death

Victorious

The Resurrection should be understood as a challenge to the world. Death has been overcome, and now, the children of God have nothing left to fear. 

There’s a lot to leave us feeling hopeless in the world today. There’s war, poverty, loneliness, abortion, hatred, murder, human trafficking, racism, addiction, euthanasia, exploitation,  ignorance, terrorism, sexual abuse, genocides, corruption, divorce, torture, and the list just goes on and on. We live, undeniably, in a culture of death and indifference. 

And of course, a culture of death requires and creates for itself a culture of indifference. When we’re surrounded by so much death, the easiest way to deal with it is simply to die inside, closing our eyes and hearts. We package away the suffering in little boxes, which we’ll return to occasionally, to cry a little, give some money, and so relieve what’s left of our consciences a little bit. If we let our hearts open to all the misery and death around us, we’d be unable to let it go on. We would be compelled to stand against the forces of death that surround us.

But what use is it? Who can fight against the empire of death and win? Especially when death reigns even in our own hearts?

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! ALLELUIA! 

You cannot kill a Christian! We cannot die! God is on our side! God has justified the crucified! Nothing can ever overcome the children of God. Nothing can stop the Kingdom of God.

Therefore, we must live in a new manner. The dying things of the world no longer matter. Nothing matters, except the true life we have been given, the life of absolute love, the life of the children of God, the life of heaven. 

Jesus is vindicated, and His way is proven right. And so we can accept Him, His love, His truth, in all His weakness. His death is only half the story. 

And so we can and must walk in His ways, taking up our crosses, the pains and injustices around us, and entering them, transforming them, with a fearless love. Nothing, not even death, can stop the children of God, and that is what we are. 

This is the freedom we must live out in the face of all the death surrounding us on every side. We must live in the victory already won. 
God bless you! Christ is risen! 

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The guards vs the women

And all at once there was a violent earthquake, for the angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat on it. His face was like lightning, his robe white as snow. The guards were so shaken, so frightened of him, that they were like dead men. But the angel spoke; and he said to the women, ‘There is no need for you to be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said he would. Come and see the place where he lay, then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has risen from the dead and now is going before you to Galilee; it is there you will see him”. Now I have told you.’ Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.
(Matthew 28:2-8)

Something I love in this passage, is how the angel completely ignores the armed guards to speak to these faithful women. I find it beyond wonderful that these representatives of the power of Rome and of the Sanhedrin are nothing to the angel.

I imagine the angel sitting on the stone with the biggest, most childish grin you have ever seen. He swings his legs for the fun of it, or has his legs crossed and leans forward over them in his eagerness. His every word seems like it is holding back, or perhaps just holding, a whole flood of laughter. He has no time and no care for these mortal men standing guard over death.

And notice how different their reactions are: the guards are so shaken, so frightened of him, that they are like dead men; the women on the other hand, are filled with awe and great joy, coming quickly away from the tomb and running to tell the disciples. The women are afraid in a completely different way.

What are they both afraid of? Life. Of course, no one likes death. But it is, well… comfortable. We know death, it’s predictable, it’s easy. But life! Life goes off in a million different directions according to its own whims! Life can’t be predicted or contained, except by death. And now even death has been conquered!

image

Jesus is a weed, breaking through the concrete of death

For the women, this means the hope of absolute life. It means the story of Jesus saving the world is only beginning. It means love is and always will be victorious.

For the guards, this means they are rendered powerless. They have failed to control a corpse! No amount of violence can ever defeat the freedom of the children of God!

God bless you and Alleluia!

None of it is yours to keep

Have you noticed how for any TV or film series, the people who will most hate some part of it are almost always among the biggest fans of the series? It’s the people who have watched Doctor Who for years that will be most negative about the new Doctor, it’s the people who grew up on the Original Trilogy that will hate the prequels, and it’s the people who most love the 80s originals that most detest the unnecessary remakes. Why?

Because after a while, we begin to feel that something is owed to us. We know and like the previous Doctor. We knew what he was like and we loved him. We set up expectations, and then demands upon the future. The series must conform to my will. That’s not to say we want it predictable… just, unpredictable in the usual ways…

This sense of ownership, that the producers owe us, ruins the whole thing. Our expectations set us up for disappointments, and our imaginary debts set us up for outrage. And have you observed, how the angry superfans hold out a long time, before they let it go and get on with their lives? The torment can go on for years.

But the truth is, the world doesn’t owe us anything. It’s all a gift. If it’s not what we thought we wanted, it may be better, and if not, there is no injustice in that.

