Saturday, January 6, 2018

Like God we Die

Now, my thoughts may look lugubre... because they are about death....but, no, they rather are about life.

First of all, our Christian faith tells us that our God died. Yes, God in Christ died on the cross. Then he rose on the third day, of course. The death of Jesus was evidence of how serious he was about life--our life. He preached about his Father's love--in the form of "kingdom"--and no rejection of that message was strong enough to make him withdraw from his mission. In front of the threat of the authorities of his time, he did not flee.

One striking teaching of Jesus was his invitation for us to be LIKE his Father, to be as "perfect" as his Father. "be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt5/48).This word "perfect" can be so misunderstood to mean something like a perfect geometrical shape. Jesus explained what being "perfect as the Father" meant. It meant a kind of dying. We tend to select those we respect and perhaps love from those we'd rather have nothing to do with. Take the example of human dignity. It is accorded to those who resemble me. Same class? Same ethnic group? Same language? Same political color? Those outside the sphere of resemblance do not deserve the same "dignity". We have to die from that. I may tend to limit "dignity" to my social class or ethnic group but I am told to respect the "other" whoever the "other" is and from whatever background the "other" may be.
Now, the Father of Jesus, "makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust" (Mt5/45). All have the same human dignity; all have the same dignity to be revered and respected.

This is not easy. This requires a certain death. I'd like to say, "death to being too full of myself". Look at the different passages in Matthew in chapter 5. Jesus speaks of death to anger, death to adultery, death to hatred, death to retaliation. But to die this way is to accept that the heavenly Father is my Father and I am a child of my Father. Hence Jesus says, "...that you may be children of your heavenly Father".

In Matthew we again find the same word "perfect" when Jesus talks about the poor. We read: "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me (Mt19/21).” Imagine working for social economic equality! It means a lot of dying involved. This time, "perfection" is evidence of discipleship with Jesus.
Notice then that it is a dying in order to promote life. I die to my egoistic ways in order to promote authentic human dignity. I die to my hoarding in order to share.

The Father did the first step to die! The first creation story tells us that "he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation" (Gen2/2-3). Sabbath is a way of dying. The Almighty and Powerful God takes "absence" from that might and power. The Lord God, in this story, allows the created world "to be". One striking evidence is in the creature called the human being. The human being is to be LIKE the Lord God. How?

First of all, there is the move from being male/female to becoming man/woman. The human is more than just a biological creature; the human is to be properly human. Secondly, the human is to have "domination" over the created world. This word is so misunderstood. Luckily today some prefer the term "stewardship". Some biblists translate the word to "mastery". It is a mastery OVER MASTERY. LIKE God the human is also to go sabbath--take hold of one's own might and power, guide these to revere AND NOT DISFIGURE the created world. As steward therefore the human must operate with a sabbath distance FROM ONE'S OWN TENDENCY TO DISFIGURE THE WORLD AND SOCIETY. Remember the human is now man/woman. So to "dominate" is to be like God and learn to die--die from egoism and ursurping power and might!

In the Creation story the Lord God is telling the human, "if I can do it (the sabbath distance), you too can do it because you are LIKE me". This, I think, is authentic dying. God has no issues with his own ego, trying to be "big timer" over us human creatures. Already from the start--creation--God "humbled himself". Later, in the New Testament, we read that God "empited himself" in Christ: "he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness" (Ph2/7). God became like us to reaffirm that we are in the likeness of God. Like God we die so that life be.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

A pond “in the beginning”

The first verse of Genesis evokes faith in a God who offered creation with so much life in it. God then wanted to live in covenant with this life especially since God created a creature in God's likeness, humanity, so to speak.

Biblists say that creation itself is an act of covenant that continues over and over again. It perpetuates itself. God wishes to be in relationship with creation--with all creatures, big or small--and God wishes that creation participates in God's own life. This explains why many Church documents say that the real goal of our own life is communion with God. For the Christian this is a Triune God. God has designed our existence to be in communion with the Trinity.

