This is one of the powerful messages Marie and I took away from our 2016 OMI Lacombe, Ontario District annual retreat with Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI. “If you consider Jesus’ life, he lived it robustly, enjoying people, hospitality and even wine. When it came to his death, he was not rescued by God. Rather, he freely gave it up. Three days later he was resurrected offering us redemption from our suffering. You have to go through the nasty middle part to get to the glorious end, just like Jesus did.” counselled Fr. Ron.
Jesus’ life is thus a metaphor for our lives. We too will suffer and die. However if we believe in Him, we too will be redeemed and have eternal life. (John 3:16 and 36). How then should we live our life? Robustly like Jesus. How then should we die? Freely and happily like Jesus.
This metaphor explains a lot of things – like why bad things happen to good people, why there is so much suffering, death and evil in our world. Why abortion and assisted suicide are morally wrong. Where is God in all this pain we often ask? God is in the victim says Fr. Ron. e.g., in a helpless baby; in a child who dies of cancer or is tragically killed in an accident; in an aging person who is ill and suffering much pain.
When we let our lives flourish, yet are willing to give them up, a big challenge becomes finding the correct balance between “giving our lives away in sacrifice” and “letting our lives flourish.” Jesus led the perfectly balanced life where he loved to be with the poor and heal them yet enjoyed the good things in life such as being anointed with expensive perfume by Mary Magdalen (John 12:1-8).
Conversely, if we die embittered and angry unlike Christ, we will not only not be rescued but we also will not be redeemed nor receive eternal life. The purpose of life then becomes not just to seek unity with God but also to prepare oneself for a happy death.
The secret of the cross: God does not rescue – He redeems.
Thank you Fr. Ron and all my Oblate brothers and sisters. This was a powerful message on how to live and how to die.