by Ken Rolheiser
Pain passes but beauty remains

For many years I asked myself, “Why did God exact such a terrible price in the death of his son Jesus?” My thinking was tied up in Old Testament sacrifice of dumb animals and blood that tried to buy forgiveness.

I finally realized I was asking the wrong question. God did not demand such a sacrifice. Jesus loved us so much that he offered his life to intercede for us. Jesus re-created innocence and hope for us. He took us from our darkness and the grizzly fear of death into light and resurrection.

The story is told of the French impressionist Auguste Renoir’s last years of paralyzing arthritis. Henri Matisse visited him daily, watching Renoir fighting torturous pain with each brush stroke. Finally Matisse asked, “Auguste, why do you continue to paint when you are in such agony?”
“The pain passes but the beauty remains,” Renoir replied. Indeed, the pain of the Cross passes but the beauty of the Resurrection light remains. Without Christ’s light we stumble in darkness.

Why do we not focus on the beauty of the Resurrection and the joy of the new life Jesus created for us? Why is our focus caught in the pain of the crucifixion? Why do we not look beyond the Cross at the life Jesus promised Dismas: “Today you will be with me in Paradise”?

Before the incarnation at Bethlehem death made us tremble in fear. Pain filled us with despair. Sickness was seen as a punishment from God for something we or our parents had done.

Metaphorically, we stumble in darkness. When it is dark we walk with care, in fear. We grope unsurely, making slow progress. With light, we walk erect, boldly, without fear.

Christ is our light. We face temptation boldly. We trust in the sureness of God’s Grace. We are not afraid and we do not despair. We need to redefine ourselves in the light of the Resurrection.

What prevents us from embracing the life of Christ? Romans 6:3-11 says:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.
For he who has died is freed from sin.
But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.
For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.
The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

The pain passes, but the beauty remains.

(532 words)