Creation is an act that continues--just like a covenant that is constantly renewed. I remember a good friend, Fr. Joseph Larsen CICM who told me that conversion is a covenant we do each day, each week, each year. Hence the first phrase of Genesis, "in the beginning", makes sense. Each moment is creative, "covenantal"...a starting over again, always a beginning. Yves Becquart, my tough mentor in studies, explained that the notion of parousia--or the final coming of Christ--is about a future that is constantly available. There is always something to look forward to in life and God refuses to opt for end and death. This is why parousia also means presence. God never opts to be absent. In Christ God is always present. Hence parousia can also be in the now!

So creation, covenant and presence are three terms that intertwine. We are not stuck in a pond, dark and immobile. We can always flow out, engage in and with the presence of God who continually invites us to life. This is easier said than realized, and I am not perhaps really existentially sure of what this means. Still I am thankful for those who taught me this lesson. 

"In the beginning". It is a fascinating phrase. Sometimes one feels like really caught in that pond as if life has stopped moving. But, "the beginning" always available...and the pond is just a corner of the stream.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Grapes and the New Year Celebration

Ezekiel was a prophet on exile. He was among those deported to Babylon and he did his ministry in the foreign land.
Ezekiel was questioned by the Lord God, "What is the meaning of this proverb you recite in the land of Israel: Parents eat sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge?" (18/2). It was an expression indicating that the faults of parents pass on to the next generations. A parent eats grapes, the kids face the consequences, so to speak. People following the traditional thinking believed that their exile was a consequence of what their parents did. Ezekiel went against this tradition. No transmission is involved, he said. For him whoever was at fault must be the one to face the consequences. Remember that Ezekiel was a prophet on exile, so he had to assure the exiled people that their situation was not a consequence of the acts of their previous generations. Ezekiel had to bring the light of hope and not despair to the exiled population. It was a tough job because it involved re-forming a tradition.
So the prophet said, "As I live—oracle of the Lord GOD: I swear that none of you will ever repeat this proverb in Israel. Only the one who sins shall die. The son shall not be charged with the guilt of his father...." (18/3 & 20).
Jeremiah shared the same view. He too was doing his ministry around the exile period. He stated, "In those days they shall no longer say, “The parents ate unripe grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge, but all shall die because of their own iniquity: the teeth of anyone who eats unripe grapes shall be set on edge" (31/30). The verse has complicated twist and turns that biblists will like to decipher. For us the whole point is that Jeremiah was concerned with the restoration of the people of Judah with the hope of a new covenant, so he wanted to drop all that crap about making future generations answer the faults of their past generations. Start everything anew!
This New Year season may be an occasion to re-think things over and accept that there is hope. The past may be so crushing and exasperating...but can we start anew?

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Hidden Life of Jesus?

During the 2nd century certain writings about the childhood of Jesus emerged. They had a strong influence in the minds of Christians. Mention The Gospel of James, also known as the Protoevangelium of James. Mention the Ascension of Isaiah. Mention the Apocalypse of Adam. Etc. They are considered "apocryphs", that is, they are stories of "questioned authenticity". They are not considered canonical. Yet they have influenced the mindset of many Christians. This is an interesting topic in Christology where the "historicity" of Jesus is discussed.

We cannot simply invalidate the role of imagination in representing the childhood of Jesus. Maybe the historical evidence is lacking there but imagination may contain the meaning and wisdom about Jesus. But do we really have solid historical evidence of the hidden life of Jesus?

Jesus was from Galilee. Archaeology shows that families during that time--1st century Palestine--lived in small houses with one or two rooms. In front of a house was a small court where other families would gather. In the court was a grinding wheel and a cistern shared by families. Villages had wine and olive presses. Galilee was an agricultural region. It was--and continues to be--a very green region. It is a lovely region today!

Jesus lived in Nazareth, in Galilee. The inhabitants of Nazareth were northerners--tribal people of the northern regions of Palestine. They were observing the Laws of Moses. The expectation for the coming of the Messiah was strong in the Galilee culture. But the region was also influenced by the Greek and Roman cultures. So some families had Greek names given to their infants. Remember Herod also from Galilee? His sons studied in Rome.

