April 15, 2018
The first thing to notice about a world gone wrong is that there is no distinction made in the Scriptures between the wrongness of sin or the wrongness of death. Eternal life and forgiveness of sins are, equally the goals of God’s loving mission of the Son. Since fear of death (or diminishment of ‘the good life’) is often enough the excuse we offer for sinning, they are already linked in our thinking. Equally, death is the Scriptures’ favorite description of the inevitable consequence of sin.
So, without sinning, the Son of God goes so far to embrace the world gone wrong that he becomes mortal with all those doomed to die because of sin. Death is now doubly the result of sin, it comes into history because we turn away from the Lord of Life; it becomes permanent when we turn away from the death of ours that has been embraced by the loving Son of God. This is why the Act of Contrition proposes two motives for repentance – loss of heaven and love of God. In the world of God’s love revealed in the Son, fear of death and fear of sin are just one fear – or, at least, that is how we are supposed to understand things. Love of God and a willingness to live and, even to die, wholly for him are, by the same token, the same thing.
It is to this truth that the Church points when she asserts that we are saved by the death of Jesus. His death changes our death. No longer the loss of every good gift from God, it is our ultimate encounter with God! Nothing else will explain why it is that the first Christians came into the Church that was persecuted unto death; death was what evilly violent emperors threatened in order to lead them away from God. It must have been, then, that God’s love was uniquely and most powerfully present in a death like that of the Son.
Saint Paul tells the Romans that all who are baptized into Christ Jesus are baptized into his death. No one ever understood that better than the one who had once persecuted Christians but who was soon to die for him.
This sets us up to understand:
- the changes that Christianity made in its understanding of the baptism practiced by John the Baptist,
- the connection that has always existed between Christian Baptism and the celebration of Easter,
- the unbreakable link between Baptism and Eucharist,
- the meaning of Confirmation (which was lost at the beginning of the last century),
- the meaning of Christian holiness and its practice,
- the meaning of sin and repentance and forgiveness,
- the meaning of Christian death and hope.
What more could one ask for as an Easter present!
Really and truly and sacramentally yours,