Dying and Rising

4 Easter

Acts 9:36-43 • Ps. 23 • Rev. 7:9-17 • John 10:22-30

“You do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep” (John 10:26). One must belong to believe. How is it that we belong? The voice of Christ cries and we hear it, we are drawn to it and are safe in it. “No one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). As for those who hear not the voice, nor see the works of the Father, we may conclude only this: they do not hear or see now. And let us ever pray a versicle and response: V. “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved” (Rom. 10:1). R. “I have sheep that are not yet of this fold” (John 10:16). While it is true that we are called to preach and witness, we add nothing by our worry. God is God in this as all things.

Those who belong and believe participate in every mystery unfolding in the life of Christ. Among these mysteries, death and resurrection are preeminent. We are dying and rising with Christ; we have been doing so from the moment sacred water made us clean in the newness of the One who broke the bonds of death, from the moment faith was implanted and imputed and infused. This mystery is not sequential, but a present moment. “Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8).

And yet one aspect of the mystery may come at times into special focus. The dying is very clear, for instance, in a place we would not expect it, in a heavenly vision. The tone is victorious as we see the great multitude of tribes, peoples, nations, the angels, the elders, and the four living creatures gathered before the throne. But when the question is asked, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” (Rev. 9:13), we hear about the crucifixion of Christ, our inevitable death in communion with him. “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 9:14). These martyrs are, as the word means, witnesses. They are witnesses in their life and in their death; enduring the great ordeal, they are fixed to Christ, nailed to the tree. It still happens. Unimaginable, but it happens. To those given a calmer course, life still runs out and makes its way to death. “This, to be sure, is a sorry martyrdom; yet God accepts it for his Son’s sake” (J.H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, sermon 4). In either case, our beginning (baptism) and our end (death) is to die with Christ.

Sometimes rising with Christ comes into special focus. This new life erupts not where life is brimming. It is not nature’s unfolding. It is not the newness of spring. It is not a moment of contentment and inner peace. The resurrection is as strange as it is true, showing itself in death. Indeed, a disciple devoted to good works and charity is still a disciple going to death. When Tabitha dies, those who love her weep and cling to sacraments of her life. This is as it should be. All our natural affections are deepened in Christ. The story turns from death to life when suddenly her eyes are opened and she is raised. She does not do this, nor does Peter by his command. Peter is the agent, a sent angel for the opening of a great mystery. “Though she were dead, yet she will live” (John 22:25).

Look It Up
Read Acts 9:39. Death hallows what the deceased have made in their lifetime. Hold these tokens.

Think About It
Your nature is stuck to him, and thus you die and rise with him.

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