30 August 2008

For Ingrid on Her Baptism Day

It’s not kill or be killed; it’s die or be dead.

The key to life is not that you should find yourself, or be yourself, or make a name for yourself. If you would live, you must die to yourself; but if you live for yourself, you will die.

That is the paradox of Christianity, and that is your dilemma. Any sort of life that is taken, instead of received and given, is no life at all, but sin and death.

Christianity is not simply a lifestyle choice among others. It is the only way of life. But it is life in Christ by the way of the Cross. Everything depends upon the Cross. Your life depends on it.

Christ Jesus, the Crucified One, is not simply a means to some other end. He is your Life, your Light and your Salvation. He and His Word are the only true delight. But the surprising thing about Him is that He must die (and rise again). And if you would live, you must follow Him.

Deny yourself. Take up the Cross. Follow Him.

If you would live, you must be His disciple. You must be a Christian. Not in name only, though that name is most precious and significant. But you must be a Christian in deed and in truth; for the Son of Man is coming in glory to judge and repay everyone according to his deeds. Set your mind, therefore, on God’s interests, not your own. Live as a Christian. Die and rise with Christ.

Holy Baptism makes all the difference; because Baptism, along with catechesis, makes disciples.

It is in Holy Baptism that you have been given the Name of God, the Name and Spirit of Christ Jesus; that you have thus become a Christian.

Ingrid has been named by her father, and someday, God-willing, she’ll be named again by her husband. But here she has been named by her God and Father in heaven, and by her heavenly Bridegroom, with His own name, which is alive and life-giving and stronger than death.

It is in Holy Baptism, also, that both Ingrid and you have been given the Cross of Christ. You are crucified, dead and buried with Him, by His Cross, in order to rise with Him in His Resurrection, unto life. This is first of all how you take up His Cross, and how you are able to do so; so that now you follow Christ Jesus by taking up His Cross each day.

Taking up the Cross does not mean suffering for its own sake. Christians do not go looking for trouble and death; they do not throw themselves to the lions, no more than they throw themselves down from the pinnacle of the Temple.

Take up the Cross, rather, by faith and love. Receive from God what He gives you. Give to your neighbor what you have received. That’s what the Christian life looks like, and that’s where and how you take up the Cross.

Do what you are given to do. Fulfill your vocations faithfully. Within your vocations, serve your neighbor for Christ’s sake, whether you receive thanks or a slap in the face as your payment.

Bear your neighbor’s burdens in love, and bear with your neighbor in forgiveness. If you suffer in doing so, and for doing so, bear that suffering in faith and love. In all that you do and suffer, glorify the Name of Christ that you bear, and glorify your God and Father in heaven.

Trust the Lord, whom you follow, whose disciple you are. If you lose your life for His sake, you’ve lost nothing; you shall yet live with Him forever in His Kingdom.

But if you turn aside from Him and seek to avoid the Cross, in order to save yourself, then you shall be lost. Then you shall die.

Do not guard and protect yourself, but get back in line behind Jesus. Deny yourself, take up the Cross, and follow Him. Repent, and live, that you not be lost and die forever.

Return to your Baptism: to the Cross and to the Name that were given to you there by your Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ. It’s all right there; your life is there — in the death of Christ, and in His Resurrection — in your Holy Baptism. There’s no need to repeat it, for God’s Word and His gift are perfectly sufficient. Just return to the significance of your one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins. It remains sure and certain, as steadfast as the Cross and Resurrection are.

Die to yourself. Die to the world. Die to sin. Die to the devil, all his works and all his ways. Die, not to atone for your sins or redeem yourself, but because Christ, by His death, has atoned for all your sins and redeemed you. Live unto righteousness in Him, not to satisfy the Law, but because He has fulfilled the Law, and He has risen from the dead, and He lives forever for you.

The example that He has left for you to follow in His steps is the way of life, by the way of the Cross; not that you must save yourself by your good deeds or by your suffering, but that He has saved you by His suffering and death. He has taken up the Cross and carried it before you, in order to forgive you and give you life.

He who is coming in glory to be your Judge, has already come into His Kingdom in the glory of His Father, not to condemn you for what you have done or left undone, but by His Cross to reward you according to His own deeds.

He has redeemed you from all your sin and eternal death. He has given His own life in exchange for your body and soul. He has tasted death upon the Cross, that you may not taste death forever, nor at all apart from His Resurrection.

Indeed, His Resurrection on the third day is the guarantee and the first fruits of your own resurrection from the dead.

Take and eat, therefore; not death, but the Body of Him who suffered many things, was crucified, died and was buried, who has risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity. As He lives, so shall you.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

No comments: