Fr. Joseph Levine; April 4, 2021
Jesus Christ is the victor over sin and death. That is our faith.
By his suffering and death on the Cross he gave meaning and purpose to our suffering and death and by his resurrection from the dead he emptied death of its power.
Jesus Christ is the victor over death.
The light of his resurrection reveals the lack of faith in the world and, alas, the lack of faith among Christians. It is easy to understand why those who do not believe in Christ might be panicked and preoccupied by the pandemic, which when it is placed in historical perspective is not that severe, but why have so many Christians been so fearful? Is it only because we have bought into the propaganda that there is a remote chance of unwittingly infecting someone else?
Jesus Christ is the victor over death.
That does not mean that we should be careless with our life in this world, much less careless with the life of others, but it does mean that we need to keep things in proportion, we need to remember that neither life in this world nor physical health are absolute values. That is a good thing since life in this world is always a risky and dangerous affair. We will always have something to suffer here.
Jesus Christ is also the victor over sin.
If we want to take part in Jesus’ victory over death, we must first take part in his victory over sin, we must allow him to conquer sin in our own life. We cannot, however, conquer sin in our own lives, even with the help of the grace of God, so long as our vision remains confined to this life, so long as we follow the morality of the world.
Because many Christians do not let Jesus victory over death touch their lives in a real way, they end up following the morality of this world.
The morality of this world has a name; it is called utilitarianism. It judges good and evil in terms of temporal utility. Basically, it works like this: the goods of this world are limited and conflicting, always mixed with the bad; so the goal is to maximize the good and minimize the bad, not just for oneself, but for everyone; the standard of utilitarian morality is ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’. It is the principle of ‘cost-benefits analysis’ made universal and extended to every part of life.
The utilitarian analysis lies behind some common arguments made in favor of abortion: it is better to allow abortion than to multiply unwanted children; or it is better to reduce abortion by economic policies that fight poverty. These arguments see abortion as one ‘evil’ among many to be addressed according to a utilitarian calculus. Never mind that for the real die-hard proponents of abortion these were never more than arguments employed to weaken the opposition.
There is one huge presupposition in the utilitarian calculus, namely that somehow all goods and evils can be measured one against another. Hidden behind that presupposition is a supposition of materialism, namely, that material, physical reality is all that exists.
Once, however, that we realize that there is also a spiritual reality and that spirit is infinitely superior to matter, then we will grasp also that there is no proportion between spiritual good and material good.
Jesus asks: What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? (Mt 16:26) The materialist replies, “What soul?” Nevertheless, the materialist could never ask the question if he did not have a rational and spiritual soul. A chimpanzee can’t ask that question.
Once, however, we realize that there is a spiritual soul and a spiritual good, that changes everything. Then we realize that the salvation of the soul outweighs every temporal good. Then we realize that a single voluntary sin, which stains the spiritual soul, is a greater evil than the most grievous physical suffering and even death. Then we refuse the utilitarian calculus, which requires that we always choose a good mixed with evil, because that is the character of all material things. Instead, we learn to choose the spiritual good, unmixed with evil, while accepting physical suffering as a part of life, rather than as a pure evil to be avoided as much as possible.
Jesus Christ is the victor over sin and death.
He conquered death by his bodily resurrection. He thereby teaches us that our material body is destined for a spiritual transformation. He thereby teaches us the true dignity of our body here upon earth because our body is destined for the resurrection; our body already is meant to become a temple of the Holy Spirit. (cf. 1 Cor 6:19)
How often have we heard: “My body. My choice.”
The statement is made in regard to abortion; the woman claims the unborn baby as part of her own body. That claim is false. Yet, the claim ‘my body’ is not really true either.
St. Paul writes: You are not your own; you were purchased with a price – the price being the most precious Blood of Jesus Christ – therefore, glorify God in your body. (1 Cor 6:19-20)
That is true in a special way of those whose bodies have been consecrated by the waters of baptism. Nevertheless, since Christ shed his Blood for all and calls all to baptism, just as he calls everyone to the heavenly wedding feast, it is true by extension for everyone.
We must, then, use our body, male or female, not according to our fancy, but according to God’s design.
In the words of St. Paul: Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin must not have dominion over you, since you are not under the law, but under grace. (Rm 6:12-14)
That is the newness of life that has been given to us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. He has truly risen. Alleluia!