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Catholic Faith Corner

Living in the Light
of Jesus Christ

Dying to Rise: Reflections

risen JesusMy weekly post straddles Holy Week and Easter Week, so I pondered whether to focus on the passion and death of Jesus or his resurrection. Then it occurred to me that I should cover both. After all, these paschal mysteries are intimately related. It was only by suffering and dying that Jesus was able to rise with glorious new life. For him and for us the adage holds true: No cross, no crown. At every Eucharist we enter into both his death and resurrection. Dying and rising is a motif found in nature. Jesus himself pointed out how a seed must die in order to bring forth new life. Underground, seeds burst open and are no longer seeds but become lovely flowers or food for us. Three hundred sixty-five times a year, the sun dies and all is dark, but we can count on the life-giving sun coming up again the next morning. Each night we experience a “little death” as we sleep, but then we arise with new vigor the next day. Every winter when the cold, barren world seems dead, we know there will be a spring someday, even after this record-breaking winter! I’m reminded too of those gigantic redwood trees that must succumb to fire before the seeds in their cones are released to produce new trees.

In daily life we periodically undergo “deaths” that lead to new life. Sometimes in producing books, I encounter painful challenges such as publishers’ rejections, editors who mutilate my carefully crafted text, and impossible deadlines. Strangely, I’ve found that the more suffering that goes into a book, the better it turns out! This is the case for anyone who strives to excel in a field. Athletes die to self as they exercise, diet, and train. Musicians to some extent suffer as they perfect their techniques. In God’s mysterious ways we may be weighed down with a terrible burden. We might feel as though we are trapped in a tomb. One benefit that hardships lead to is the special gift of being able to understand others who suffer— just the way God-made-flesh understands what it means for us humans to suffer. In times of trial, we can be consoled by the thought “And this too shall pass.” After the storm, the rainrainbowybow. After the crucifixion, resurrection.

The ultimate difficult experience occurs at the end of our lives. We die. Sometimes this is accompanied by suffering that is agonizing for loved ones to watch. But because Jesus was victorious over death, we can trust his promise that we too will rise again. We will be like Lazarus, but even more fortunate. He had to die again, but after we die, we will have eternal life. As U.S. senate chaplain Peter Marshall once remarked, Jesus promised that what we had hoped for was true!

A Happy Easter to all!

(I tried to add a YouTube recording of Handel’s “Halleluiah Chorus” but with no luck. Perhaps you can sing it yourself!)

When have you been blessed with new life after an apparent death?

8 Responses

  1. Well immediately after reading your reflection question, I thought of the death of my Mother a little over two years ago and the new life I have now. I grew closer to God after watching her die, as I think many people do. We think of our own death and want to “live each day to the fullest.”
    But more than that, I felt a pull to live a completely new life, a life of holiness. This pull came after going on a few retreats, a women’s renewal at my church, as well as encountering people along the way who, I could see, had that LIGHT in them that I wanted too.

    So my point in this babbling response is that my mothers physical death sparked a desire to have a new life. If she hadn’t passed, I’d still be living an old life that was empty. Isn’t it interesting that the woman who gave me life, had to die, for me to be renewed in my faith? I bet a lot of people experience this after a loss of a loved one.

    Thanks again for another great post Sister Kathleen! I simply adore your blog.

  2. Thank you, Sr. Kathleen for this beautiful reflection. It is by dying to ourselves that we finally can embrace life and live to its fullest. Your post speaks loudly to my heart and I thank you for ministering to so many through your blog! Have a blessed Easter!

    1. Alice, I love what you said here: <> I try very hard to do that, but I have to admit that shopping (when I have the money to shop, which is not often these days), facials, and getting my hair done, are my roadblocks to giving up a “worldly” life. I wish I didn’t love jewelry, manicures, and facials so much. *sigh* Maybe that’s why I’m not rich…might get addicted! Hope your Easter was blessed.

  3. My best friend, for many years, was a very spiritual Catholic priest. We discussed everything together, read books (St. John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart, etc. ) and discussed them, etc. As time went by, he felt a calling to the military chaplaincy, and our bishop gave him permission. He was sent to the Middle East, and after Operation Desert Storm, during which he earned three bronze stars, he came home and became pastor of a wonderful church. Nine months later, he discovered he had terminal cancer. When he died, it was so devastating for me, I stopped going to church, though I still believed in God. I simply could find no consolation, and after a while, I became involved in secular things, though I was no more than the “average” sinner. Although it may sound unbelievable to some, a few years after his death, this priest’s spirit visited me and remained with me for a few weeks. During this time, I returned to the Church, and I switched my college major from English to theology (I actually switched colleges, too, to a small Catholic college). I am now working toward my Master’s in Theology, and the Church is once again my life. Despite many crosses to bear, and having only one family member left (I have lost both of my parents, too, so I know that pain), I can say I could not be happier, nor have I ever loved Christ with the depth and fullness that I love him today. If I ever wonder if “A” (the priest) loved me as a dear friend as I loved him, and if it really was his spirit I felt, I see his smile (in my mind) and hear his voice saying very clearly, “I came back for you, didn’t I?” (In my mind; I do not actually hear voices!). To save even one soul, to bring even one soul to God is immeasurable. I get the feeling he had to sacrifice something to return me fully to the Church, but I don’t know what that could be. Maybe his spirit had to leave the immediate presence of God to visit me; I don’t know. I look forward to meeting him again some day in heaven. I wear a mother-of-pearl locket with a gold cross on the front and his photo inside to honor him.

    A blessed Easter to you, Sister Kathleen, and to all.

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Jesus depends on us to spread the Good News of God’s love, offering the world hope and joy. Mary Kathleen, a Sister of Notre Dame from Chardon, Ohio, responds through writing, speaking, giving retreats, and teaching. Her motto, adopted from Eddie Doherty’s gravesite, is “All my words for the Word.”

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