The Resurrection and Walking in the Newness of Life
We were buried with Christ in baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life. (Rm 6:4) With these words St. Paul states, very succinctly, the practical importance of Jesus’ resurrection for our life in this world. Through his resurrection we were called to baptism and having been baptism we are called to walk in the newness of life.
This newness of life is not just some nice phrase, it has a very specific meaning. It refers to the life of grace, sanctifying grace, by which we share in the very life of God. The newness of life is opposed to the oldness of sin. The newness of life comes to us from Jesus Christ, risen from the dead and ascended to the right hand of his Father; it is poured out upon us by the Holy Spirit, which he has given to his Church; it is communicated to us in a very concrete and tangible fashion through the seven sacraments. Above all it is nourished in us by the sacrament of sacraments, the Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ.
Yet, we are called to ‘walk’ in the newness of life. That means this is not something automatic but requires our cooperation. The newness of life in the Holy Spirit is not opposed to the law of God, rather it is the Holy Spirit that gives us the power to life in accord with the law of God.
Jesus Christ said, Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them, but to fulfill them … whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men to do so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:17,19)
When the rich young man came and asked him what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus told him to keep the commandments, he then listed: you shall not kill, shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and your mother, and, love your neighbor as yourself. (Mt 19:18-19) The first ones mentioned are counted among the ten commandments, while the last one sums up those previously mentioned. (cf. Rm 13:9)
The ten commandments we could say are the guideposts for the life of love of God and love of neighbor. St. John Paul II wrote: “The commandments … represent the basic condition for love of neighbor; at the same time they are the proof of that love.” (Veritatis Splendor 13) That is why St. Paul writes: Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Rm 13:10) In other words, if someone claims to love his neighbor, but breaks one of the ten commandments, including you shall not commit adultery, he is a liar. (cf. 1 Jn 2:4-5)
Jesus also told the rich young man to follow him. We must follow the example of Jesus in obeying the commandments of God. So St. John writes: He who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 Jn 2:6)
St. Paul, who taught salvation by faith, summed all this up in his letter to the Galatians: The whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ … I say, walk by the Spirit and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Gal 5:14,16) Walking by the Spirit would be the same as walking in the newness of life, the life of grace.
For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealous, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you. As I have warned you before, that those who do these things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:17-21)
A person comes to be ‘under the law’ by doing the works of the flesh, which are against the moral law. Contrariwise, one who is guided by the Holy Spirit lives within the moral law, fulfilling it from within.
So, St. Paul continues: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such as these there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23)
Here, within the guideposts of the commandments, which keep us from straying from the path of love, there opens up a whole world of good in the following of Christ, the Son of God, walking as he walked, living as he lived.
That, however, involves a continual struggle because we have the ‘flesh’, the tendency to sin, within ourselves, that would draw us a way from following Christ. So, St. Paul concludes: Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal 5:24)