Sunday, August 01, 2010

More about Putting to Death

So, today at Mass I heard this reading from Colossians:

Brothers and sisters: If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory. Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all. (Col. 3:1-5, 9-11)

I was struck by another reference to "putting to death," after just musing on this theme in my last post. This text, from Paul, is obviously written in a post-Easter, post-Pentecost context and understanding. His understanding of what it means to "put to death" is rooted in the fact that we are now in Christ, and raised with him (in baptism, cf. Rom 6:4-5). Paul tells us we have died, and therefore we put to death. This is like saying, you have been saved, so bring yourself into your salvation. This whole concept of the timeline of salvation and how we experience it is a key difference between Catholic Christian teaching and the variety of non-Catholic Christian teachings. I have been given Christ's life. His passion, death, resurrection and ascension accomplished in time the offer of new life to me and the rest of the world. My baptism imparted spiritually to me all of Christ's potential for my life. And my process of living, this gift of grace that I have called my life, has as its entire purpose the outworking into my experience of all that potential in and by the power of the Holy Spirit, transforming my will and making real, actual changes in who I am, so that in my unique individuality I am made to be like Him.

"Put to death" suddenly takes on a whole new meaning in this thorough-going Christian context. There is one death that means anything to me, and that is Christ's on the cross. When I "put to death," I bring my immorality, my impurity, my passion, and my evil desire (which means I first have to own it, not live in proud denial of my sinful reality) and render it up to Jesus on the cross. In practical terms, to me this means I bring the worst of me before the deepest, most passionate love of God expressed to me, which is Christ on the cross. And there, I find that love wins. Love is stronger than sin, stronger than death. In my most vulnerable I find not a kick in the gut, not rejection, not a entrance-exam-of-worth that I could never pass, not silence, but I find God's deepest passion... yearning ... for me.

And it occurred to me today that this is precisely what every single Mass is about. I am to bring my life just as it is, again to Calvary. I come to put death that which is impure, but not just that. I come to walk away with the gift of life in my body, having met my Lord in His deepest passion and received into me His life in exchange for my death.

I'm sure there's an applicable quotation from St. John of the Cross for this. I'll have to go searching.

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