|Salvador Dali's Crucifixion|
The answer simply is that Christianity is not about merely being good, although most of us were probably brought up to think that it was about being good in this life so that we could go to heaven. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that we should be bad. I'm just saying that following Jesus has an entirely different goal. In an earlier blog post on prayer (See July 28, 2011) I pointed out that the purpose of prayer is to seek union with God in Christ, not to get God to do things for us, though we may certainly go to God with petitions. Here I want to build on that idea.
As St. Paul tells us regarding our baptism that "we have been united with him through likeness to his death, so shall we be through a like resurrection. (Romans 6:5) At baptism then we are united with Christ. From this we understand that our goal in life is to allow that union to come to fruition and to be made complete. We do this not so much by "trying to be good people," but rather by allowing the mystery of Jesus' death an resurrection to transform us so that over the course of a lifetime we more and more become living images of Christ.
Such a lofty goal may seem beyond the reach of most ordinary Christians, but I think that it is attainable because it is Christ who does the work. Our job, as the third step of Alcoholics Anonymous says is "to surrender our will and our life." We Americans live in a competitive society and surrender is a hard pill to swallow. We would rather have rules and keep them and in so doing feel superior to those who don't. Surrender sounds frightening, like jumping of a cliff into the unknown. In faith however we believe that we are surrendering to One who loves us totally and unconditionally. In actuality most of us don't jump off that cliff. Instead we jump a few steps at a time, then a few more until at the end we have surrendered completely and cast ourselves into the arms of a loving God. May we use this Holy Week to gaze upon the cross and surrender, at least a bit more, to such wondrous love. By the way. If you do that I promise you that you will also be good.