SUNDAY’S READINGS | April 24, 2022
The signs recorded in the gospel all have one purpose. Jesus turned water into wine, healed a young man near death, gave strength to a lame man at a pool of water, fed more than 5,000, walked upon the stormy sea, gave sight to a man born blind, raised Lazarus from the dead — all for one glorious reason. In the words of St. John, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31). This interpretive key opens not only John’s gospel but the whole of the Old and New Testaments. “These things are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” To believe and to have life in his name is a true sharing in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, of which you and I are privileged witnesses.
In the Passion and death of Jesus, in his descent among the dead, and preeminently in the Resurrection, Jesus Christ reveals God’s inexhaustible love for us, and he frees us from our sins (Rev. 1:5). Here, and briefly, we must inquire about the word sin. There are a few perfectly correct ways to define this word that do not fully express its gravity. For instance, it can mean a failure to hit the mark, an error of understanding, a single moral lapse. Its more common usage in the New Testament, however, especially in the writings of St. Paul, suggests an evil and pervasive power that rules over humanity. In this unusual time of global pandemic, it might help to think of sin similarly as a deadly threat to humanity that is highly transmissible.
Here is a brief list of sayings about sin, all taken from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: death spread to all because all have sinned, all are under the power of sin, the whole body of sin, enslaved to sin. In this view, sin is a form of captivity from which there seems no escape. Again, to quote St. Paul, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me” (Rom. 7:19-20). The grave and pervasive power of sin explains why otherwise perfectly decent human beings can, if sufficiently tempted, do horrible things. As if in despair, St. Paul cries out, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24).
St. Paul would not dwell on the gravity of sin, but for this joyous exclamation: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:25).
Jesus descended to the dead, “broke the bond of death and hell, and rose victorious from the grave” (Exsultet, BCP). In so doing, he delivers us and frees us from the gloom of sin, so that, in union with him, we might become a new humanity. United to the risen Lord, we become our true selves, the person “which in God, in the freedom of God, I am, and you are” (Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans).
That we must still grow in grace and love, that we must still repent when we sin and turn to the Lord is, of course, clear. The victory, nonetheless, has been accomplished and cannot be revoked. “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Look It Up: Psalm 118:16-17
Think About It: The Lord is exalted!