Now what about the family of Jesus. In Mark we read, "Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?" (6/3). There is no Greek nor Roman name. The name of the father, Joseph, is from as son of the Patriarch Jacob. "Mary" was taken from the name of the sister of Moses. "James" is taken from "Jacob". "Joses" is from Joseph. Simon is, well, a Jewish name, Simon. "Judas" is from Judah. The name "Jesus" itself is so Jewish, which is Yeshua, coming from Joshua, the successor of Moses. Might we say that the family of Jesus was not so impregnated with the mode of the time--taking foreign names? Jesus may have been from a Hebraic family attached to the Jewish faith.

There is this story of Mary and Joseph needing to follow the census of Quirinius. But Quirinius was a 6th century Roman Governor of Syria. Somehow this found its way into the Luke account. The historicity is therefore not exact. But underneath, there may have been a historical fact: the family of Jesus was among the families subject to harsh Roman rules, including payment of taxes. Galilee felt the pressure and tried to reject it. The family of Jesus obeyed Roman pressure with the hope that liberation was not from political revolt but from...somewhere else.

We see this in Jesus who suggested patience (see the parable of weeds among wheat in Mt 13/24-30; see Lk 17/23; 19,11). Jesus avoided confronting the Roman authority and was taking distance from political messianic expectations  (see Mk 12/17; 35-37).

Jesus was a carpenter--a real muscled carpenter who just did not hammer, he carried heavy rocks and stones. A (touristic) visit to ancient village ruins of Galilee will convince us.  Much likely after the death of Joseph Jesus took over the workshop.

The "infancy narratives" of Jesus are not to be taken as historical evidences. They, however, presuppose something historical. Allow me to take a position: the narratives TRANSLATE the experience of HISTORICALLY encountering Jesus, an experience that led to the faith in the messianic identity of Jesus that will be in full bloom after Easter. Remember that the narratives were written way after Easter, so they "retro-spect" and narrate about the entire experience with Jesus.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

On Christmas and New Year: Some thoughts

A brief meditation on Christmas

The prologue of the 4th gospel mentions something about "camping". Well, not exactly camping beside the beach and having drinks and fun. It's a different kind of camping. The phrase goes this way: "The Word became flesh and pitched tent among us" (Jn1/14). The usual translation is: "...he dwelt among us". 
The creativity of God is revealed. First of all, there was the Incarnation. Secondly, this Incarnation involved the solidarity of God with all humanity. 
What exactly does "tent"mean here? Textbook Bible study will say that it is the place of encounter. So we see the image of Jesus playing the role of making it possible for us to encounter God, thanks to the Incarnation. Jesus entered in solidarity with us undergoing the same human conditions we have. Here is where we meet God. 
If we continue the phrase we read, "...we have seen his glory". Meeting Jesus we experience the glory of God. This has always intrigued me. There comes a point in Christian life when everything becomes routine and even meaningless. There's the routine of attending mass...the candles, the priests wearing this and that, the pictures, the statues, the moral codes, etc. It looks as if there is nothing so glorious in all this. It's all dry. 
But a brief pause makes me say that having seen the glory of God in Christ is what presupposes our faith. We are Christians because we have seen his glory--we have encountered him in the tent.  

