Homily 3-17-2013 (Cycle A) A Matter of Life and Death
When we watch movies, especially action movies, we see situations where the hero must make decisions that determine the life and death of sometimes large groups of people, and often their own. Maybe we sometimes forget that our spiritual life, which is more real than anything on television, is also a matter of life and death.
Sin is death. Spiritual death is worse than physical death. Living forever with evil in our soul is not anything to be desired. Even if all people were sinless, death would still remain a gift to humanity, because it puts an end to the evils that we suffer in this life – but most of all, the greatest suffering on earth is what we suffer because of our own sins and the sins of others.
Ezekiel promises to the people of his time that God is planning to restore the dry bones of their current experience. After years in exile, suffering the devastation of their capital city (and the Temple!), and the horror of massive loss of life, the shame of enslavement under Babylon, the Israelites feel death is their only companion, taking place of the life and joy that were once almost tangible to them. The dry bones which represent their seemingly irredeemable existence, The Lord promises His people that these He will restore. At the same time, we see a foreshadowing of the new life in Our Lord Jesus.
In restoring Lazarus to life, we see another foreshadowing. For us Christians, we too experience some form of resurrection like Lazarus, but what Lazarus experienced on a physical level (a mere biological restoration, which we do profess in the Creed), we ourselves have already experienced in our souls. Not having yet tasted physical death, we ourselves know all too well what spiritual death tastes like. Sin stinks worse than a body dead for four days, if we pay attention to the spiritual sense of our consciences. But this does not make Jesus afraid: “Take away the stone!” He is stronger that physical death; He is stronger than spiritual death. He did not make them, but, as God, Christ can use them according to His greater plan to offer us everlasting life.
That life, Ezekiel and Paul tell us, comes from the Spirit that the Lord gives us. Paul stresses that “you are not in the flesh; you are in the spirit if the Spirit of God dwells within...The one who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through His Spirit.” What Paul is describing here is not a matter of body versus soul, nor should “flesh” be thought of as simply our physical desires. The term “Flesh” refers to living as a part of Adam, as a part of humanity enslaved by sin. Life in the Spirit, however, means living in Jesus, as a part of humanity made free from spiritual death in the body of Christ.
It would be an utter contradiction for those who are in the life of the spirit to return to a life in the flesh. That would be like Israel leaving Jerusalem to go back to the devastation, death, and slavery of Babylon. Let us flee from sin as if from death! And if we find ourselves spiritually stinky, we better go back to Confession to be restored to spiritual life. No matter where we are, as we look forward to the Holiest Week of our Church year, we take ownership of our Baptism, and say with St. Thomas “Let us go too to die with Him.” And thus dead to sin with Our Lord, leaving our life of the flesh on the Cross, we may on Easter rise to new life with Him in the Spirit.