As we remember Good Friday today and look forward to Easter tomorrow night, let us pause to consider what the Cross and Resurrection means for us. There are so many readings the next three days, but for today, let’s just look at the reading from Romans 6 at the Easter Vigil. This is the reading introduced by the Gloria. Everything else leads up to it. The story of the Resurrection in the Gospel is, of course, the central action – but the Gloria frames the reading from Romans as the real proclamation of the good news, and it nicely explains both of these great days.
Paul begins by reminding us that “we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death.” Baptism is above all the first sacrament, the sacrament of entrance into the Christian life. To say that we are baptized into his death is to say that our entire Christian life is rooted not just in the death of Christ, but in our entrance into that death. Good Friday is the beginning and center of the whole Christian life.
Paul next says, “we were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.” Here he says two important things.
First, the death of Christ is important precisely because it is the place where God’s power over death is manifested. Death is not the last word, life is. But death is where we discover that true life comes from God. It is not that we are just fine, and have life within us. We desperately need God’s power to raise us up.
Second, Paul quickly moves from physical death and resurrection to spiritual resurrection. We are raised not just by the power of God, but “by the glory of the Father,” and we are raised not just to physical life, but to “newness of life.”
God’s power over physical life points to a much deeper power. It is his glory, our encounter with the goodness and the beauty of God, that brings new life to our soul. This is moral life, to be sure. But even deeper, it is spiritual life. This is what we are meant to encounter in the death and resurrection of Christ: the passover from Egypt to the promised land, from sin to the spiritual life.
Next Paul says, “If we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.” Easter is not about a transaction at a distance. It is about union.
Christ dies to be close to our death. He subjects himself to our sin, to the suffering we inflict on him, to be close to us while we are yet sinners, even when we refuse him. And he subjects himself to suffering, the suffering we experience, so that even our suffering can be a place of closeness to him.
He comes close so that he can raise us with him into newness of life. He became poor so that we could become rich. He unites himself to our humanity so that we can be united to his divinity. He comes to rescue us in our cruciform life so that he can draw us out of this life of suffering, the suffering we inflict and the suffering we experience, into a life where God is all in all, and all is peace.
And he calls us to be close to him. He does it all, in one sense – but he calls us to do it all, as well. His coming close does not work by magic. We have to cling to him.
We have to cling to him in our suffering. Rather than fleeing suffering, we must embrace it as the place where Christ is near. We must be near to those who are suffering. The Cross is where we profess our trust in God. If we run from suffering, our own and our neighbors’, we proclaim that we don’t think he’s worth meeting there.
But the Resurrection is where we profess the goodness of God. We must also cling to this. We must embrace the goodness of life, and above all the goodness of God, “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).
How could you better live union with Christ crucified in your everyday Christian life?