The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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April 21, 2000 Issue

New perceptions

Jesus' resurrection changed our way of viewing our relationship with God

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

Several years ago, it became fashionable to talk about paradigm shifts - that is, radical changes in our way of looking at or doing something.

One classic example was the Swiss craftsmen who developed and mastered the making of the time-keeping mechanism for watches. They made the most accurate timepieces in the world, which also were quite expensive. Then came quartz mechanisms, which kept better time and could be manufactured for a fraction of the cost.

Suddenly, the world had changed for watchmaker, jewelers and consumers, much as the development of the automobile changed the lives of blacksmiths, buggy whip makers and travelers. Or as ballpoint pens did to fountain pens or calculators did to slide rules. These all represent a new paradigm and signal a new time.

Jesus' resurrection from the dead - which we celebrate this Sunday on Easter - represents an even bigger paradigm shift.

Throughout Lent, the liturgical readings reminded me of how much Jesus changed our lives through his fulfillment of the covenant made by God and the Israelites, and now extended to us.

A major difference between the covenant of the First Testament and the Christian covenant is that, as Jeremiah prophesied, the covenant is written on our hearts, and as St. Paul said, we, as church, are directed by the Spirit. Not only has the covenant changed, but so has our perceptions of the covenant. Consider these examples taken from Lenten liturgical readings:

-- "For you name's sake, do not deliver us up forever, or make void your covenant. Do not take away your mercy from us" (Dn 3:34-35, from Tuesday of the Third Week in Lent).

-- "Early and often did the Lord, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them, for he had compassion on his people and his dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets, until the anger of the Lord against his people was so inflamed that there was no remedy" (2 Chr 36:15-16, from the Fourth Sunday of Lent).

It must be made clear, that God never did break the covenant of the First Testament and that most prophets believed that the covenant would last forever - which, St. Paul assures us, it does. But the idea that such a thing could happen did occur to some of the prophets, who also warned that the people were in danger of breaking the covenant and that by their lives of injustice they were not living up to the terms of the covenant.

As Christians, it doesn't even occur to us that God might void or violate the covenant. And today, there probably aren't many Christians who think that we might break the covenant. True, some Christians warn that an angry God has sent some natural disaster - a flood, hurricane, tornado, or better yet, earthquake - as a warning or act of retribution on a sinful people. But certainly most Christians don't believe that an all-loving, all-just God indiscriminately punishes large numbers of innocent people along with the guilty, especially when the victims of a disaster are a half-world away from those thought to be the biggest sinners.

Even more foreign to the Christian way of thinking is the idea that rejection by society are signs of God's displeasure with us. Jesus warned us - through his words and his passion and death - that his followers should expect abuse from the world.

Thus, for Christians, martyrdom or imprisonment are not reasons to despair or to believe that we've somehow lost favor with God. Rather, they mean we are following in the footsteps of Jesus, Peter, Paul, and legions of Christians.

At the same time, Jesus assured us that God is overflowing with mercy and compassion, quick to forgive and slow to anger, always ready to welcome us back in the manner of the Prodigal Son's father, constantly searching for lost sheep or coins.

As Jesus tells us in the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (Jn 3:16-17).

As St. Paul says in the Easter Vigil Epistle, "we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death" and therefore we too, through that union, "must think of ourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus" (Rom 6:4,11).

Our risen Lord reigns as our promise of everlasting life in God. That's a true paradigm shift! Happy Easter!

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