On Easter Sunday, I remembered something: I’m already dead.
Why fear death if I’ve already died? That sounds odd, I know, but we Christians believe that Jesus died on the Cross for our sins, and that when we are baptized we share in the death of Jesus. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we also share in His resurrection, and we rise with Him. We are risen in Christ. The old self has died and we become new creations — new creations that have eternal life in Christ. Our eternal lives in Christ do not begin at some future date when our bodies can no longer hold onto life and our souls are taken up into Heaven. Our heavenly lives, because they are eternal, are being lived already, here and now on earth — with, through, and in Christ.
This is a call to pure unselfishness. As images of God, we are created for the infinite. We are not meant to worry and fret about our finite desires or even needs. As Christians, we trust in Him who lived among us and went before us. He taught us not to be overly concerned with the perishable for ourselves, but rather to be mindful of the needs of others. We love our neighbors as ourselves, and we love ourselves as images of God, and we love God foremost and always, with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. Whatever we do in service for the least among us, we do for Christ Himself, God in the flesh, and it is the Spirit of God that lives and works in and through us.
St. Paul wrote,
“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-4). “I have been crucified with Christ.” It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me. (Galatians 2:19-20.)
What Kind of Sci-Fi Is This?
I’m quite aware that this sounds bizarre. Is Christ then some kind of parasite who has taken over my body, and I am merely a host controlled by the parasite? No. My mind is certainly my own, as is my body — as much as anything belongs to me. My own very real act of will is required in order for me to “put on the mind of Christ” and allow the power of God to work in and through me. I must cooperate with the will of God, and by so doing, I am enabled to participate in the life of God in a way that is particular to me. This is a great mystery, but God is a mystery, and the full reality of my life is hidden in God.
Perhaps you were struck by the title of this reflection. That was my intention. I read an Easter meme that poked fun at our belief in Jesus’s resurrection by saying, “Happy Zombie Day,” and have even heard someone refer to Jesus as a zombie, no doubt with a desire to be irreverent. Jesus Christ, risen from the dead and glorified, is not now a member of the living dead, because He is not dead. That’s what the Resurrection means. Two days after He was killed, Jesus became bodily alive again by the power of God, because Jesus is God: fully divine, and also fully human. He did not lose His humanity with the Resurrection. In a way, He became even more fully human when His very human body was resurrected and glorified, for this is the fulfillment to which God calls every human being. We are created to know, love, and serve the divine in this life and to be blissful with God forever in the next.
Daily Death — Daily Resurrection
In order for us to be fulfilled, we must die with Christ. That doesn’t mean that we simply need to croak one day. We need to willingly give up our old lives of selfishness, of sin, and allow God to make us new. Through the mystery of baptism, and the renewal of our baptismal promises every day — turning away from evil, uniting our sufferings with those of Christ, and giving all of our love and talent to the work of God — we die with Christ on the Cross. And we rise with Christ. We are reborn, born from above, born again as new creations, living in Christ as Christ lives in us, not just later on in Heaven, but here and now.
When the day of my bodily death comes, I will be called to unite my dying with Christ’s dying on the Cross. But, hopefully, I will have practiced, through the grace of God, with my daily dying to self and daily rising to divine life. I am a practicing Christian, after all. And so I remember that I am dead. My self-centered mortality has passed away. I live now in Christ, with Christ, through Christ, because of Christ, and He has ascended to heavenly glory forever and ever. That’s where my true life and true identity is, and it will never end. And no, Heaven is not some faraway other place. Heaven is here and now because Christ is universal, Christ is forever united with me, with you, with every human being, in every time and every place, and in every situation. But we cannot receive Him and the divine, eternal life that is His if we are too full of ourselves. We are dead, remember? When we realize that the fullness of being human is to be God-centered and not self-centered, then, and only then, are we fully alive.
© 2019 Christina Chase
Although crippled by disease, I am fully alive in love. I write about the profound wonder and terrible beauty of life while living with physical disability and severe dependency. Unafraid to ask life's big questions, I was briefly an atheist and considered other religions before finding, in God's choice to intimately share our humanity, what it truly means to be fully human. A revert to the Catholic Faith, I blog weekly and have written a book called It's Good to Be Here.