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Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 17-18, 2012

posted Mar 18, 2012, 9:59 AM by fathermark@stmaryshuntingburg.org

Fourth Sunday of Lent

March 17-18, 2012


            I have spent a lot of time over the last 6 or so years trying to learn, maintain, and improve my Spanish.

And so, I know from recent personal experience, that one of the most important parts of learning a language is learning the proper verb tenses, for example, in English:

The present tense: I speak

The future tense: I will speak

The past tense: I spoke

Now, as we all know, when you use the future tense, you mean an action that has not yet happened but will.

When you speak in the past tense, you generally mean that the action is past ... over and done with ... accomplished.


            Now, with that in mind, it seems like ol' Saint Paul needs a few lessons on the proper use of verb tenses.

He's got some "verb tense confusion."

In our second reading today from his Letter  to the Ephesians, St. Paul says:

When we were dead in sin (past tense), God brought us to life with Christ (again past tense).

Now here is where it really gets interesting:

God raised us up with him (still in the past tense)

... and God seated us with him in the heavens  in Christ Jesus (again past tense.)

God "raised us up with him ... and seated us with him the heavens" ... past tense ... already past ... over and done with ... accomplished.


            Now, if that is true ...

If that were a correct use of the past tense ...

Then, it would mean that you and I were with Jesus on the Cross ... it would mean that we were lying with him in the tomb ... that we rose up with him on that Easter morning ...

Of course, we hope that we will be raised up with him after death (future tense) ... we hope that we will join him in heaven (future tense) ... but what's with this use of the past tense?

"God raised us up with him ... "

"God seated us with him in the heavens ..."

Again, the past tense.

In Paul's mind, it seems like these things have already happened.

We've already been raised up and seated with God in the heavens.

Now, that seems like a little "verb tense confusion."

            But, of course, St. Paul hasn't mixed up his verb tenses.

He knows exactly what he wants to say, and he's saying it.


            The Son of  God became truly human.

He took on our flesh.

He had a body like ours.

The Son of God became one of us ... "like us in all things but sin" ... a brother ... a friend ...

And on His Cross, he carried our sins with him ... he carried the burden of our sins ... he bore the punishment for our sin ... yours and mine ...and the sins of all humanity.

And so, when Jesus died on that Cross in our human flesh, our sins died with him.

We died with Christ on His Cross.


            And when he rose from the dead ... in a body like ours ... in human flesh ... we rose with him ... from death to life ... from slavery to sin to newness of life ... from being those destined to hell to those destined for heaven ...

And when he ascended into heaven ... to take his seat at the right hand of the Father ... he not only went to stake a claim for us ... to reserve a place for us ... no, he took us with him ...


            Yes, it's true none of us was there physically when he died on the Cross.

None of us lay with him physically in the tomb.

None of us rose with him literally and physically.

Here we are at this moment  ... not physically seated with him in heaven.


            But St. Paul is telling us that in a real way ... yes, in mysterious way ... but in a real way ... it's already done. 

It's a done deal.

Past tense.



            Which is why, elsewhere, in his Letter to the Colossians, St. Paul can say:

"If you have been raised up with Christ, then seek the things that are above , not the things below ..."

If we died with him (past tense)

... and rose with him to newness of life (past tense) ...

... and have been seated with him at the right hand of the Father (past tense)

... then (present tense) we are already dead to sin ... sin has no power over us ... sin is not for us ... focus on the things of this world alone is not for us...

We must live now, today, every day, in the newness of life of those who truly believe this good news.

We must have our eyes fixed elsewhere ... and judge the things of this world from the perspective of the next ... and not the other way around.


            The problem is, as we all know from sad experience, we don't live up perfectly to who and what we are already are.

Sometimes we live like people who were not crucified with Christ ... like people who did not die with him to sin ... like people who did not rise with him in newness of life.

And that's called sin.

And Lent is the time to repent of that sin ... so that, once again, in the sacred three days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday we can truly celebrate not only the death and resurrection of Jesus ... but our death to sin ... and our resurrection to newness of life ... a present reality ... accomplished in the past ... to be fully realized in a future beyond our imagining.


            Let's join in singing "Were you there ..."

[Sing hymn #120 in missalette]


            The answer to those  questions is:

"Yes! We were there."

The challenge for us now is to live that reality in the present.