Deeds and Words
Paprocki's fourth chapter reflects on the paradoxical nature of the cross of Christ - a seemingly counterintuitive approach to living through death. Paprocki reflects on our natural inclination towards fighting evil with evil, utilizing power to overcome power, and to deal death with death while pointing out that the way of Jesus calls us to resist some of our natural inclinations which are vicious because of our fallen state. While the cross of Jesus is the ultimate "lesson", we can certainly look to our Lord's parables for much of this insight.
Jesus’ parable of the two sons teaches us an extremely important lesson in what it means to follow Christ. The verbal rebellion followed by complete obedience by the first son is contrasted with the verbal obedience and failure to act by the second son. Jesus’ adversaries recognized that it is the first son who truly loves his father, since he has carried out the task that was asked of him. So, Jesus seemed to question them by this story: are the teachers of the Law who claimed such noble love for God and yet fail to do His will that truly love God? Or, are the prostitutes and the tax collectors, those who received John, Jesus’ predecessor, who delivered the message and commands of God and allowed the message and commandments to transform them who are the true lovers of God?
It is curious that some of us think that Christianity solely means taking on the name of ‘Christian’. I think we all know what Christ thinks of such ‘lip-service’ mentality. To nominally claim Christianity does not mean that we are Christians. To to be Christian involves following the radical calling of Jesus, often demanding that we abandon worldly attachments and relationships in order to follow him. This means that we will need to be personally transformed, brought to conformation with the virtue of Christ, which will lead us to serve one another. We will leave comfort behind in order to follow Christ, but this is the only way for us to be Christians.
Thus, it is not only the sacrament of Baptism that identifies us with Christ, but rather all of the other six sacraments also work to help us live our Christianity. Why? It is because following Christ forms a new relationship between us, the disciples, and God, which allows us to understand that following Christ will mean having to carry a cross. This is what it means to be conformed to Christ; insofar as Christ understood this both of himself and of his mission, we therefore must also understand this. In this sense, each sacrament merits a particular kind of grace in order for us to be able to take on the task that God has reserved for us.
Once we grasp who Christ truly is and what he wants of us, we will have to answer his question, “Which of the two did his father’s will?” Will we, imperfect Christians as we are, be like the first son: we may not like what God has called us to do but we do it anyway? Or will we be like the second son: we wear a Christian "name tag", we readily advertise this identity to others, but we refuse to forgive when forgiveness is asked and we only see human dignity in those whom we favor? Let us pray that God gives us the strength and courage to be like that first son.