Sunday, April 24, 2011

Alleluia, Resurrexit Sicut Dixit, Alleluia

In the Gospels we hear Jesus called many things. He truly has many names. Jesus: this is a Hebrew word Yeshu means save and Ya refers to God's holy name. The name of Jesus tells us that God saves, he remembers us, has mercy on us, he saves us.

Christ: also known as Jesus' last name. Well not exactly. Christ is a Greek word that means anointed. When the early Church calls Jesus the Christ they are saying that he is the long-awaited Messiah. He is the King who came to follow in the steps of David, the Lord's anointed.

Jesus is given many titles: master, rabbi, teacher, Lord. All of these tell us that Jesus guides us, teaches us, instructs us. Jesus is to be our master and guardian.

St. John's gospel calls Jesus the Word of God. St. Mark's gospel calls him the son of God. These names remind us of the divinity of Christ. Jesus is the second person of the Blessed Trinity. He is divine. Through him all things were made. He is great and glorious.

Jesus often refers to himself as the son of man. This title reminds us that while Jesus is truly God, he freely chose to become one like us in all things but sin. Jesus is truly human, he knows what it means to be human.

All of these names of Jesus tell us about Christ. They all tell us who Jesus is. However, in the gospel today we hear a new name. This name does not tell us so much about who Jesus is, but it tells us what he has done. Today Jesus is called the Crucified. What a strange name to be called!

Imagine hearing this name way back in the first century. This would have been an ugly name, an insulting name. Crucifixion was an ugly, brutal form of execution meant to strike fear into the hearts of anyone who thought of emulating the convicted.

Today we have crucifixes everywhere: here at Church, in our homes, we even wear them as jewelry. As such, we can forget, sometimes, just how awful crucifixion really was. Yet this name, Jesus the Crucified, is the most glorious name we can give to our Lord. Because this name refers to the saving work of Jesus on the Cross, and we must always remember that the glory of the resurrection is only possible through the suffering of the cross.

The new life of the risen Lord was won by his saving death. During Lent I am always trying to remind people that the season is directed toward Easter. If we took up our penance and self-sacrifice without reference to the feast of Easter it would be suffering without a point. The same is true of the Cross. If Good Friday ended with Jesus in the tomb, with him staying there to this day, then his death would be final and empty. The resurrection gives new meaning to the death of Jesus and the feast of Easter gives new meaning to the season of Lent. Yet, we can be mistaken if we go the other way too. Today we remember the resurrection of our Savior. We ponder Jesus in all of his glory, but he forever remains Jesus the crucified. We cannot remember either the cross or the resurrection, because in Jesus we always get both the cross and the resurrection. The two go together now forever.

Now you might be thinking that this is all well and good and important. But, what does it have to do with our daily lives? The answer, of course, is everything. Last night at the Easter Vigil and today at this Mass we celebrate the sacrament of baptism, men and women from our parish becoming a new creation and clothing themselves in Christ. The same thing happened to all of us, on the day of our baptism we were configured to Christ and we became his followers. But, if we are going to be followers of Jesus we cannot simply accept half of the gospel. We all desire the everlasting life of heaven, but there is only one ladder to heaven, the cross of Christ.

Jesus says in the gospel if you wish to be my disciples you must deny yourself, pick up your cross daily and follow me. St. Paul tells us what this looks like in our second reading: if you were raised with Christ seek what is above. Through our baptism we participate in the new life of the resurrection of Christ. This must change how we think, feel, live. We have truly been raised to a new life, seek what is above. Yet, this is only made possible when we die to ourselves and take up the cross: for you have died and your life is hidden now with Christ in God.

To be Christian means that we are followers of Christ, not mere admirers. If all we do is admire Christ, to think of him as a good teacher, or a good man who died for us, even think of him as the glorified and risen savior, but don't become like him we will have no part in his resurrection, for resurrection is only won through suffering and self-denial. This is why Lent always precedes Easter. We cannot celebrate the Resurrection without self-denial.

Now, this may seem a little depressing for Easter Sunday morning. Why am I talking about suffering and self-denial? Well, it is certainly true to say that to follow Christ is most difficult. In fact, I dare say that Christianity is impossible for us. At least, Christianity is impossible for us on our own. Yet, we are never alone. This is the good news of Easter morning. This is what fills us with Joy. Christ is forever with us. He is with us and supports us in the struggle of our daily lives. In his own suffering and death, Jesus took to himself all of human suffering. Jesus the Crucified is behind us and beneath us to support us. He lives forever to aid us in the struggle of our existence. And, this Crucified one goes before us into the resurrection, calling us forward into this new life. So, just like that pillar of fire and cloud that led the people of Israel through the desert, Jesus Christ has gone before us to guide us into the new life of the resurrection, but he forever remains the crucified to stay behind us to support us in our daily struggles.

Jesus has many names. But, Jesus the Crucified might be the most beautiful. Christ, son of God, son of Man, Messiah, teacher, Lord: all these names tell us who Jesus is. But, Jesus the Crucified tells us how much he loves us. He laid down his own life to save us. And he remains forever the crucified to aid us in our own trials so that one day we might share with him the new life of the Resurrection.

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