A brief meditation on New Year

Let me recall things I learned from the classroom. Judaism has its own feast for the New Year. The Jews call it Roch Hachana. A friend of mine from Tel Aviv explained to me that Roch means "head" and it is already mentioned in the first verse of Genesis. "In the beginning" is a translation of "in the head". (B'reshit has the root word roch, head). Hachana is "year". So Roch Hachana is "head of the year". The celebration is said to be based on Nb 29/1-6. Bible experts (and those who can read well Biblical Hebrew) might need to correct me here, if in case I am in error.
First of all, the celebration is a kind of "shabbat" that recalls the creation of man and woman followed by the Lord's restday, the shabbat day. The Lord God took a distance from his own powers and domination to allow creation to "stand on its own feet", so to speak. Man and woman were to follow suit, being in God's likeness. God gave to humanity the opportunity to create too. So it's the "head" of a new path. 
Secondly, the celebration can also be associated with the sacrifice of Isaac. Fr. Barthelemy O.P. commented on this saying that Abraham was to get rid of his hold on Isaac and accept that the child--the future of Israel--was in God's design, not Abraham's. So the sacrifice was the "head" of a new path in history. God affirmed that the killing of Isaac was not in God's plan. What was to be killed was the egoism to destroy and dominate. I remember reading a curious rabbi commentary on this, saying that God ordered Abraham to go up the mountain with Isaac and BOTH WILL MAKE SACRIFICE. God never ordered Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. So in a comic turn God may have said to Abraham, "Hey you stupid, who told you to kill the child?" And Abraham may have replied, "Ay mali". Very curious indeed and it was so different from what I learned in my younger days. Anyway...let the experts comment some more.
So "new year"--or Roch Hachana--has roots in creation and the Abraham cycle. Creation expresses the birth of life while the Abraham story expresses the capacity to kill life. So as we move from one year to a "new year" we are reminded of vigilance about life and vigilance about the capacity to kill and destroy. Roch Hachana is an occassion when we observe what we have done so far in order to determine what we should do next. Have we been destructive, violent, "too full of ourselves"? What is next then for this coming year? In a way we begin once more...just as the first verse of Genesis says, "in the beginning". In the beginning we be like God promoting life and rejecting death, destruction, violence. Roch Hachana is the occassion to re-evaluate the way we live, make an "inventory" of what makes us "create" and "destroy". Of course this also means evaluating ourselves and see if we are living according to God's hopes. 
St. Paul may have this to say. He was worried that members of the Church were dying one after the other--and the Kingdom just would not come. Those "falling asleep", have they "lost hope"? (See 1Thes 4). No. The dead in Christ will rise first, wrote St. Paul.
St. Paul had to assure people of the Church (of Thesalonica, actually) that a whole year did not determine the whole of existence. A whole year was just a fragment. It need not determine everything of who we are, including what we have done and what we expect. Ok, some may get sick, others may be killed in an accident, some may get rich and others go broke. Ok, that's what happened THIS YEAR. Do we then conclude that IN THIS YEAR everything has been said about life? No. Believing in the resurrection, St. Paul assured that we, still alive now, will rise after death. Meanwhile, let us "console each other". 
For St. Paul it is not THIS YEAR that says it all, it is God. The day of the new year is a "teaching" day when we can try re-orienting our lives in view of a good life willed by God, that we become a humanity of creation and not destruction. The new year celebration, again, is a time for inventory making. How can we, for the next year, correct ourselves, help each other, retain the vibrations of goodness and avoid whatever disfigures creation. 
Well, of course we do not forget Mary, the Mother of God. I remember reading from Caryll  Houselander the image of a dark and gloomy house that suddenly has its windows opened to bring in the light. Mary did this by allowing the Incarnation to occur. Her "yes" brought in the light to a rather gloomy way of living, so to speak. She started the new year. She was a kind of "head" of the year, so to speak. 
This is my take on the New Year.

Thursday, October 19, 2017


Here is a quick note on certain things that may make us hesitate going full speed ahead with our Christian living.
1. There is the hesitation to be true and moral. There is a limit to what we would like to do. Morality sets a limit. Morality means that I am not the only person in this house room community, society. we need to limit our tendency to be "too full of myself". There are other people with their own feelings plans thoughts, pains and joys. To neglect that fact is to be full of myself, that it is always about me. My true self is discovered when I live in respect and reverence towards others and myself.
2. There is the hesitation to be challenged--to pick up the cross. In a world of injustice we cannot be lukewarm. We need to work for justice. We need to suffer! No we do not look for suffering. We suffer because we promote life--we promote human dignity we promote the fact that we are God's image. Christ came to show us fully this reality of being image of God. Christ came to promote the Kingdom--and he was willing to suffer for it by refusing to bow down to the rejection against the Kingdom. Our hesitation can be observed in our taking distance from acts that directly violate our humanity. We fear challenging that violation. We then flow with the trend.
3. There is the hesitation to accept that Christ is the unique mediator of redemption and salvation. We respect other traditions but we might go to the point of refusing to acknowledge our own tradition. We then dislocate Christ--and the Trinity--from the center in order to accommodate other traditions. Yet we dare not become members of other traditions. Let us put it this way. We met God in his revelation in Christ. This is how we knew God. Can we not be faithful to what this revelation has given us? If we want other people of other religions to be true to their beliefs and practices can we not require this of ourselves? If we want dialogue to be true and sincere, let us be who we really are: we are Christians and Christ is our one and only mediator.
4. There is the hesitation to condemn sin as if it does not exist. Sin is our refusal to be true to who God wants us to be. Hence it also involves our refusal to connect with God. We do this in our strength and with our strength. Today we might want to shift the axis and say that the problem is with our psychological weaknesses or socio-cultural backgrounds. But there is sin and darkness. The option to reject our humanity is so overwhelmingly present. Are we hesitating to call dehumanisation a sin?

