In the beginning

Column: For Paul, the lordship of Jesus is the bottom line

Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

Father Mike Stubbs

Those who died 10 years ago in the twin towers of the World Trade Center, or at the Pentagon, or on United Airlines Flight 93 did not anticipate that that day would be their last. Their fate came as a surprise.

In many cases, spouses and parents who survived would have gladly traded places with them. But that was not for them to decide.

“If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord.” These words from Sunday’s second reading, Rom 14: 7-9, conclude a section of the letter in which St. Paul is attempting to minimize differences among Christians. Some of those differences might sound trivial to us today: whether or not someone observes certain minor feast days or whether or not someone eats any kind of food or only vegetables instead.

St. Paul downplays the importance of these differences: “The one who eats must not despise the one who abstains, and the one who abstains must not pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on someone else’s servant?”

While these differences may appear trivial, whether a person stays alive or dies matters much more. Certainly, that makes a difference. But even there, St. Paul assures us that the lordship of Jesus Christ overshadows that concern: “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” For St. Paul, the lordship of Jesus Christ is the bottom line. That is why he adds, “For this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.”

Notice that St. Paul writes, “Christ died and came to life.” Normally, we would think of a person as first living, and then dying. But St. Paul reverses the accustomed order to draw attention to Christ’s resurrection, through which he came to life. For St. Paul, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ serves as the foundation of his lordship.

It is because of Christ’s saving death and glorious resurrection that we acknowledge him as Lord. That is the paschal mystery, which lies at the heart of our Christian faith. Every time that we celebrate the Eucharist, we proclaim that mystery immediately after the consecration of the bread and the wine: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.”

In a few months, when we begin to use the new translation of the Mass, the wording may change, but the basic point will remain the same: Our faith is based upon Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection to new life.

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Fr. Mike Stubbs

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