Bursting the Chains of Death

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Bursting the Chains of Death

. . . those true to my word will never see death.  (John 8:51)

Perhaps all of us have heard the familiar lyrics of old sayings. One clergyman gave this advice to his parishioners:  “. . . toughness of mind can overcome anything.”  The quotes of famous people support his hymn of strength found in humans: Alexander the Great—“There is nothing impossible to the one who will try”;  William Pitt—“I trample on impossibilities”;  and Napoleon, who, when told it was impossible to take an army over the Alps, looked up at the mountains and said, “There will be no Alps.”  Not so long ago we were told, “It’s better to be dead than red.”  Do you remember that one?  A more modern tune urges us, through prominent politicians, to build up a nuclear arsenal to deter war and so on.During Lent, however, Jesus challenged these lyrics with a song of his own, composed of His words and lived experience:   It’s better to be killed than to kill;  those who live by the sword will perish by it;  true life comes from surrender;  being rejected is better than having prestige;  being weak is more powerful than having armed might;  being patient in suffering is stronger than fighting back.   These are hard lessons for those of us living in a society devoted to getting to the top.  They were easier to learn in earlier days when the homeless, tired, poor, and outcasts were proudly welcomed to our shores in a spirit of compassion and love.What does any of this have to do with Easter?  Do we really believe that “strength is made perfect in weakness,” that “when we are weak we are strong”? (cf. 2 Cor. 9-10)   Our own time bears similarities to the age of martyrs, when Christians were asked to stand up and be counted in rather dramatic ways.  Fortunately, Easter provides this liberation for us.  The light of Christ breaks through periodically in the little citizen who votes for a nuclear freeze or gives up a job that compromises Christian values.  Other “weak” ones—the handicapped, minorities, the aged, and women—are also beginning to bring about the reign of Christ in our world.  Have we had to stand up to such a challenge yet?   May this Easter be the time when Jesus will help us to break through any chains of death that still enslave us!

…the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, has freed you from the law of sin and death.  (Romans 8:2)

—Sister Mary E. Penrose, OSB




Sister Mary E. Penrose, OSB

Sister Mary E. Penrose is a Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. She edits readings for the liturgical Hours and writes reflections for the Community. And she is a tutor for the African Sisters attending The College of St. Scholastica. She was editor of a journal, Spirit & Life, for 18 years.


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