Friday, February 2, 2007

5. Jesus and the Father Break the Power of Sin and Death

So Jesus of Nazareth has resisted the temptation to run away or give up on God and has yielded to the Father’s love. Now comes to the moment when his opponents accuse him, torture him, and humiliate him, causing him to suffer the worst punishment the Romans could imagine. In the Gospel of John we see him presented to his enemies, beaten, robed in scarlet with the crown of thorns. In the Gospel of Mark we see him feeling so alienated even from the Father that he can only quote Psalm 22: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

But then, in Mark and most dramatically in Matthew, “darkness came over the whole land…the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Matthew 27:45, 51-52).

What is happening? Jesus of Nazareth is dying, of course. But, much more importantly, as Jesus of Nazareth dies, the Father reaches down into the physical darkness and the moral darkness of the worst of human sin – and pulls his son through sin and death into new life as the Risen Christ in Glory. As the Father pulls the Son through sin and death, he breaks the hold that sin and death have over Jesus of Nazareth. The now Risen Christ is triumphant over sin and death forever.

“Dying you destroyed our death! Rising you restored our life…!” we say in the mass when the priest asks us to “proclaim the mystery of our faith.”

This was a mutual action of Father and Son – Jesus of Nazareth giving up his human life to sin and death, and the Father leading his Son beyond the reach and power of human sin and death. By this mutual action the Father and Son have destroyed the power of sin and death, of human hatred, envy, and resentment to have lasting and ultimate power over us.

A key moment in the Eucharist is the Fracture Rite, the moment when the priest holds up the consecrated Host and breaks it, and the assembly sings “Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us, grant us peace.” The Fracture Rite, the breaking of the consecrated Host enacts yet again Jesus’ body being broken on the cross. The pouring of the consecrated Wine enacts yet again Jesus’ blood being spilled.

At this moment the Father reaches down into the midst of the assembled congregation and breaks the power of sin and death to hurt us who participate ultimately. The sin that wounds each of us in the concrete details of our daily lives and the death that threatens us in our daily lives – the power of this sin and death is broken again at that point in the mass.

We live Christ’s Eucharist in our daily lives as we face the challenges and encounters that confront us, knowing that the sin done to us and the death that threatens us cannot hurt us ultimately because of Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection. “…Lord Jesus, come in glory!”

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