Grace to you!
We come to the apex of the Lord Jesus' revelation of his mission and through it, his identity. On this revelation lies the point of division or unity among many. Also, upon it rests the victory over death and fears related to it.
Sometimes, are you worried because of declining health conditions? Currently, we are concerned about the situation of the world with the Coronavirus Pandemic. Are you afraid that death may be imminent for a member of your family or a friend? Is the fear of death troubling you? This aspect of the revelation of the Lord's identity and mission should be a consolation. The Lord Jesus reveals it in the context of the discussion of the temporal end of all life.
If death is the worst of human fears, this revelation is the best of human hope. As Saint Paul said, "As death came through one man, so does life come through one man." In Christ, "Death is swallowed up in victory" (1 Cor 15:54; see also Isaiah 25:8). Death loses its pungent stench and torturous pain.
Victory over death is victory over what death represents—eternal loss. Eternal loss could be described as a situation where one loses the very essence of his or her spiritual destiny and suffers the constant pain of being outside of it. There the soul wanders. Or it carries the weight of eternal judgment under the burden of regrets for missed opportunities, like Sisyphus in Albert Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus.
The medieval mystic writer, Dante's inferno, and many other mystics have portrayed in symbolic ways the hopelessness and torturous condition of hell. Biblical imageries of that condition are nothing short of unimaginable loss.
Victory over death is the state of the soul, finally home—home where is the true love of the soul. Victory over death is victory over eternal loss. It is the summa cum laude (with highest praise) of victory for humans. It is what Jesus guarantees us when he says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death" (Jn 8:51).
Many won't accept this declaration today, as many during the time of Jesus didn't accept it either. The Lord Jesus doesn't back down, though. Instead, he connects this life after death with the climax of his revelation about himself. He declares: "Before Abraham was, I AM" (Jn 8:58).
By so doing, he uses the very name (concept), which, in his religious and social setting, could not be pronounced by anybody except the high priest once a year in the Jewish temple. The name is, permit me to use it, Y[a]hw[e]h. It's the Biblical, proper name and identity of God.
Who then is Jesus? He is the I Am as the Father is the I Am. Before him, and in him, death is crushed. Death is defeated because through the Life-Giver, the Ever Present, the I Am—Christ the Lord, death is swallowed up in victory.
In the I Am, it's all life and no death. In Christ, the I Am, life is assured, and eternal death overcome. The I Am is the ever-present. Literarily the phrase, I am, as we know, is the verb to be. God is. Those in God, those in Christ, will never suffer eternal loss because God Lives. They, too, live because anyone in God lives.
Pray with me: Lord, lead me to the life which you are, so that victory over death is assured. Amen. Speak life to the sick and heal our land of COVID-19. Give us the grace of renewal and true life. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Thursday, Lent, Week 5: Gn 17:3-9; Jn 8:51-59]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.