|Cause of our Joy|
The love of Christ impels us,
once we have come to the conviction that one died for all;
therefore, all have died.
He indeed died for all,
so that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
I have heard that Indian fakirs often keep photos of dead bodies among their few possessions. Living totally on gifts of food, drink and shelter they wander from place to place carrying nothing more than the clothes on their back, perhaps with a few pockets. They study images of death as they contemplate the inevitability of their own death.
Christians too are
"always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh."Perhaps because they don't contemplate death, many people smoke, drink heavily, overeat, under-exercise and act as if they can live this perilous existence forever. Others take up "extreme" sports, risking life and limb for the rush of being close to catastrophe. Even when their companions are killed by their sport they suppose, "He died doing what he loved to do." They ignore the grieving parents, siblings and children who must finally collect the body and bury him.
The contemplation of death and the promise -- not given to all -- of eternal life focus our attention and discipline our daily practices. We say to ourselves, "I can do without this doughnut because I weigh enough already." "I will not smoke today because I prefer to breath." "I'll not have more than two drinks this Friday night because Monday comes around too soon."
The contemplation of death helps us notice that the body is not as resilient as it once was. I don't bounce back from foolishness like I used; or, if I do bounce, it's in all the wrong places.
This contemplation opens our hearts to the promise of eternal life, which begins to emerge in the quotidian events of our daily existence. While my workmate struggles through Monday morning, I am ready for it.
I often mutter, and sometimes say, to smokers, "If you saw what I see every day in the hospital you would not light up that cigarette." What you do today will matter tomorrow.
Jesus urged us to take up your cross daily and follow in my footsteps. The Vietnam Veteran can tell you what stepping in my footsteps means. Because his buddy had not been blown up by a land mine when he stepped on that exact spot, it was safe to step there. We follow Jesus that closely, walking in the safe path he opens for us, carrying our crosses with him to death and new life.