Saturday, August 4, 2012

What Rallies the Risen? The Psalms! — Eighteenth Week of “Ordinary Time,” August 5 to August 11, 2012

The truth is, I never got much out of the Psalms. At first I said I didn’t know “what they meant.” This from a man who used to teach poetry! Then I just found them boring; I couldn’t “get into them.” I wondered how the Benedictines could stand to chant them all day.

Guess what? Growing never stops. I just rediscovered the Psalms. Now I am saying: “I’ve been missing all this! If I had been a Benedictine, I would be filled now with what I am just beginning to appreciate. And what is that?

In last week’s Wednesday reading (Jeremiah 15:10-16), the prophet wishes he had never been born! He complained that God sent him to minister to his people, and “all of them curse me.” And those who do not curse do not listen. Christian ministry is discouraging by nature, because its goal is to urge people to live on the level of God! We who are the risen body of Jesus on earth are called to let Jesus speak and act through us in everything we do. That is a “hard sell.” Paul said it like it is:

If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossian 3:1-3).

Paul promises: “When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” But in the meantime, ministers who preach this get a discouraging response. So most of us are tempted to “dumb it down” and just urge people to live good, moral lives by the going standards of the culture. We think we are being prophetic Christians by fighting against abortion, when that is a sin anyone with a conscience should abhor. As Christians we should focus on healing those who have had abortions, not on “preaching to the choir” about how bad they are.

And we can do it. The mystery that only Christians know, is that all who were baptized into Christ’s death, died and rose in him, have no record of sin. All the sins they committed before or after Baptism, if they have repented of them, are not just forgiven but taken away by Jesus as “Lamb of God.” No woman “in grace,” who lives the life of God as Christ’s risen body, has ever had an abortion. If one did, that woman — with all her sins — “died” with Christ on the cross and rose with him as a “new creation.” Her sin was not just forgiven, but taken away. Paul says

For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to a new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. You were dead because of your sins.... Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins. He cancelled [other translations: blotted out, wiped out, effaced, erased] the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross (Colossians 2:12-14; see Acts 3:19).

In other words, Jesus is an A+ redeemer: he doesn’t just forgive our sins, he takes them out of our history. Absorb that.

The Psalms will help. Repeatedly, they focus us on God’s power, God’s forgiveness, God’s healing, God’s victory over all our enemies. Now I read them looking for encouragement.

And I find it.

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