We want control over our lives, because we’re afraid. We’re afraid that the world will turn on us. Our experiences confirm, that all things are subject to decay and death, and so all will abandon us. So, we imagine that the things we are given are somehow under our power, that they are meant to meet our expectations, that they are subject to our demands. But this delusion doesn’t liberate us; rather, it only causes us to suffer.

So we ditch the delusion; but what do we do about decay and death and the world abandoning us? We accept this fear, but we meet it with hope. Hope that the next Doctor will be even better. Hope that the next episode will be good. Hope that those who truly live in the face of death will rise again, overcoming the futility of life.

Hope is not expectations, or demands, or imaginary debts, or mindless optimism. It is entrusting your future to God’s generous love.

In the face of a dying world, we look to Jesus, who says he is, “the Resurrection and the Life”, and we follow him to the cross. We cannot hold on to anything in this world; we do not truly possess even our own lives; we must relinquish our illusory and oppressive control, and live in constant gratitude, love, freedom and hope.

God bless you

Euthanasia: Is life worth living?

That’s the crux of the matter really: Is life worth living? Every argument for assisted dying can be boiled down to that, for some people, life isn’t worth living.

Let’s be honest; it can be difficult to argue against this. Some people live in horrific pain. Some people have no hope. Some people feel incapable of doing any good. Some people feel they are a burden. Some people are lonely. Some people feel unwanted. Some people believe their lives aren’t worth living.

But I hold as a matter of faith that they are wrong. That life is always worth living, for everyone. I know this is demanding. Life is the setting of all suffering and struggle. It entails pain, weakness, failure, and humiliation. But it also entails love, and I believe that love is worth all, that love brings value to all.

If we believe when certain people say their own lives aren’t worth living, it is only natural to believe the same for people in similar circumstances who believe their own lives are still worth living. It makes perfect sense then, to persuade (i.e. pressure), these vulnerable people into ending their lives also. And so the throwaway culture goes on.

If we admit that for some people life isn’t worth living, other people, without terminal illnesses, will be more likely to accept that their own lives aren’t worth living either. I don’t have statistics, but I don’t doubt that accepting assisted dying for the terminally ill makes suicide a far less outrageous proposal for many people. If we can give up on anyone, anyone at all, anyone can give up on themselves.

It is never compassionate to give up on another’s life, even if they do it first. Compassion is about “suffering with”, entering into another’s suffering and struggling with them in solidarity. Compassion is the struggle to live, to love, in the midst of the darkness, death, and despair of all humanity. In all suffering, our own and others, we must struggle to bring love to the world; love which is all the stronger for suffering.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
-St. Francis of Assisi

Please pray for those who don’t believe their lives are worth living.

Saved through his resurrection

[In my last post, I wrote “The resurrection of the dead does not undo or repay the gift of the martyr’s life, but makes the gift lasting. This is the treasure in heaven for every good work: that our gifts shall endure forever in God, in whom all good works are done.” This struck me as absolutely wonderful, and thoroughly in keeping with the gospel. However, I realised afterwards, that this was an understanding of heaven and life everlasting which hadn’t mentioned Jesus, or his death and resurrection, and so what I said was either wrong or incomplete, and so I set to work.]

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, entered into our suffering and death, that in these we may find the one who said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25), and be united with him. He died, that he might bring life to death. Death tried to digest him, corruption tried to destroy him, but instead life incorruptible burst forth in the tomb itself. His life and his gift, were perfect, divine, and had no weaknesses to be attacked, and so his gift was perfect, a living sacrifice, and unbreakable. In giving up his life it suffered no decrease, but was unleashed upon the world.

When the martyr offers up their life, they do so with Jesus, and in Jesus, and through Jesus, and so their gift is united with his; they enter Christ’s own sepulchre, and by the abundance of Christ’s life, their offering is made perfect, and raised in Jesus himself. There is no resurrection except in union with him who is the resurrection and the life.

Our complete offering of our lives, is united to Christ’s complete, perfect and divine offering of his own life, and perfected by this union, so that we appropriate the life of The Life.

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me.” John 14:6

We unite ourselves to the way and the truth and the life, by following his way, accepting his truth, and so living his life. We must take up our crosses and follow him, believe in Jesus, and eat the Bread of Life. We must follow Jesus to death, that we may die with him and live with him.

The choice of this present life, is how to live. I can walk through life my own way, and I will one day arrive at my grave, where the worms await, to rot away my life of corruption. Or I can follow Jesus, walking the way of the cross, arriving at his cross and his tomb, where the perfect, incorruptible Son of God met the moment of our corruption and overcame, where life was swallowed by death, and burst forth so abundantly he swallowed death.

