Father James Chelich – Easter 2008
Continually We Carry About Within Us the Dying and the Rising of Jesus!
As a result of our original sin, human nature became fundamentally distorted. It has remained so for all men and women from generation to generation. History well attests to this. Turned in upon itself, our human nature became prone to greed and discontent.
It became angry and violent – dying itself and dealing death to all around. Saint James describes it well:
It is not your inner cravings that make war within your members?
What you desire you do not obtain, and so you resort to murder.
You envy and you cannot acquire, so you quarrel and fight.
You do not obtain because you do not ask.
You ask and you do not receive because you ask wrongly,
with a view to squandering what you receive on your pleasures. James 4:1b-3
Fallen human nature fails to connect with God, with others, and with the world in
a life-giving way. It loses sight of the good in people and things, and becomes blind
to beauty. Fears of every kind take possession of it and drive the way in which it reacts to things.
Saint John explains that God, the Word Who created all things in the beginning,
and Who first fashioned our human nature, “became flesh.” (John 1:1-3, 14)
In other words, God, while keeping His divine nature, took upon Himself our human nature and came among us “in the likeness of men.”(see Philippians 2:5-8) The human nature God took on in Jesus was our fallen human nature. The prophet Isaiah writes:
It was our infirmities that he bore. Isaiah 53:4
Saint Paul tells us:
For our sakes God made him who did not know sin, to become sin,
so that in him we might become the very holiness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
God cannot sin. So if Jesus is God, why does Saint Paul say he became sin? Saint Paul is saying that in Jesus, God the Son took on a human nature overwhelmingly prone to sin. Fallen human nature in every human person is overwhelmingly prone to sin. Of our own strength, we cannot long resist. But the proclivity to sin in our fallen human nature is not overwhelming for the Divine Person who took it on. God the Son, did this in Jesus. And Saint Paul makes it clear that He did it for a reason: that we might become the very holiness of God. What happened to fallen human nature in Jesus? How did it happen in him? How can it happen for us?
Are you not aware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death?
Through baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that,
just as Christ was raised from the death by the glory of the Father,
we too might live a new life…
His death was death to sin, once for all; his life is life for God.
In the same way, you must consider yourselves dead to sin
and alive for God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:3-4; 10-11
The entire life of Jesus was death to sin and life for God. Every one of his actions was
a “no” to the sin his human nature wanted him to do, and a “yes” to the good God call us to do. Throughout the full course of his life, each time he acted contrary to his sin-prone human nature, Jesus unwove a part of the old human nature in him and rewove a restored human nature in its place. This was the work of the Divine Person he was.
This continued throughout his human life, until at his death, Jesus had rewoven,
in himself, a complete and entirely new humanity, a way of being human fully restored
to the way God created it to be. The Letter to the Hebrews says:
He had to become like his bothers (and sisters) in every way,
that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God on their behalf,
to expiate the sins of the people…
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness,
but one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet never sinned.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy and favor and to find help in time of need. Hebrews 3:17; 4:15-16
A powerful and enduring motivation for becoming a Christian is found when a person recognizes in Jesus a new way of being a human being, and, as a result, comes to want this, above all else, for himself – to say with her whole heart’s desire:
“I want to be the new human being I see in him.”
But how to actually become this new human being? If wishes could make it so, then truly this would be a perfect world. But wishes won’t cut it, and neither will resolutions. The way Jesus showed us, the only way, is to die and to rise. The spiritual arts of dying and rising are vital and work together to create a new humanity out of an old one.
Saint Paul wrote:
If we have been united with Christ through likeness to his death,
so shall we be through a life resurrection. Romans 6:5
You must lay aside your former way of life
and old self which deteriorates through illusion and desire
and…put on that new man created in God’s image,
whose justice and holiness are born of the truth. Ephesians 4: 21-24
But again, how to do this? Can you buy the power to die to the Old Self and rise
to the New Woman or Man? Someone in the Bible actually once tried to (see Acts 8:9-24). The power to die to the old and rise to the new cannot be purchased nor can it be put
into a potion or found in a self help book. Neither is it a function of will-power.
It belongs to Jesus alone. It does not exist apart from him. One can have “it”
only if one receives “Him.” Jesus said it plainly:
He who lives in me and I in him will produce abundantly,
but apart from me you can do nothing. No more than a branch
can bear fruit of itself apart from the vine, can you bear fruit
apart from me. John 15: 5, 4
The key is to receive Jesus and invite him to live within you. This requires a personal act of faith in which you entrust your life to him. It then means asking him to enter in and actually live within you. This must renewed each day. Finally, the way you receive Holy Communion must acquire a very specific intent: to receive Jesus and to know the dying and the rising of Jesus within you.
As you pass through your day and the successive events of your life, it is to Jesus, living within you, that you turn and from him that you draw the resolution and strength to die
to your sinful inclinations, attitudes, words and actions. You die to them with him,
as he died to them for you. It is to Jesus, living within you, that you turn and from him that you receive the power to rise and be a new and different woman or man – a woman or man of honesty, free of the paralysis of fear, full of courage, possessed of an unbounded compassion, fully capable of engaging with life and connecting with
what is good and beautiful in all things. You rise to a new life with him, as he rose
to live for you.
Because of his great love for us (God) brought us to life with Christ
when we were dead in sin. By this favor you were saved.
Both with and in Christ Jesus he raised us up… This is not your own doing,
it is God’s gift; neither is it a reward for anything you have accomplished…
We are truly his handiwork, created in Christ to lead the life of good deeds
which God prepared for us in advance. Ephesians 2:4-10
What makes us Christians is that we carry about within us “the dying and rising
of Jesus,” and this becomes our salvation, our freedom, our transformation, and our hope of glory. The words of the Mass become the motto of our life: To die, to rise and to live through him, with him, and in him! There is no other Way! All this flows from Him living within us. And so he prayed:
I have given them the glory You gave me
that they may be one, as we are one –
I living in them, You living in me…
So shall the world know that You sent me
and that You loved them as You loved me.
John 17: 22-23