Immersed in Christ: Saturday after Pentecost: May 29, 2021
The Secret Sign
IMAGINE you know little of Christianity. You see some people moving their right hands to touch their head, heart and shoulders. “What are you doing?” you ask.
“That’s our secret sign,” one answers. “We’re Christians. This sign tells us Jesus is risen from the dead. That’s what our religion is all about. You won’t understand it; it’s a mystery. But I’ll try to explain.
“We touch our head to say what we know. We know that because Jesus rose from the dead, we are not just humans anymore. He is alive and continuing his life in our bodies, sharing his divine life with us. That makes his Father our Father. When we touch our heads and say, “Father,” it reminds us we are children of the Father. Not just God’s creatures, but his family. We are divine.
“Then we bring our hand down to our heart to say what we feel – on a level deeper than just emotion. This is where the center of our life is. Jesus lives in us. He acts in us and through us. Our bodies are his body. Our life is to live in union of mind and heart and will with Jesus. We speak the name of God the Son, who came down from heaven and was ‘made flesh’ – not just to live among us, but to live in us as his own body. This is the secret of our existence: Jesus has risen from the dead and is living now in our bodies. Every Christian says, as St, Paul did, ‘It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.’ That is the mystery of our identity. The sign we make reminds us of it and identifies us to those who understand it.
“Then we touch both shoulders to say what we do. We are ‘ yoked’ with Jesus to let him continue his mission in us. We all carry our share of the load. But his ‘ yoke is easy’ and his ‘burden is light,’ because we have received ‘power from on high’ through the gift of the Holy Spirit given to us to. We speak the Spirit’s name as we move our hand from shoulder to shoulder, describing an arc that takes in the whole world. Our mission as Christ’s risen body is to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
“You may not have noticed, but when we touch our head, heart and shoulders we are tracing a cross. All we have said above comes out of the mystery of the cross. The mystery is that Jesus did not just die; we died in him. By Baptism we, with all the sins we would ever commit, were incorporated into his body on the cross. ‘For our sake God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’
When Jesus died, we died with him and in him. He took us down into the grave with him, erasing the history of our sins. Then he raised us from the dead by rising himself in our bodies to continue his life and mission in us. We are “a new creation.” Our sins are not just forgiven but “taken away” by our death in Jesus as “Lamb of God.”
“When we make our secret sign, the ‘sign of the cross,’ we are reminding ourselves and each other of ‘the glory of this mystery,’ which St. Paul says ‘is Christ in you, the hope of glory.’
“Now do you understand? If you think you do, you’re mistaken!”