January 27, 2006

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Carrying Jesus’ message within our bodies

There’s a passage in Second Corinthians that I find especially intriguing because it seems to be the salvation message in a nutshell. It’s 2 Cor 4:10: “Continually we carry about in our bodies the dying of Jesus, so that in our bodies the life of Jesus may also be revealed.”

I take this to mean that Jesus became a man, not only as a sacrifice for human sins, but also as an example for human living and dying. The Messiah, the Christ, shows us the way to be truly human while striving for eternal connection with divinity. It’s as though he’s telling us, “Hey you guys down there on earth, almost [but never quite] perfect, keep on trying!”

It’s not hard to relate physically to Jesus the man. We’re born as he was, of a woman. We grow up, increasing “in wisdom and in strength,” as he did. We grieve, as he did over Lazarus, and indulge our moms now and then, as he did at the wedding feast at Cana.

Like us, Jesus experienced hunger and thirst during his 40 days in the desert. He was tempted by the devil as we are, although what he was offered in exchange for his soul was certainly greater than anything we might ask in exchange for ours—not to mention the pleasure it would give the devil!

Sometimes, we’re punished fairly for our offenses by parents, teachers, spouses or employers, and sometimes we punish ourselves with guilt. Sometimes, we’re hurt physically, in grade-school bullying or adult violence, or we’re wounded emotionally, even by people we love and admire.

Our pain of all kinds is real and it occurs regularly throughout life. Jesus, too, felt emotional pain when the disciples deserted him, and when people rejected the Good News he brought them. And the physical pain he experienced in the Crucifixion surpasses almost anything the rest of us ever endure.

As we age, the inevitability of death becomes more apparent because our bodies and minds begin to falter. Whatever false pride we had about our appearance, the size of our biceps or full heads of hair fade in significance. We’re humbled at this end of life as we were humble infants in the beginning.

If Jesus showed us how to live fully human, he also showed us how to die with grace. Note the operative word “grace” because it’s only by the grace of God that we come through the passage of death peacefully. Even the Savior begged, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Still, he gave us an exemplary model for the scariest human experience—death. Knowing his fate, he accepted injustice, beatings, scorn, terror and agony because it was his duty in following God’s will. He didn’t complain that he was misunderstood or try to lay blame on someone else for his imaginary sins. Rather, he suffered and commended his spirit into God’s hands.

We’ve all been inspired occasionally to see those who die gracefully, as Jesus did. They’re the folks who try to be cheerful no matter what comes, always thinking first of others’ feelings. They’re the brave ones who accept the inevitable without bitterness and live as fully as possible until the end.
They’re the ones who “get” Jesus’ message. They’re the faithful ones.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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