Who here is sort of afraid to die?
Go ahead. Be honest. Let’s see some hands. Who is sort of afraid of what it might be like to die?
Presumably nobody here today has already experienced physical death… more often than not, it only happens to us once. And so the fact of the matter is, none of us know for sure what that experience is really like.
It’s clouded with mystery. It’s unknown.
Of course, we know, as Dr. Scott Hahn once put it so well, that there is a 100% mortality rate and also a 100% immortality rate. We trust and believe that our soul survives its separation from the physical, biological body, and it goes to be judged by God.
…But death itself remains a mystery to us. And so, there’s often a very natural, very understandable fear — a trepidation — that comes along with anticipating that moment… when we cross over from this life to the next…
But let me ask you this:
Has anyone ever told you that you are already dead?
Right now, in fact.
You are dead.
What do I mean by that?
Well, just what our Second Reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. There he said this:
“Brothers and sisters: Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? — We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. — If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. […] Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.”
So yes in a certain manner of speaking…………… You are dead.
Dead to sin and alive for God!
Is that the way we think? If not, we’re missing out on so much freedom!
Because now, it’s not so much that our job is to try really hard to put sin to death in our life. It’s that we are dead to sin already, and now we are invited to live into that identity by the grace and power of the Resurrected Jesus, who is alive in us!
It all flows from the fact — the reality — of what Jesus has already done for you on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. By your baptism into His death, you have already died! And now, you are a brand new creation! You are a temple of the Holy Spirit! You are adopted. Chosen. Consecrated! You are raised to new life in Him who has risen from the grave!
Sin has no business in your life anymore. It doesn’t belong. It’s incompatible with this new life you’ve already been given in the waters of baptism! ….Now, sin has no power over you!
Let’s say that together: “Sin has no power over me.”
Can you see how this is different than us trying to stop sinning on our own power — by our own efforts? Can you see how this is radically different than trying to earn our way to a kind of personal, spotless perfection?
Sin was crucified… put to death forever on the Cross, once and for all. Look at Jesus hanging on the Cross — that’s YOUR sin hanging dead. We are therefore, in principle, already dead to sin as well. And so now, we can finally start living!
But how do we do this? How can we possibly stay dead to sin and alive to God? I’ve got five basic, indispensable ways for you to ponder today:
- Surround yourself with holy friends — If you are going to live a life that’s dead to sin, you need good friends. You need an encouraging and supportive community. Get connected and stay connected.We are not strong enough to be lone-ranger Christians. Without good, vulnerable, Christ-centered relationships, we are sure to start making all sorts of compromises and compensations, and we will drift away from Jesus.So get some holy friends who you can call when you’re tempted and struggling. People who will push you forward in faith and encourage you when you fail. Remember: “Iron sharpens iron.” We are here for one another. The Church is not a country club — it’s a family of believers pushing one another forward towards Heaven!
- Invoke the Saints — This one is similar to the first. Not only do you need good earthly community and friendship… you also need heavenly friends who will stand by you and come at once to help and support you. Ask your patron saints — especially your confirmation saint — to help you put any and all sin to death. If you don’t have a patron saint — start reading the lives of the saints. Get to know your heavenly allies! Above all, cling to our Blessed Mother. She is Immaculate. She knows how beautiful it is to be unstained by sin!The Angels, too, are on your side. Never forget that you have a Guardian Angel who is fighting for you. God has given you this angel to help you stay dead to sin. You are never alone. These heavenly helpers are all immediately accessible and are more than eager to join in the battle with you. Be bold. Ask them all for help!
- Invest in personal prayer — Prayer is like breathing. If you don’t breath, you will die. If you don’t pray, your faith… your virtue… your relationship with the Lord… will die. There’s no way around it — if you want to stay dead to sin and alive for God, you need to invest in deliberate, intentional, and prolonged time in personal prayer.My favorite definition of prayer is “wasting time with God.” We waste all sorts of time on our phones, on Netflix, on social media, on the news… it’s high time that we waste more time just being with God.Park yourself in front of the Tabernacle. Create a “prayer corner” in your home. Walk around your neighborhood praying the rosary. If you are living a life of intimacy with the Lord, you will want to sin less and less. If you fall in love with God, you are sure to become more and more dead to sin. How can you love Him if you never spend any time with Him? So make time for the Lord!
- Persevere in the Sacraments — Our participation in the Holy Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation are our life-line to God. They are the tangible ways we stay united with Him and His Church and live out our baptismal promises. If we drift away from the Sacraments, we drift away from God. When we sin, especially when we sin seriously, we have a beautiful opportunity as Catholics to come and put our sin to death in the confessional.Don’t think of the confessional as going to the principal’s office when you get in trouble, but rather, think of it as going to the doctors! You are going in for spiritual surgery — you tell Jesus, the Divine Surgeon, where the sickness is, and He immediately cuts it out. He kills the cancer. He puts it all to death and sends you home healthy again!
- Be relentless with your environment — This is something Fr. Mike Schmitz talks about often — Always always always be patient with yourself… be gentle with yourself because God is so very gentle with you… He never gets tired of forgiving you.…But at the same time — be absolutely relentless with your environment!“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off!” Jesus says. Be relentless with your environment! Stop at nothing to change what really does need to be changed.
One time, a guy literally broke his smartphone right in front of me because it had become such an obvious occasion of sin — He knew that if this device remained in his life, he would keep on looking at nasty, impure stuff online. He wanted to stay dead to sin, so he became relentless with his environment.
Now I’m not telling you to go home and smash your smartphones necessarily… though it may do some of you a lot of good!
But at least ask yourself this: How can I be more relentless with my environment so that I can be dead to sin and alive to God?
Do you need to pour that bottle of bourbon down the drain? Then do it. Do you need to move the television out of the bedroom? Then do it.
Do you need to have a hard conversation about setting clearer physical boundaries with your boyfriend or girlfriend? Then have it! Do you need to delete apps from your phone, or put filters on your computer, or unsubscribe from this or that streaming service? — Well, get on with it!
Nothing is worth risking our relationship with God over!
Jesus said it best in our Gospel today:
“Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.”
When it comes down to it, if we’re not willing to do whatever it takes to really be dead to sin, then we are not worthy of Jesus. If we’re not willing to lose our life for Him, then we’ll never find life in Him.
That sounds harsh, but it’s true!
We can’t spend the rest of our life with our sin on life support! What a miserable way to live — to spend the rest of our days on earth saying: “Tomorrow, tomorrow! Just let me have one more taste. One more bite. One more sip of sin today! Then tomorrow, I’ll put it away forever. Tomorrow I’ll be dead to sin! But today, I need at least this much… at least this little tiny bit!”
Jesus only looks back at us and says: “It is now that I want to be loved. Right now. Not tomorrow.”
Saint Augustine’s beautiful and honest prayer comes to mind here: “How long shall I go on saying: Tomorrow, tomorrow? Why not now? Why not make an end of my ugly sins at this moment?”
Yes, why not now? Why not this moment? That’s a great question! You aren’t a slave to your sins. Sin has no power over you!
You’re already dead!!! — Now… it’s time to live for God.