Anniversary Liturgy 2023: Paul Gould, Jr.

The central mystery of our Christian faith is contained in what we just heard read from the letter of Saint Paul to the Romans. In it, we are reminded of the fulfillment of the promise Our Lord made to his followers, that “Everyone who sees the Son and believes in him [will] have eternal life and [he] will raise them on the last day.” It’s true that our Christian Scriptures tell us about Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, but not as though they were simply telling us about wonderful things that happened in the now-distant past. It’s important that we remember that when we hear about Jesus, we’re hearing about the life, death, and resurrection that we, as his followers, are living out in our own lives and the lives of our loved ones even today.

That’s why Saint Paul asks us, “Are you not aware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” He goes on to tell us what that means for us. “We were indeed buried with him through baptism into his death, so that, just as Christ was raised for the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.” He concludes by challenging us to reawaken our faith when he says, “If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.”

As we remember Paul this morning, it gives us a chance to reflect on the great mystery of our Christian faith. We are challenged to set aside the appearance of death that at times haunts us, and take to heart Saint Paul’s words. For us, death is now nothing to be feared because we have already died…and we have already begun to live the life that is to come. When we experience the passing of our loved ones, our relatives, and our friends—and the longer we live, the more we experience it—our faith sets aside the appearance of loss and asks us to bring to mind that we are already on that same journey, and, through our own baptism, we’re already experiencing our own resurrection—a resurrection we share with Jesus, with Paul, and all those who have died in Christ and are being raised up.

In a moment, we’re going to be hearing the words of the Preface for the Dead. These are the words that express for us the hope of our faith that overcomes both the sadness and the fear of death. It says, “Lord, for your faithful people, life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death, we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.” It is a mistake to think of what we call heaven as far away and in the future. Since we’re already joined to the Lord in his death and resurrection through our own faith and baptism, heaven is here and now. We can’t see it with our earthly eyes, yet the eyes of faith tell us that we are already a part of it, and it is already a part of us. We rejoice today that in Jesus, what will be already is, and we are one with him and with Paul and all those who have gone before us, where we are already on the way. When we proclaim the mystery of our faith in this Eucharist, we need to remember that, since Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again…we are already a part of that mystery.

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