instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, July 13, 2020

The Christian Two-Step

I think I almost figured something out today.

As St. Paul teaches:

If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.

"Dead to sin and living for God." Stealing from Bl. Columba Marmion, this is the linchpin of my lesson on Baptism when I've taught that session in RCIA. To become a Christian has two essential dimensions: Die to sin. Live for God.

I got that part. Death/Life. Descent/Ascent. Exitus/Reditus. Into the Jordan/Up from the Jordan. The movement of the Christian, imitating the movement of Christ.

And I am not unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death.

But I'm still working on the dying part.

Being dead to sin is easy. Being dead is no effort at all. It's becoming dead that stings. And the death-to-sin of the Christian isn't an easy, peacefully in the night kind of death. It's a crucifixion. The old man doesn't go quietly, he kicks and screams and pleads and hangs on longer than most executioners are willing to wait.

St. Paul says we must think of ourselves as dead to sin, but of course that's not enough. We must really be dead to sin, and you don't get to be dead to sin just by thinking it, or saying it. You have to actually do it. As St. Paul goes on to say:

Therefore, sin must not reign over your mortal bodies so that you obey their desires.

You overthrow sin by dying to sin. You do that by taking up your cross every day and following your Master.

"Die to sin" is Christian ascesis. "Live for God" is Christian apotheosis. It's the daily, the constant movement of the Christian; one step, then the other, along the road to Golgotha and eternal life.