also to our suffering. With the current pandemic of Covid-19, it’s not enough to live in fear and wait it out. We are called to look for new life. The world will look different when this is over and an Easter People can look for new life when it does.
We might emerge with an ability to live simply as never before – finishing leftovers and using up food on our shelves before running to grocery store every other day. Perhaps there will be a rebirth of parents who trust themselves enough to spend more time with their children and be their primary educators even after they return to school. Perhaps great books will be read and great books will be written. This year’s “death” of Triduum at the parish might lead to new life of family traditions. These traditions could cultivate prayer at home as integral part of family life. “Death” of Mass in person might lead to a renewed appreciation for the Eucharist. May we never again take for granted the reality that God physically dwells within us at every Holy Communion.
This Easter season, may the reality of Christ’s Resurrection not only shape the way that we view our final destiny in the Resurrection of the Dead, but also shape the way we allow new life to grow from all of our little deaths to sin and suffering. May Alleluia truly be the song on our lips and in our hearts not just on Easter Sunday, but every day of our lives!