“What Is the Work that We Do?”
Fr. James Chelich, 1992
People came in great numbers to hear Jesus. They were looking for miracles, especially the multiplica-tion of loaves to eat. Jesus challenged them to work for a different kind of food, “a food that remains unto life eternal.”(Jn 6;27) At one point the crowd asks Jesus a question that went to the very root of his life and its meaning: “‘So that we can put faith in you, what sign are you going to perform for us to see? What is the ‘work’ you do?’” John 6:30 What are you here for? What are you here to do? What is your life’s ‘work’? What are you all about? Jesus answers this question three times, on three separate occasions: “He began to teach them that the Son of Humanity had to suffer much, be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, be put to death, and rise three days later. He said these things quite openly.” Mark 8:31 “They left that district and began a journey through Galilee… He was teaching his disciples in this vein: ‘The Son of Humanity is going to be delivered into the hands of men who will put him to death; three days after his death he will rise.’” Mark 9:30-31 “The disciples were on the road going up to Jerusalem, with Jesus walking in the lead. Their mood was one of wonder- ment, while that of those who followed was fear. Taking the twelve aside once more, he began to tell them what was going to happen to him. ‘We are on our way up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Humanity will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes. They will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit at him, flog him, and finally kill him. But three days later he will rise.’” Mark 10:32-34 The great ‘work’ of Jesus, the Son of God, was to embrace death. It was for this reason he became human. Not just physical death, all the death that can and does come against a human being in the course of a lifetime: depression, loss, broken relationships, shattered family life, betrayed trust, physical illness, mental and emotional disease, tragedy, senseless violence, hatred and persecution. Jesus’ great ‘work’ was to draw it all to himself in a terrifying, intimate embrace. In that embrace the “Author of Life” would impregnate every form of death with the seed of Omnipotent life . Proof of the truth of this would be given in three days when Jesus would rise, giving clear evidence that death could not hold this Omnipotent life. This then, is our conviction as Christians: Jesus, the Son of God and the Author of Life embraced death on his cross — every form of death that can come at a human being — and impregnated it with life, Omnipotent life! Death is no longer a dead-end. No form of death can hold for long against life. The Omnipotent life impregnated in it will break through.
“We are His Witnesses”
“You put to death the Author of Life, But God raised him from the dead, and we are His Witnesses” Acts 3:15 Because of what Jesus did, His disciples have a witness to give. We have something to say to every one of our fellow human beings who are struggling with death in any form. Our message comes right out of the Easter Gospel: “Mary (Magdalene) stood weeping beside the tomb. Even as she wept, she stooped to peer inside, and there she saw two angels in dazzling robes…‘Woman,’ they asked her, ‘why are you weeping?’ (Then) she turned around and caught sight of Jesus standing there. But she did not know him. ‘Woman,’ he asked her, ‘why are you weeping?’” John 20:11-18 Our message is simple and straight forward: “There are angels in every tomb!” The power of God is at work for life in every situation of death. This is the ‘work’ of Jesus. It is the meaning of his death and resurrection. The death you face and with which you now struggle is not a dead-end. There is life at work in it, Omnipotent life! This death cannot hold you. New life will emerge. “Jesus is standing near this tomb!” Jesus stands near every person struggling with death in any form. You do not have to face it alone. You do not have to deal with it by yourself. Jesus is near you. Open your heart to him. Give yourself to him. Our CONVICTION and our WITNESS give our lives a clear and undivided orientation: All we are and all we have is at the service of Jesus, at the service of the resurrection, and at the service of life. Our CONVICTION and our WITNESS call for a new RESOLVE: We will make no pact with death in any form, in any measure, or in any direction.
Dying, you destroyed our death; Rising, you restored our life; Lord Jesus, Come in glory! OUR CONVICTION Jesus, the Son of God and the Author of Life, embraced death on his cross — every form of death that can come at a human being — and impregnated it with life — Omnipotent life! Death is no longer a dead- end. No form of death can hold for long. Omnipotent life will break through. This is the ‘work’ of Jesus Christ, and we are witnesses to it. OUR WITNESS …to each other and to all our brothers and sisters who struggle with death “There are angels in this tomb!” The death you face and with which you now struggle is not a dead-end. The power of God is at work for life in it. It cannot hold you. New life will rise from it. “Jesus is standing near this tomb!” Jesus stands near every person struggling with death in any form. You do not have to face this death alone. You do not have to deal with it by yourself. Jesus is near you at this very moment. Open your heart to him. Give your life to him. OUR RESOLVE I exist for life! I will make no pact with death. I cannot give my heart or my hands to “a little bit of death” and “a little bit of life”. I cannot harbor a little anger, a little hatred or a little prejudice for just “some” people. I cannot do “occasional” death. It will divide my spirit, dissipate my energy and destroy me. I live for life — “life to the full” for all my sisters and brothers. My joy is to see Omnipotent life rise out of the death they face.