My dear sisters and brothers,
I write to you in contemplation of our deaths, “for we are convinced that One has died for all; therefore, all have died.” And I write to you in contemplation of our Life, for “He died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died and was raised for them.” According to Paul, all have died, but not all have been raised to life. If we are among those who live, we live in and for Jesus. There is no other life. Life apart from Christ is not life: it is living death. The only true life is to join Jesus, here and now, in His resurrection.
What does it mean to live as resurrected people in the midst of our earthly life? It means to stand as the risen Jesus stood, nail marks in our hands and feet. Our Lord Jesus lives as one who has died – and not just His own death, but the death to which the whole creation stood condemned. He, having taken death upon Himself, bears its marks forever in His body – for the Lamb in the midst of the throne stands slain. And we who live our lives in His do so in the midst of that death, always carrying in the body the death of Jesus. As there is no death to die but Jesus’ death, there is no life to live but Jesus’ life. And there is no way to live Jesus’ life save from participation in His death.
And the Light in darkness, the Life in death, that comes from our sharing in the Resurrection life of Christ is our witness to the world, our calling to those who are dead to come to life. “For we are always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our bodies. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.”
In our death in Christ, we are not preserved from dying the death of the world. Instead, as Jesus took on death to show that it was possible to rise, He gives us over to death that people might come to faith by witnessing our resurrection life. The Christian life is not a life without affliction, perplexity, persecution and being struck down: it is a life in which affliction, perplexity, persecution and being struck down are revealed as the weak things they are, unable to overcome the Life in us. The miracle is not that the phoenix does not burn – it is that it is born anew from the ashes.
If this seems difficult, be comforted that it is not we who makes ourselves live in the midst of the death in our lives: it is Jesus, by His Spirit. The same Spirit who is a guarantee that we will one day be clothed with a heavenly dwelling is even now beginning to clothe us with God. He who, in the midst of the “slight momentary affliction[,]” is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, is making us even now – even today – glorious in the midst of death.
Walk confidently into the mystery of that, my friends. And walk forth as mystery, as living sacraments of the crucified and risen Lord. Remember that One has died for all, and therefore you have died. And therefore you live. So that the world may know whence your life comes – whence all true Life comes – take on the world’s death with Christ and stand triumphant whatever befalls you – be it affliction, perplexity, persecution, or being struck down – to the glory of God the Father.