A Life Sentence or A Life Commitment?

Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection

Easter Vigil Readings / Easter Sunday Readings


Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Χρίστος ἀνέστη!Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!(Christos anesti! Alithos anesti!) ¡Cristo ha resucitado! ¡En verdad, ha resucitado!

Some years ago, I began getting mail from the organization “Priests for Life.” Soon I discovered it was from a pro-life group that had acquired my address and decided without my consent to add me to their mailing list. It saddens me to imagine there might be priests out there who could be remotely opposed to the blessing of human life and the dignity of the human person. I don’t know if there are. I most certainly hope not. But I suppose if you’re a priest who isn’t on their mailing list, or who takes the option of unsubscribing from their monthly publication, you could be flirting with precisely that dangerous insinuation.

And I absolutely am pro-life. I support the blessing of human life and the dignity of the human person. But it is not all about opposing abortion. It extends to support for (and I do what I can, fully aware I am only one person, and I don’t set policy anywhere but in this parish where I am pastor) pre-natal healthcare; adoption; early childhood education; opportunities for persons with disabilities; expanded opportunities in education, employment, and healthcare for women and minorities; medical research for cures to all kinds of diseases and debilitating illnesses; treatment for those living with addictions; affordable food, housing, healthcare, employment, and fair wages for all especially the poor; restricting access to dangerous weapons and firearms; respect for and inclusion of LGBTQ persons; dignified care for the mentally and the terminally ill; the end to sexual abuse, harassment, human trafficking, and racial discrimination everywhere; the fair and humane administration of justice; the abolition of the death penalty. It’s not an exhaustive list, and I am not running for political office. But imagine receiving something by email or standard mail from your political party or your church. If for whatever reason you opt to unsubscribe, you might feel a tinge of disappointment at yourself for proclaiming your withdrawal of support from a cause you are reminded is intimately tied to your personal identity. Well played, evil marketing guilt-mongers! Well played! Or you can tell yourself you’re saving trees or postage. But unsubscribing from emails though, you’re just putting a bullseye on your back. So just automatically send them to your trash folder. They will be none the wiser. That’s what they get for adding me to their mailing list without my consent.

Another perspective on the name “Priests for Life” is a little good-natured dig at my personal choice of a life commitment. Call it a life sentence, but that’s a whole other can of worms. If you were sentenced to life, it doesn’t sound at all like a blessing. Of course we know it is really a sentence to “prison” or “behind bars” for the rest of your mortal life, which sounds awful. Life in prison or behind bars limits our freedom. We love our freedom, or at least what we believe freedom is: freedom of movement, of choice, of speech and thought, freedom to do whatever we please, even to make mistakes, and freedom to do absolutely nothing, because it isn’t really freedom if it isn’t an option. Now a life commitment, unlike a life sentence, is a voluntary choice entirely. And unlike a life sentence, the voluntary choice of a life commitment is one that is self-imposed voluntarily each day. My choice each day to live faithful to my vocation or you to yours does not mean we are not free to be unfaithful. But it is a constant reminder of the meaning of that free choice. We cannot choose faithfulness and its opposite at the same time. But unless both are realistic options, neither can ever be a free choice.

So on this Easter day, we celebrate the new life that Jesus won for us by his passion, death and resurrection. As his disciples, we have made the free and voluntary choice to embrace that new life, some by asking for baptism ourselves, and others by embracing the choice of baptism made for us by our parents. A fundamental and non-negotiable requisite for choosing that new life is the rejection and renunciation of sin and Satan and darkness and death, literally all that is contrary to God’s life. And yes, we could always use a reminder of that free and voluntary choice we made some time ago, mostly because it is still a choice we need to make every day, fully aware it is and remains for us a free and voluntary choice.

But every choice will have its consequences. The most immediate is that we also freely and voluntarily reject and renounce whatever is contrary. If we choose virtue, we must reject sin. If we choose God, we cannot but reject Satan. If we choose light, we must reject darkness. If we choose life, we cannot but reject death. It seems so cut and dry. Virtue is not sin. God is not Satan. Light is not darkness. Life is not death. But my personal convictions and certainties about the life God offers can still differ from that of my fellow Christian neighbors. The discernment of truth demands that I learn to listen to the Holy Spirit speak. And I will not hear the Holy Spirit speak if my heart and mind are so filled with suspicion and outrage and indignation because people disagree with me. If you disagree with me, I’m sure you won’t hear anything else I say. But if you listen with compassion, you might discover truth from voices other than those yelling and screaming in your head. If you have chosen to embrace God’s life in freedom, you make that choice for yourself and yourself alone. Even God does not force anyone to believe in him. God invites. God encourages. God receives with compassion. Be like God. Understand and love who you are. Make your choice freely for virtue and God and light and life. Witness to your convictions with grace and courage and confidence. And by your words and example, invite, encourage, receive your neighbor with the compassion of God.

Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. His earthly body was transformed and made new. And although everyone saw his lifeless body, not everyone encountered him after he rose. That privilege he gave only to those he chose. And those to whom he has given this privilege are themselves transformed and made new. They might still live in their earthly bodies, but they no longer live an earthly life.

You have met the risen Jesus. You are a new creation. Do not return to sin and Satan and darkness and death. Instead, live a life of virtue, a life with God, a life filled with light and life. There can be no room in your new life for fear and resentment and selfishness and greed. It is not a life sentence, imposed against your will. Instead it is a life commitment, embraced freely and voluntarily. And with the life of Jesus in you, draw others to him, that they too may encounter Jesus, and themselves receive new life.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Χρίστος ἀνέστη!Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!(Christos anesti! Alithos anesti!) ¡Cristo ha resucitado! ¡En verdad, ha resucitado!

Rolo B Castillo © 2019