Jesus & many New Testament writers talked much about dying to one's self, laying aside the old man for the new or buffeting the body to bring it under submission to Christ. What a contrast to the picture of Christianity that was painted for me growing up. I heard those scriptures often enough, but the concept was lost on me. Death is an aspect of the faith that seemed eerily absent in my formation. Like many things, it was nothing more than a symbol. The cross was empty & death was swallowed up in victory. End of story.
I recently came across a quote by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: “Keep your eyes on the crucifix, for Jesus without the cross is a
man without a mission, and the cross without Jesus is a burden without a
The crucified Christ is more than a morbid symbol. Without the cross, I have nothing. But my dying (that is, being crucified with Him) is the beginning of His life & mission in me. Without the cross, I have nothing. Without Jesus, I am merely a slave, burdened with the heavy yoke of sin & no one to help me.
My sins roam free like medieval thieves in the King's forest. These "thieves" aren't just anyone. They're part of me. I have an affinity for them by virtue of my possession or rather, their possession of me. But I must take them captive & deliver them to the executioner out of love for the King. They must die so I can live to Christ... Rather, I must die to live in Him. It seems like a no brainer. Of course I can just choose not to be angry or envious or bitter. Why sure, I can sow peace & be kind & love all at the drop of a hat (scoffs).
Like Jesus, I can't do my dying alone. Even He needed others to nail His hands & feet & to take His body from the cross when all was said & done. It was only the power of God that raised Him up from the dead days later. I must somehow find a way to present myself as a willing participant, to suffer as He suffered. I have to remember that my dying is the beginning of His life & mission in me. But its not that easy. Its never that easy. I'm the one who slips some of the captives spoons & files in their layer cakes. I'm the one who leaves the doors open for others to escape. I make excuses for so many of my "sympathies", only to find myself spending time to round them all up again. This is all part of the process of dying. It's not always a once for all thing, like the gift of sudden trauma. Its slow & cellular. It happens gradually, subtly... one by one, like the days & hours that led up to Christ's own death.