STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Fifteenth Station — Jesus Is Raised From The Dead, by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin

From The Journey to Peace

Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and in which you stand firm. You are being saved by it at this very moment if you hold fast to it as I preached it to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  I handed on to you first of all what I myself received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried and, in accordance with the Scriptures, rose on the third day; that he was seen by Cephas, then by the Twelve.  After that he was seen by five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still alive, although some have fallen asleep.  Next he was seen by James; then by all the apostles.  Last of all he was seen by me, as one born out of the normal course.  I am the least of the apostles; in fact, because I persecuted the church of God, I do not even deserve the name.  But by God’s favor I am what I am.  This favor of his to me has not proved fruitless.  Indeed, I have worked harder than all the others, not on my own but through the favor of God.  In any case, whether it be I or they, this is what we preach and this is what you believed.

Tell me, if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how is it that some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ himself has not been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is void of content and your faith is empty too.  Indeed, we should then be exposed as false witnesses of God, for we have borne witness before him that he raised up Christ; but he certainly did not raise him up if the dead are not raised.  Why?  Because if the dead are not raised, then Christ was not raised; and if Christ was not raised, your faith is worthless.  You are still in your sins, and those who have fallen asleep in Christ are the deadest of the dead.  If our hopes in Christ are limited to this life only, we are the most pitiable of men. (1 Corinthians 15:3-17)

The Cross: A Bridge To New Life In Christ

Thanks to the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, death for the believer becomes a movement from life on this Earth to greater life in Heaven, from a veiled knowledge of God’s love to the fullness of that love when we will see God face to face.

For those who try to respond to the call to love others as the Lord loved us, dying is, in a sense, an everyday occurrence in our lives.  The Christian life is like a seed that has to fall to the ground, be buried, and broken open to produce fruit.  Each of us needs to accept the daily difficulties and challenges of love, if the potential for life that God has created in us is to be realized.

We are baptized, Saint Paul says, into Jesus’s death.  That death was a dying to the old life to be able to rise to a new, better life.  Through baptism we are “in Christ,” and his spirit of life dwells in us.  These truths will only seem real to us, however, if we try to deepen our awareness of the many ways in which the Lord is present to us as members of this believing community.

The difficulty, the dying, is the process of giving ourselves away.  The Lord assures us in his love that each of us is precious and unique in his eyes.  The life, which is ours, is his gift to us.  Once we realize that, we know that we cannot keep his gift for ourselves.  We must give ourselves to others.  But this is not an easy task.

God’s presence in our lives, however, energizes us and gives us hope.  The gospel’s call to “hate” our lives in this world is an emphatic way of saying that true life is found only through rejecting those things that turn us from God, the source of life.

Too often, however, we become quite comfortable with the things that stand between God and us.  As the Book of Wisdom says, “the witchery of paltry things obscures what is right and the whirl of desire transforms the innocent mind.” (4:12)  Turning away from things that have such a hold on us can be an uncomfortable kind of dying.  But this is the only way to the fullness of life.  So accepting the dying that leads to true life is something we do each day as believers.  What we are really searching for each day is Christ himself, who says, “Where I am, there will my servant be.” (John 12:26)

We take up the challenges – the dying – of our baptism as soon as we step out of church.  How does what we profess and experience here make sense in the world out there?  Or, perhaps, we should turn the question around: How does the world out there make sense when we hear God’s word and worship him in here?

We need to help one another find answers to these questions.  We need to help one another build bridges and make connections that reconcile the world to Christ.  In fact, we ourselves must become the connecting links.  Our mission is to be ambassadors who show Christ to the world and help to make the world a new creation in his image.

But ambassadors need to have an intimate knowledge of the one they are representing.  Ambassadors speak on behalf of others.  So they need to know well the thoughts, demands, wishes, and points of view of those they represent.

That means that we need to know how to experience and celebrate Christ, the one whom we represent, in nature, in people, in the Scriptures, in the Eucharist, in moments of prayer and reflection.  Our gatherings as a parish community are meant to help us to do this and to grow as representatives of the Lord in our world.

Almighty God, I tend to hold on to things and people.
I want to control my own life.  It is difficult for
me to “let go” of pet peeves and pet projects.
It is hard to “let go” of old habits and walk more
steadily and faithfully in your ways.  Help me to
die to self so I may become the person you
created me to be.
Amen.

United With Jesus In Love, We Never Walk Alone

Jesus’s promise – that he will never abandon us, that he will not leave us orphans (John 14:18) – is not theoretical, pious, or superficial.  It is real.  It is living.  And, my dear brothers and sisters, it is made to you and me!

