On Becoming the Paschal Mystery...Part III
March 07, 2007
JOHAN VAN PARYS
During the Easter Vigil, people all over the world are initiated into the Paschal Mystery through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. Expounding on the writings of St. Paul, some of the early fathers of the church write about baptism as a symbolic sharing in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Although the emphasis is on a symbolic unity with the death of Jesus in order to rise with him, still through the celebration of these sacraments, new Christians are initiated into the totality of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and are invited into the Paschal Mission. It is their mission to become more and more like Christ so as to contribute to the building up of the reign of God through their daily life.
After celebrating these sacraments, how is this mission to be accomplished? There seem to be two ways: the via positiva and the via negativa. The latter looks at our unworthiness and our shortcomings, while the former looks at our gifts and our great potential for love. Often people prefer the former. It seems easier to emphasize our sinfulness and more importantly, the sinfulness of others. Rather than focusing on love, we focus on sin and on our unworthiness.
I remember a Good Friday homily in the early 1970ies during which the priest told us that we were nothing but “rats in the gutters of life, unworthy of God’s love." There seems to be a resurgence of this emphasis on sinfulness and unworthiness with many believers participating in the dangerous game of pointing at sin in society and in other people’s life. Granted, there is much sinfulness to go around, but what good is attained by focusing on sin? Moreover, we tend to feel good about ourselves as we define ourselves relative to the perceived graver sins of others. And as we enter into this game we often look at the part, rather than at the whole, a praxis which applies to much of our lives. We fail to see the moral forest in favor of one sinful tree. And we love to position ourselves as protectors of the Gospel values up and against public sinners. If I recall, Jesus might have a few choice words for us: “You who are without sin cast the first stone.” And further: “I will not condemn you either. Go home and sin no more.”
All of us have closets filled with skeletons…skeletons of hatred, jealousy, envy, pride, self-righteousness… Now is a good time to open our closets and deal with those skeletons, our own skeletons. Change will only happen when we concern ourselves with our own skeletons. This is not an easy exercise. It is much easier to find fault with others. Can you imagine how wonderful the world would be if all of us spent as much time cleaning our own spiritual house as we spend on finding fault with others? May the celebration of Eastertide be a time of remembrance, celebration and spiritual renewal for us all. May the fulfillment of the promised messianic times come soon.
Johan van Parys is Director of Liturgy and the Sacred Arts at the Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis, MN.
READ OTHER ARTICLES BY JOHAN VAN PARYS:
Advent: The Spirituality of and Environment for the Season (Part I and Part II)
Christmas: The Spirituality of and Environment for the Season (Part I and Part II)
Epiphany: The Spirituality of and Environment for the Solemnity (Part I and Part II)
Lectio Divina - Visio Divina
On Becoming the Paschal Mystery (Part I and Part II)
The Fundamental Virtues of Liturgical Architecture
Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus...Stations of the Cross
We are the Body of Christ