Life and death are mysteriously woven together in our earthly existence and day to day experiences. Our bodies, even in the flower of life, are already on the way to death. And though in different proportions, sickness and pain coexist with health and vigor in each of our lives. Sorrow and happiness alternate and interpenetrate one another.
We know this coexistence is natural and can be accepted with resignation – and we know also that it is natural to seek life and fear death. But at the same time we are all subject to the experience of a longing for a different kind of life; an unending, or infinite life. We long for abundant life that death cannot touch, a fulfillment that we cannot put our finger on. We do not know what it is, but only that it is not life as we know it – it is more.
Christianity offers the definitive answer to this human problem by proclaiming that Jesus Christ is God-Made-Man, and hence God-made-subject-to-death. When a man dies, his life is swallowed up by death. When the God-Man dies, death is swallowed up by his life. In this way the abundant and unknown life for which we long enters the world.
Because of Jesus Christ, we no longer have to fear death and pain and suffering – nor are we left in mere resignation before them. We are given the key to unlocking the mystery of life and death: Jesus Christ himself – God With Us.
Life and death are now interpreted for us in Christ. Vivere Christus est, et mori lucrum!
What is life?
Life is Jesus Christ our God. (Vivere Christus est)
What is death?
Because his life has swallowed up death, death is a gain of Jesus Christ – a gain of life. (Mori lucrum est)
Death and suffering remain evils: the Christian does not seek them willy nilly. But when, like Christ, the Christian embraces suffering as an act of loving obedience to God, death becomes a Way to life in greater measure.
I’ve found, personally, that Philippians 1:21 can help one keep perspective on this. In the midst of life’s great pains, I find it liberating to recall that in desiring and seeking life and health and wholeness, I am desiring Jesus Christ the Son of God. But insofar as I cannot secure life and health and wholeness for myself, I must obediently embrace death and incompleteness. Recalling this is also liberating, because in such obedient, loving death I gain Christ in greater measure than before – Christ: the one whom I was desiring, in desiring life.
“Pick up your cross, and follow me,” says the Lord.