This passage from Saint John’s Gospel occurs at the Last Supper when Jesus is saying goodbye to his disciples.  We can imagine their inner tension, their bitter-sweet anxiety, their fear of being abandoned – lost without Jesus.  They need to be reassured.  So Jesus prays that his disciples – not only those in the Upper Room but also his disciples for all ages to come – will love him and remain united to him, just as he is one with the father.

If you love me and obey the commands I give you,” Jesus said, “I will ask the father and he will give you another Paraclete – to be with you always, the Spirit of Truth.” (John 14:15-16)

Jesus is saying, in effect, “When you are united with me in love, I will never – I can never – abandon you.  You will never be orphans!  You will never stand or walk alone!”

Even though the risen Lord now dwells at God’s right hand, his Holy Spirit, his special gift to the community of faith, is still wonderfully accessible to us today.

Although we are not witnesses to the risen Lord in precisely the same way as Peter and the other disciples, we have experienced foretastes of the resurrection, we have experienced the presence of Jesus in our lives in so many ways.  Let me explain what I mean.

Our ability to survive and keep trusting after the death of a loved one or after we have experienced some other psychological trauma; our passage from ignorance, bias, and intellectual narrowness to greater insight, broader acceptance, and more openness; our human capacity to hope and to protest human misery and suffering, despite the prevalence of defeatism and cynicism; our willingness to dedicate our lives to serving others despite the frequent obstacles and setbacks we encounter – all of these are partial foretastes of the experience of the resurrection.  They point to the fullness of life, meaning, and love that Jesus himself shared with us at Easter.  They remind us that the risen Lord is always present among us.

The gospel challenges us to allow our lives to be transformed by that plenitude of meaning and love, to live out the implications of the new life inaugurated by the Easter mysteries.

If you have ever fallen in love, moving from an overconcern about yourself to a greater concern for someone else, you have experienced new life.  Jesus asks us to love as he loves: Love the sick, the elderly, the forgotten, the oppressed, the addicted, the marginal people.

If you have ever moved beyond hopelessness, despair, or cynicism to discover meaning and an abiding goodness in life, you have experienced Easter; you have experienced the presence of the risen Lord.  And Jesus asks us today to be instruments of peace and sacraments of hope for those who have neither the power nor the experience of either.

If your life has ever been revitalized or renewed, if you have ever been given a second chance to undo past mistakes, if you have ever been given a new lease on life after suffering from a physical, emotional, or spiritual trauma, you have experienced resurrection.  Jesus asks us today to share with others the good news that has been proclaimed to us, the wonderful realities that we have personally enjoyed.

We need to pay close attention to these experiences of new life, for we are often besieged by the counterforces of violence, chaos, and death.   In his letter to the Romans, Saint Paul defines this human condition in cosmic proportions.  He speaks of all creation groaning expectantly for the fullness of salvation when the human family will finally live in communion with God and the whole of creation of good will yearn to be free of the restraint of corruption that sin places upon us. (Romans 8:18-25)

For Saint Paul, hope is the trademark of a committed Christian, but not the kind of hope that is mere wishful thinking.  Hope is not a naïve optimism that tries, without any credible basis, to persuade us that things will inevitably get better.  No, our hope is based on the risen Lord’s abiding presence among us and on the gift of his Holy Spirit.  And on the basis of this hope, and our trust in this divine presence, we walk on our pilgrim journey and carry out our ministry with confidence, courage, and inner peace.

And that is why we gather around the eucharistic table.  We gather in the presence of the risen Lord.  We have listened to the word of God.  And we partake of Jesus’s body and blood, which will nourish and strengthen us for our pilgrim journey and our ministry of healing.  By shedding his own blood, Jesus revealed that our true greatness – indeed, our authentic vocation – is to share the gift of ourselves with others, especially the most vulnerable in our society.  As Pope John Paul II has pointed out,

Precisely because it is poured out as the gift of life, the blood of Christ is no longer a sign of death, but the instrument of a communion which is richness of life for all.  Whoever in the sacrament of the Eucharist drinks this blood and abides in Jesus is drawn into the dynamism of his love and gift of life, in order to bring to its fullness the original vocation to love which belongs to everyone. (Evangelium Vitae, 25)

My friends, the Eucharist establishes a communion of life between ourselves and the Lord and among ourselves.  His is an awesome mystery!  My prayer for all of us is that we continue to grow in the experience and living-out of Easter.  May we open our minds and hearts so Jesus and his father and the Holy Spirit may always dwell within us.

God of all consolation, the death and resurrection
of your beloved son have changed the human family
forever.  My Christian hope is based on the risen
Lord’s abiding presence in my life and in that of
my community – indeed, throughout the world.
Based on that hope, may I walk on my pilgrim way
with all my brothers and sisters, confident that you
love me and all of us very, very much.
Amen.

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