Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Jesus Changes Our View Of Humans’ Role

March 25, 2015, Feast of the Annunciation
Wednesday of the 5th week of Lent

Jesus Changes Our View Of Humans’ Role
“Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

Jesus is the Savior of the human race. But there would not have been any Jesus if Mary had not said “Yes” when invited to become the Mother of God. And she was free not to.

Mary was “conceived without sin.” From the first moment of her existence in her mother’s womb, she was preserved from ever being under the power of sin—not as a special favor to her, but so that the flesh God took to be his own should never have been under the power of sin. And she was preserved from sin all her life, because what God gave her to become the Mother of God, he continued to give her as Mother of God. God doesn’t just “use” people; when he enters into relationships, they endure. But Mary was always free to sin, and she could have. It is due to her choice to do God’s will that we are redeemed. That is why Mary is called the “second Eve”—the “mother of all the living” (see Genesis 3:20).

Sometimes Mary is called “co-Redemptrix” of the human race. The bishops at Vatican II decided not to deal with that, and since the meaning the title has for its promoters is vague to me, I don’t use it. But the fact is, Mary’s role, like that of Eve, was crucial for the future of humanity. God would not have taken flesh without a free act of human cooperation. God simply would not have redeemed the human race without human participation. That would have been to admit that human nature was hopelessly flawed, and that creation was a failure. The cooperation of the human race in its own salvation was and still is required, if for no other reason than to show that the human nature God designed was not defective.

If Mary had chosen not to do God’s will, we don’t know what would have happened. But we do know what happens when any one of us refuses to do God’s will. The spread of Christ’s redemption throughout the world is slowed down, and the growth of his redemption—his divine life—within each one of us is stymied. Yes, we can block God’s power to give divine life—both to us and to others. Jesus has freed us from the slavery to human cultural conditioning that blinds our minds and seduces our wills. But we are free to return to it. And if we do, we obstruct life and foster death.

We know that [in Baptism] our old self was crucified with Christ so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin… Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions…

What advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death… For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:6).

None of us has the crucial role Mary had. But in our own little time, in our own little place, and in our own little circle of friends and sphere of influence, each of us does have a crucial role. The fact is, human beings all influence each other. That is simply a fact of human life on earth. It is up to us whether our influence contributes to life or to death. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God [which he gives to others through each one of us] is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The “Yes” Mary said to becoming the Mother of God made her the “second Eve”—the “mother of all the living” who live by the Life of God. Saint Paul calls Jesus the “second Adam” (1Corinthians 15:45). But just as the multiplication of the human race depends on a continuing chain of natural “Adams” and “Eves,” so the multiplication of the “saved” depends on a continuing chain of divine “second Adams” and “second Eves.” Life is passed on through human beings, both human life and divine life. The difference is that, while we can just abstain from giving human life if we wish, if we do not give divine life we pass on death. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We are all “co-redeemers” with Christ. This mystery of our co-operation with Christ in redeeming the world is a basic theme of St. Paul’s letters. He uses the expression “in Christ” or its equivalent 164 times. And twenty-nine times he uses the prefix syn- in Greek (“co-” in English) to express our union with Christ, as members of his body, in what he did and we do. Fernand Prat, S.J., gives the list in his The Theology of St. Paul (tr. John Stoddard, Vol. II, pp. 18-20 and 391-395): co-suffer: Romans 8:17, 1 Corinthians 12:26; co-crucified: Romans 6:6, Galatians 2:20; co-die: 2 Timothy 2:11, cf. 2 Corinthians 7:3; co-buried: Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12; co-resurrected: Ephesians 2:6, Colossians 2:12, 3:1; co-live: Romans 6:8; co-vivified (returned to life): Ephesians 2:5, Colossians 2:13; co-formed (configured): Philippians 3:10, Romans 8:21; co-glorified: Romans 8:17; co-seated: Ephesians 2:6; co-reign: 2 Timothy 2:12; cf. 1 Corinthians 4:8; co-planted: Romans 6:5; co-heir: Romans 8:17, Ephesians 3:6; co-sharer: Ephesians 3:6, 5:7; co-incarnated (embodied): Ephesians 3:6; co-built: Ephesians 2:22; co-structured (and connected): Ephesians 2:21, Ephesians 4:16, Colossians 2:19. Add 1Corionthians 3:9: co-workers with God (synergoi), quoted in Vatican II on “Missionary Activity,” no. 15 and 2Corinthians 6:1: co-working (synergountes). Also 3John:8: synergoi: co-workers with the truth.

The angel said to Mary, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus”—a name that means “God saves.” When Mary answered, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word,” she became a co-savior with Jesus. When we say “Yes” to what God asks of us, we become co-saviors too. This gives us a new understanding of our role and responsibility for others.

Do I choose to let Jesus change my view of the responsibility I have to give divine life to others?

Pray: “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.”

Practice: Take a serious look at your lifestyle. What helps and what hinders the growth of divine life in others?

Discuss: How does Jesus want to work through us here and now?

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