“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” This lyric, from the song “Closing Time,” oddly articulates the bittersweet paradox signified by Good Friday and Easter. If we really want to live for others, we must be willing to die to self. Accordingly, faithfulness to love brings spiritual life, joy, and goodness even when we confront challenging times in our lives.
Before priesthood, as the legal guardian of my teenage sister, my desire to provide and nourish her required me to die to former ways of life in order for my heart to expand and better consider her needs. Loving adventurously invites us out of ourselves into the mysterious unknown where risk of death lurks alongside a greater hope of life. An ancient symbol of Christ depicted on Louisiana’s flag communicates this—the mother pelican wounds her breast to feed her young. As any parent knows, bringing forth life, physical or spiritual, requires a willingness to suffer and sacrifice for the sake of the beloved. Just as Christ sacrificed for us, we sacrifice for those we love. Although the sacrifice can bring darkness and pain, the joy that comes from the love received brings new life.
The martyrs, who’d rather die than be unfaithful, exemplify the hope offered to all of us. “If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” (Romans 6:8) We do not sacrifice for our families in vain. God places in every heart hope for a New Creation and in Christ gives us reason for this hope. Jesus unites our sacrifices to His sacrifice of the cross and brings them to fruition in His resurrection as a foreshadowing of our future resurrection.
Not wanting to condemn us to live forever in this fallen world, Christ transforms the consequences of sin, the tomb of death, into the womb of eternal life. Hope in Christ’s resurrection allows us to boldly proclaim with St. Paul, “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:54-55). Though there is grieving on Good Friday, the dawn of Easter Sunday brings joyful victory. To reflect further on this paradox, listen to the song “Beautiful Things” by Gungor. ■