Holy Week 2019: Monday: St. Paul Prepares Us for Good Friday

Christ is also the head of the church,
    which is his body.
He is the beginning,
    supreme over all who rise from the dead.
    So he is first in everything.
For God in all his fullness
    was pleased to live in Christ,
and through him God reconciled
    everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
    by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.

But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News (Colossians 1.18-23a, NLT).

Yesterday in my sermon, I spoke of the false narrative our culture tries to foist on us. The culture in which we live rejects the power of Sin—that outside and hostile power that enslaves us—in our lives and tries to gloss it over, telling us it either doesn’t matter or that it will turn out all right in the end. We hear it all the time. Live and let live. I’m OK, you’re OK. Follow your own heart. Keep an open mind. Be tolerant. This is exactly what the dark powers want because this mindset removes constraint on our behavior. And because many of us have bought into this cultural narrative, we simply refuse to take sin seriously, believing there aren’t any real consequences to what we do, say, or think.

We couldn’t be more wrong.

When we buy into this false narrative, it blinds us to the truth about which St. Paul speaks above. Because we don’t take sin seriously, we read these words and consider them to be nothing more than nonsense or an idle tale. If sin is not a problem, there is no need for God to do anything about it. So what’s all this bloody cross talk?

But what if God does care about sin? What then?

Well, if God does care about sin and hates it because it corrupts and dehumanizes us, and if God really does love us, God has to do something about our sin and the evil it produces and/or allows. The Christian faith, and only the Christian faith, has always proclaimed that God’s answer to the problem of Sin is to bear the consequences of our sin himself so that we are spared and remain his forever. Only then will we find real peace and reconciliation with God.

On Monday of this Holy Week, read carefully St. Paul’s words above and ponder them. Ask God to give you the grace to see how utterly serious God takes sin and how desperately incapable you are to heal yourself from your own sins. If you really come to believe this, you will read St. Paul’s words in a completely new light. You will read them with a mixture of sorrow, gratitude, joy, and thanksgiving that in union with the Father, the Son of God did what none of us can do for ourselves to redeem us from Sin’s power and the terrible wrath of God on our evil. That’s the kind of freedom we instinctively crave. Asking God for this kind of grace, painful as it can be, will help you get ready for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday as you contemplate God’s unfathomable love for you. It will make you realize how utterly helpless you are to fix yourself so that your enmity with God is ended and his just judgment on your sins is removed. This realization can only open your eyes to the depth of God’s love for you and how precious you really are to God, despite your hostility toward him. This will inevitably lead to a grateful and changed heart that is wonderfully liberating and joyous.

Don’t let yourself be or remain a prisoner of a narrative that can only lead to death. Open your eyes to the predicament of the human race, yourself included, so that you can begin to understand why we call the story of Jesus “Good News.” After all, how do you feel when confronted with the realization you have a terrible problem in your life that you are powerless to fix, but then realize Someone greater than you has fixed it on your behalf? Is that not good news, the best news of all? Your despair has turned into relief and joy. That’s the essence of the Good News of Jesus Christ and it is worthy of your contemplation this Holy Week.