‘for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ…

‘So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven…

‘When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
   “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

‘The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.’ 1 Corinthians 15:22,42-49,54-58

God bless you!

P.S. I actually stumbled upon the passage from 1 Corinthians last, after having completely forgotten it (apart from, I guess, subconsciously). I was actually hesitant with these thoughts, for fear that they were not in scripture, or were an invention of my own mind. Glory to God, that He allowed me to forget, that I might follow the apostle’s thinking, and see the perfect unity of revelation!

God bless you!

P.P.S. (11th August) I forgot to include how this involves the sacraments of the Church. I feel it is too late now, and I don’t have anything extraordinary to say on it anyway, but I will add quickly:

‘For we are buried together with him by baptism into death: that, as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.’ (Rm 6:4)

And the Holy Eucharist is both the once for all sacrifice upon the cross, and the risen Bread of Life, as he said,

‘He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me: and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me.’ (Jn 6:57-58)

I haven’t said much, and I can’t say about the other sacraments, but I’m sure, as they demand and enliven our lives, they too must flow through the cross and the holy sepulchre and the resurrection.
One last thing I’d like to add:

‘He is risen, he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him.’ (Mk 16:6)

This changes everything

On good Friday, it seemed that for all that Jesus was, he was just a man. He had given sight to the blind, and healed the lame, and preached the good news to the poor and raised the dead, but was still just a man, and suffered and died like the rest. He cast out demons, walked on water, taught with authority, was transfigured on the mountain, and was the messiah, the Son of God, but at the end of the day, he was but a fragile, mortal man, destined for the grave.

Sunday changed that. Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead. He suffered pain, defeat, and death, as one human in common with us all, and he rose victorious. It was by his weak, mortal flesh, that God entered our greatest battle, and defeated it from the inside. Out of love He joined us in our darkest hour, and by His love He illuminated and broke the darkness of death.

And he was one of us. A human rose from the dead. And not only one of us, but the one who promised we could live in him, and he in us. The night before he was killed, he took bread and wine, and gave us his body and blood, for our food; that we may abide in him, and he in us; that as he lives by the Father, we may live by him. This is the one who left death in the past.

All history, all humanity, all life is changed forever. Death is not final; Love is. God is victorious. Every moment of life, is illuminated by the hope of the resurrection, and we live liberated from death. When death is overturned, what could hope to be left unchanged?

Christianity is no mere religion, no mere philosophy, no mere way of life. These are footnotes of life, and particular systems of living. They are no more than after-thoughts and add-ons. But Christianity fills, permeates, enlightens and enlivens all of life. Emmanuel: God is with us; this is my body, which is given for you; Christ is risen. Christianity is life transformed and fulfilled by accepting God’s offer of Himself.

Happy Easter, and may God bless you

The Deaths of Strangers

Do we care when a stranger dies? I know we do, sortof. But it’s hard. There are so many strangers dying all the time, that we can’t mourn all of them, all the time. And, of course, we don’t know them to mourn them. I think this explains the everyday carelessness to those dying of hunger, thirst, AIDS, murder, genocide, or abortion.
Joseph Stalin is quoted as saying,

‘One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.’

I’ve heard that Stalin killed millions of “his own” people, so he may not have meant it this way…
I recently considered the value of life, and how it seems to change. Killing a baby is atrocious, nearly all agree (though in some countries they are often killed just for being female). Killing an unborn baby, is apparently not so clear in the eyes of many. Even pro-life Churches and groups do not act as I think people would if adults were similarly killed. Are they worth less even to the pro-life? Does their worth increase until birth, then decrease as they age? What determines the value of a human?
I’ve concluded, that a human being, endowed with a soul, has a constant value from beginning to end. The apparent change is based only on how much you know them.
The problem with abortion, in this regard, is that the baby is a complete stranger to nearly everyone, except a slight relationship with his/her mother and (to a lesser extent) father. We don’t know any like them, so we can’t even mourn by imagining who they are like.
It takes more imagination to consider their death. You can consider it as a soul, or yourself as the parent-to-be.
Deliberately trying to empathize with strangers is important. We must know they are our brothers, so we can treat them as such. We need to understand the statistics by feeling the tragedies.
I believe it is only when we mourn properly that we will act properly in the face of mass tragedy.
God bless you.

P.S. I mentioned the killing of babies based on gender earlier, and it’s so important I felt the need to provide some more info. If you want to learn about this, visit 50 million missing by clicking here.