Be More Eager to Live Than to Die

Easter Sunday

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

Each of us who is given by God a share of life is entrusted a treasure beyond price that is meant to be celebrated, nurtured, prospered, and shared as a blessing with those we love. This gift of life given to us is but a small portion, a mere shadow, a faint reflection of the life of God himself, all at once breathtaking, glorious, incomparable, eternal. It matters little that some are entrusted this gift for a fleeting few seconds, while others will possess it for many amazing and wonderful years. Cynics might argue that such a gift is but a cruel joke unless it also comes with the requisite body parts and robust health and an enduring lifetime of limitless promise. Of course, these look like reasonable expectations. But it is important to remember that the value of a gift is not determined by the receiver. Rather, the value of a gift is determined by the giver.

If a gift is given in true sincerity and joy, no matter how mean or meager, its value is as intended by the giver. Remember when your children in preschool and kindergarten brought home their masterpieces of macaroni and pipe cleaner art, how you gushed with pride and joy? It’s a different story altogether if you’re still getting macaroni and pipe cleaner art from your adult children. You might want to discuss that with your therapist. Also, Jesus praised the widow in the gospel for her generous gift of two copper coins in the temple treasury. To him, she gave more than anyone else because in his words, “she gave from her poverty, and offered her whole livelihood.”

That’s not to say generous offerings are not appreciated. Don’t get me wrong. Still God does love a cheerful giver. So, gifts are of greatest value when given in true sincerity and joy, not grudgingly, not resentfully. When we first teach our children to say thank you and to share what they receive, they might not be as inclined or agreeable on their own. Sadly, gratitude and appreciation don’t come naturally for everyone. It might take longer for some to sink in than for others.

By his passion, death, and resurrection, God shares with us in Jesus Christ his gifts of reconciliation and healing and renewal and peace. As with all of God’s many gifts to the human family through many generations, there is nothing we have done or need to do to deserve them. Gratitude, the acknowledgment of God’s favor, is itself a gift as well. It comes as insight allowing us to see with our hearts and minds the pattern of God’s abundant generosity. Only those who regard themselves entitled and entirely deserving would see no need to be grateful for anything. They are also more inclined to begrudge others who have more and better blessings than them, while they themselves can be resentful that others don’t appreciate them enough.

So, the greatest gifts that God bestows upon us are the gift of his life and the gift of his mercy. In reality they are one and the same gift, the gift that is Jesus himself, the very life of God and the face of God’s mercy. By the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God reconciles us to himself and bestows upon us his very life. When the eyes of our hearts and minds are opened we feel the need to express our gratitude, to celebrate, nurture, prosper, and share with those we love that tremendous gift we have received.

It might be just a figure of speech to declare our undying devotion by professing a willingness to die as proof. But truly, any death meant to declare undying devotion is a blessing to no one. Jesus did that once and for all so that we would not have to do it ourselves. He died that we might live. Would it not be a much greater blessing to ourselves and to others if we declared our undying devotion by just as eagerly professing a willingness to live instead? Now if we took seriously a declaration to live to the full for God and for those we love, it might prove a much greater sacrifice. Death would decisively and definitively put an end to any struggle and doubt. But the choice to live would mean courageously embracing every struggle and resolutely facing every doubt. Even God desires not the death of a sinner, but that they repent and be forgiven.

The choice to live fully would then involve sincerely and joyfully giving up our deadly habits, the very things that endanger our health and the life of God in us, our addictions and destructive behaviors, our angers and resentments, our jealousy, our laziness, our lust, our pride. Instead, the choice to live fully would involve being truly present to others, honoring their dignity, their hard work, and sacrifice, being grateful, extending patience, forgiveness, kindness, and compassion. It would mean re-ordering our priorities, living healthier, eating healthier, getting adequate exercise and sleep, getting rid of what clutters our minds and our desks, attitudes that feed our resentment and darkness, relationships that harm our health and stifle our Christian discipleship.

We are probably already aware of the people and things in our lives that prevent us from living the fulness of God’s life. By the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God gives us his very life. And the choice to live fully expresses our gratitude for God’s generous gifts of life and mercy. We should best be more eager to live than to die.

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 © 2022

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