We who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death.
We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death so that,
just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,
we too might live in newness of life.
[Paul to the Romans, 6:3-4]
The Paschal Mystery is God’s way of doing things: new-life-only-through-dying. Christ’s dying and rising are a mirror to what God wants to do in all of us, all the time – not only at our physical deaths. But few except the saints let God love them into the fuller joy and humanity that’s beyond “adulthood” as our culture imagines it.
But look at “normal” adult life in our culture (and quite possibly in us): anxiety about jobs, relationships, possessions, growing old…; addictions (to drugs, food, experience, “love,” sex, work, possessions); envy of others’ supposed happiness; jealous factionalism (based on language, ethnicity, religion, and more); a readiness to resort to violence (verbal or physical) even if “only as a last resort” (consider our prisons and the widespread support for capital punishment); the harboring of old wounds and resentments; stinginess with giving (forgiveness and alms); readiness to “spin” the truth when it serves our purposes… Is this the best human beings are capable of?
Often when sincere people observe such weaknesses in themselves their remedy is to apply a corrective discipline; and there’s a place for that. But the goal is not to be a “normal adult” who no longer has such weaknesses. (It’s almost the definition of “normal adult” to display these traits.) God’s call is to a way of life “beyond adulthood” – in our traditional language, to become a saint. The invitation – the paschal mystery in action – is to die to a whole way of living that we’re comfortable in, and to break through into something unknown, just as an infant leaves behind the bliss of merely physical existence for childhood, and the child leaves dependency behind for adulthood.
Saints don’t walk around with halos; but we can notice them, if we look, by the absence of the characteristics of “adult” behavior that I’ve sketched above. It’s only partly that they’re better-disciplined than we are. At root, they live differently because they’ve surrendered to a dying most of us fear – and been reborn, even on Earth, into a wider and more joyful life than we can imagine. As Dorothy Day used to say, “All the way to heaven is heaven.” But only if we die to our normal way of life, as Christ did, so that we may live with Him. Happy Easter and, until next week, Peace