Octave of Easter

Where, O Death, Is Your Victory?

We all know that Jesus conquered death. It's an amazing triumph for him, to be sure, but what good does it do us? St. Paul explains,

Now since the children share in blood and flesh, he likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life. — Hebrews 2:14-15

Death has always caused dread and despair. Satan and death ruled over the human race from the beginning, ruining everything, and no one could escape them. But Jesus did escape them—in fact, he crushed them! By sharing in our death and rising from the grave, Jesus defeated death and the Devil on our behalf. They no longer have any power over those who are united with Christ.

But how do we become united with Christ? And why, if Jesus defeated death for us, do we still die?

The answer lies in our Baptism and the promise of a resurrection like Christ's. Bodily death and spiritual death (separation from God) are both caused by sin. But in our Baptism, we are freed from sin and made one with Christ through participation in his Death and Resurrection. St. Paul explains,

How can we who died to sin yet live in it? Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. For a dead person has been absolved from sin. If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus. — Romans 6:2-11

Yes, each of us will still die. The struggle against sin and the sorrow of death are a reality in this life. But they will not have the last word. Even now, Christians have the life of Christ within us to free us from sin. If we persevere, we will enjoy spiritual life and peace with him in heaven and, ultimately, in the resurrection of the dead. Like Christ, we will not remain in the tomb. Our bodies will be raised and glorified, and death will be no more—all through Christ's victory. Alleluia! 

Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin... But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. — 1 Corinthians 15:55-57
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.

This collect prayer begins the Mass for Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Jesus is calling us to "take up battle against spiritual evils." We'll explore fasting itself in a few weeks; during the week of Ash Wednesday, we're going to dig into an important set of weapons the Lord gives us to fight evil: sacramentals.

What's a sacramental? Well, if you attend Mass on Ash Wednesday, you're probably going to receive one on your forehead.