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Summary: Many saints’ lives seem "tragically short." Short, perhaps, but not tragic; Jesus’s life was the briefest of all.

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Feast of St. James

July 25, 2009

In our meditation on the mystery of Christ and Mary today, there is something that occurred to me that I knew wouldn’t survive the drive to church, so I typed it out. Both the Saturday Matins reading and the Mass text today are from 2 Corinthians, which is written by a persecuted Paul. He was in trouble and so were the people of Corinth, so he wrote to encourage them to persevere. He says “we are punished, but not put to death; sorrowful, though we are always rejoicing.” And it reminded me of two other words from the Word: Job’s saying “we accept good things from the Lord; should we not also accept evil?” And John’s: “God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son, so that all who believe in Him might not perish, but have everlasting life.”

James had an amazingly short ministry. He was put to death seven to ten years after the Resurrection. Herod Antipas killed him. Think of Padre Pro, who ministered for just a short time during the Mexican persecution before they arrested and shot him. Think of some saints who were not murdered, but suffered horribly before dying young–like Therese of Liseaux. But the shortest of all was that of Jesus, whose ministry prior to his execution maybe lasted three years. What was that struggle in the garden all about? It was his critical human realization that He, though being God’s Son, was willed to be murdered by His Father. God willed the death of Jesus. God, in Pope Benedict’s words, acted as Trinity to will an act that was against His own self-interest. And the human will of Jesus actively agreed to that death–for our sakes.

What good did it do? It opened the stony heart of humankind so that the forgiveness of God, the mercy we are about to sing, could flow in and turn our hearts of stone to natural hearts, indeed to the heart of Christ. It brought down the lightning power of the Holy Spirit onto those who believe and participate in the sacramental life of Christ. It enabled us to be truly reborn in the image and likeness of God. And all these short saintly lives? They are now more powerful and effective than ever, through their stories, their writings, and especially their everlasting intercession for us before the throne of God. No saintly life is “tragically short.”


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