1 Corinthians 15:50-53
(50) This I declare, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption. (51) Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, (52) in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (53) (and from our reading today:) For that which is corruptible must clothe itself with incorruptibility, and that which is mortal must clothe itself with immortality.
This is a great reading for just before Lent. We are called throughout the season of Lent to reflect on our own mortality, and on the graciousness of God through his salvation won for us by Jesus. Paul is here reminding us that death is a universal experience. The change that he is talking about for those who will be alive at the coming Christ is a form of death. It is the death of corruption.
Corruption is the result of original sin, when we lost all of the sanctifying grace that God intended us to live in. He restored that to us in Baptism, and restores it to us continually, through the Sacraments. But it is never complete while we are still living on this earth.
Because of sanctifying grace, we need not fear death. Paul’s statement in the reading today draws us further into that challenge when he challenges death itself: “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
Jesus brought death to death. He took captivity captive. He broke the power of the grave. This is the entire mystery of Lent and Easter.
As we ready ourselves for this Lenten experience, it is not about giving something up for the sake of the kingdom of God, it is about engaging the idea of a transformation that God wants us to begin – now. And, it is a good idea to give up SOMETHING!
If we do not take the time each year – and it should be every day of our lives – to think about the mysteries of death and resurrection, desert and oasis, this life and eternal life, we will find ourselves not understanding the victory of Christ over sin and death. It is a phrase I am sure you have heard many times: the Christian life is about dying and rising.
But there must be something more than just that little phrase for Paul to get as excited as he did in this letter today! That is what I am praying we all find this Lent. When Easter comes, will we be ready to shout as St. Paul did: “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
Lord Jesus, teach us this Lent to face death – the death of sin – in our lives. Teach us to be ready and eager to become the new creatures you have already begun to make of us by Baptism.
Help us to learn to laugh at death, even though it makes us sad to lose sight of those we love. Make us a Resurrection people, ready to rejoice in Easter, as you guide us through this Lent. Amen.