I was invited by the Department of Campus Ministry at SLU to write a reflection for their Lenten Reflection blog. The original post is here but I’ve pasted it below for your (mostly, my) enjoyment:
IS 49: 8-15
PS 145: 8-9. 13CD-14, 17-18
JN 5: 17-30
“I am the resurrection and the life,” says the Lord;
“whoever believes in me will never die.”
– John 11:25-26
There was a kind-hearted man at my hometown church that gave out bubblegum to the kids on Sundays. His wife would shake her head and scold him in that playful way that only people who have been married longer than you have been alive can do. We called him Mr. Bill and he passed away last week. At the visitation, his wife of 57 years gave kids bubblegum as their parents offered kind words and a hug near his casket.
Death knows no strangers; the curse of sin stretches as far as the eye can see and further still. We see it in the injustices permeating every screen and newspaper. We feel its shadow in the halls of our clinical rotations. Many of our majors are aimed, however indirectly, at preventing it, slowing it, cheating it, explaining it, and minimizing its aftershocks. It figures prominently in the myths of every culture and our own Saint Paul calls it “the last enemy to be destroyed” (1 Cor 15:26). Death is our chief Adversary and a worthy one at that.
Here is where the Christian story gets good. Who could defeat such an Enemy? Who could possibly bring about the death of Death? What is the remedy for this pervasive curse?
Isaiah gives us a proper introduction to such a Hero in his foretelling of the Servant of the Lord who will bring light to the Gentiles and salvation to the ends of the earth. The Creator God speaks through Isaiah to this Servant, giving him “as a covenant to the people,” through whom the lowly will be comforted and the proud will be humbled.
The Psalmist reminds us that this is consistent with the Creator’s character: He is gracious and merciful; He is kind and compassionate; He is faithful and holy; He is just and near to those who call upon his name. This is the kind of God we have.
Finally, our Hero arrives. But he is not perhaps like we were expecting. This Hero is bold; he pulls no punches and seems to know none of the social cues needed to massage his message into the hearts of the powerful and the religious (two groups we at SLU should always identify with in his stories). Our Hero is not content to be a Good Teacher, dispensing affirmations for the best intentions of the pious. He calls himself the Son of God and the fulfillment of the Creator’s purposes in the world.
As the judgment-casting stones are gathered, he names himself the True Judge over every person, nation, and culture. He is to be humanity’s Only Hero, our only hope for resurrection and the only hope for the restoration of our broken world. Those who will receive him and believe his words will be vindicated and given the Hero’s victory over Death; those who deny him will be condemned. It is no wonder they killed him.
Do you know this Jesus? Are there corners of your heart where you resist his Lordship? Where does Death still reign in your life? On our campus? In our city? Today, in the spirit of Saint Ignatius, let us examine ourselves and allow God to search our hearts. Lent is a time for turning back and listening again.
The Hero’s voice still calls, still invites you to believe. He is the Resurrection and the Life.