Posted by: frroberts | October 25, 2017

Our death wish and the resurrection

I am sure you know someone, if you yourself are not that person, who hates going to an annual physical checkup.  Why are annual physicals hated up so many?  Because oftentimes doctors tell their patients to do things that they know are good for them, but the patients, while admitting that doing those things would be good for their health, ignore their doctor’s advice.

For example, a doctor tells a heavy smoker that he really ought to stop smoking.  The smoker knows the doctor is right, but keeps on smoking.

Another example, the doctor tell someone forty pounds overweight that she should watch what she eats and start a regular exercise routine.  She knows the doctor is right, but can’t seem to restrain herself from extra chocolates and can’t bring herself to join a gym.

We seem to have a real problem avoiding self-destructive behaviors.  And taking care of our health is just the beginning of our problems.  We know that we really ought to keep something to ourselves that could be used against us, but we can’t help but sharing it with a “trusted” friend who turns out to share it with her most trusted friends, until the whole town is talking about something we should have kept to ourselves.  We know that such and such a behavior will cause family discord, but we do it anyway for some inexplicable reason.  I could go on at considerable length.

There is something of the death wish in each one of us that cannot avoid self-defeating behaviors.

Saint Peter calls to mind the greatest self-defeating behavior that ever took place in the Acts of the Apostles when he tells the crowds in Jerusalem that “the author of life you put to put to death.”  When God came into the world as a man in order to set right all of the disorder that has come into the world on account of our sins, we responded to this Divine self-abasement by putting God on trial and executing Him.

There are oblique hints in the Old Testament that something like this might happen when the Messiah came.  Strangely enough, the clearest prophecy of what happened on Good Friday, came not from scripture, but the pagan philosopher Plato, who suggested that if a there were ever a truly just man, he would be tortured and crucified.

We say that we want to see justice, that we want God to show His face and put the world to rights, but when He did, we killed Him.

There is something of a parallel to this in contemporary culture with the football player Tim Tebow.  I am not saying that Tim Tebow is the second coming of Christ or anything like that.  But, as far as we can tell, he seems to be a Christian of outstanding character who practices what he preaches.  I can’t help but get the sense that the sports media would like to catch him in the act and prove that he is a fraud.  Either that or they dislike him because they think he is a holier-than-thou type who makes them feel judged.

Most of us don’t seem to know what to do with true goodness.  We either find it threatening or unbelievable.  The death wish inside of us is either too cynical or downright hostile to what is really good for us.  This is true when it comes to our health, our relationships and also our religion.

The Easter season is all about God’s response to our death wish.  “God raised Jesus from the dead, of this we are witnesses.”  When the Creator of the universe came into history, He took our death wish to Himself on the Cross.  And on the third day He rose again.  He shows us His glorious wounds and says “Peace be with you.”  Jesus has won the victory over sin and death and offers us the freedom of the children of God, freedom from the self-destructive behaviors that play such a large role in our lives.

We grab hold of this offer through repentance and conversion.  How do we understand these words?  Repentance means far more than being sorry for our sins.  It means a total re-ordering of our thinking so that we learn to think with “the mind of Christ.”  Conversion means far more than joining a group.  It means that we stop walking according to our will, turn the other way and start walking according to God’s will.  While there can be dramatic moments of repentance and conversion, these two dynamics ought to be very frequent events in the life of a Christian.

The Catholic Church ritualizes conversion and repentance in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  We use this sacrament best when we take the time really analyze the ways in which our minds are conformed to the world and how we according to our own will.  Doing that is so much more than making a laundry list of our bad beahvior, although without a list it is exceedingly difficult to start to get at the cause of our spiritual sicknesses.

The resurrection promises to give us new life and that new life in abundance.  Unlike following our doctors’ advice, living lives of repentance and conversion will give us life without end.  But like our doctors’ advice, only listening to words without putting them into practice will do us no good.

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