DO YOU THINK THOSE 18 MEN WHOM THE TOWER AT SILO KILLED WHEN IT FELL WERE GREATER SINNERS THAN THE OTHER INHABITANTS OF JERUSALEM? These words of our Lord took on a fresh poignancy for all of us recently when the towers of the World Center collapsed in the terrorist attack. Our Lord pronounced these words in an exchange with his disciples who were troubled over another shocking incident when a group of their fellow Galileans were assassinated in the very act of making an offering to God. In effect he warns them not to conclude that these and similar disasters are indications of God's special displeasure with such victims. We do well, however, to reflect carefully on his words which, while giving a certain reassurance that fatal disasters are not a measure of our guilt before God, yet at the same time serve as a warning against complacency. If I rightly understand our Lord's comments here, he states only that we all are vulnerable to calamity, the great calamity of perishing in sin. He does not attempt to resolve the great question that arises in all our minds in the face of catastrophe beyond telling us that we should see in it a severe warning to amend our own lives and to be ready to give an account to God for our souls.
The mystery of suffering remains mysterious for the Christian even after the resurrection of our Lord. But it does not remain meaningless; on the contrary, suffering and death itself take on a transcendent significance for those who put their faith and hope in Christ, the risen Lord of glory. That is the message St. Paul preaches in today's first reading.
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Jesus Christ from the dead, will give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who dwells in you.
Death, in other words, does not pronounce meaning on our life if we live according to the Spirit of Jesus, as it does for those who live under the law of the flesh. Living according to the Spirit does not remove us from the sufferings of this world, nor deliver us from the necessity of passing through death, but it takes away their sting; they can no longer frustrate our desire for life and love. They are emptied out and rendered powerless by the saving grace of the cross and resurrection of our savior.
When that mortal frame puts on immortality then there will be fulfilled what is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?' (1Cor 15: 54, 55)
Obviously, this does not take place without another kind of death; death to selfish attachments, even the closest of loving ties based on human affection, as Jesus had already indicated. He who would save his soul will lose it; he would lose his soul for my sake, will save it.' (Luke 9: 24) To love in the Spirit and thus to overcome suffering and death, is the great task assigned to every one who would enter the kingdom of God. To this end we offer the Eucharist in which we partake of the divine gifts of Christ our risen Savior. May he always assist us in our weakness and strengthen and elevate our desire for spiritual beauty and truth. In us who prove loyal to him shall suffering and death give way to the fullness of life in his presence forever.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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