There are random ideas that I reflect on now.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Everyday Life Redemption

The usual understanding of redemption

The word "redemption" is, at times, interpreted to mean being pulled out and spared from the anger of God. God is so angry with us, humans, because our very first parents, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God. We inherited that disobedience and we too are quite disobedient. Traditionally we would say "we are sinners".

Christ pulled us out of that anger of God, the Father, by dying on the cross. Christ substituted for us: he took upon himself the effects of God's anger. We can say that it was Christ instead of us, humanity, who was crucified. This death of Christ on the cross satisfied God the Father.

Many Christians still accept this view of redemption. Surely we can discern the wisdom underneath this notion of redemption. But it has been questioned and criticized for many reasons and we can mention two reasons. One is that this notion of redemption gives a wrong picture of God the Father. It looks like God, here, looks bloodthirsty. He wants to see blood and death to be satisfied. He has  been hurt and, in revenge, he wants to see blood and death. Furthermore, he does not want any ordinary blood. He wants a very special blood--that of his own Son.

Second, this notion of redemption is quite far from the Biblical notion of redemption. It is a later development with the theological reflections of Christians who were so influenced by their cultures that contained practices of revenge and feudal relationships.

In passing we can add that today the Church is working on this question of redemption. Although there is no--not yet--dogmatic affirmation about redemption, surely the "sense of the faithful" with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, will find a more definite formulation.

Jesus and his mission

Let us try looking at redemption from a different angle. Jesus himself revealed that God, the Father, is a loving Father. He is a Father who never wishes bad things to happen to us. The Father is not looking for blood and death; he has no intention to revenge and to recuperate from the hurt Adam and Eve gave him. So when he sent Jesus to us, humanity, it was not in order to get Jesus crucified on the cross. No, Jesus did not come to be killed in substitution for us. Jesus came to tell us that we are beloved in the eyes of the Father.

Jesus came on the mission to reveal to us, humanity, the love of the Father for us. This love is embodied in what Jesus called as "Kingdom". The Father loves us so much in spite of the many bad things we have been doing. This is why Christian morality is based on this love of God. We do our best to lead good lives in response to God's love for us. Because we know we are loved we will avoid doing bad things. This is very different from the idea that we do good things and lead good lives to avoid God's punishment.

Jesus came to reveal the Love of the Father. We have always been destined to live in communion with God. It was not easy for Jesus on mission. The Love of the Father meant justice, respect for human life and dignity, respect for the weak, the poor, the marginalized, the people rejected by social norms. It meant God's desire for human integrity, wholeness, and gowth. Jesus proved this in his relationships with the marginalized of his society. He proved it in his healing of the ill. He proved it in his rejection of social, cultural and religious norms and practices that burdened people.
The mission of Jesus was rejected. This is why Jesus had to face the threat of the cross. Jesus was confronted, for example, by the dominating religious authorities. Jesus continued with his mission; he did not back off. His full confidence in his Father kept him faithful to his mission. Even with the threat of being killed--and it meant crucifixion--Jesus in full confidence to his Father went on with his mission.

Note then that the cross was not sent by the Father. The cross was built by humans who rejected Jesus and his mission. Jesus was crucified not because the Father willed it but because people killed him. The will of the Father was to get the message of his love across, to us, humanity. When Jesus was crucified, it was not the blood and death that satisfied the Father. What satisfied the Father was the fidelity of Jesus to the mission. Jesus was so faithful to the mission his Father commanded that he was so willing to face the consequence of rejection and even crucifixion.

Jesus said yes to his mission. The Father said yes to the faithfulness of the Son and rose him from death. In the resurrection of Jesus Christ God sealed, in a definite way, everything that Jesus said and did. It was God's way of "proving" that all that Jesus  said and did was true. The Father so loves us, humanity, that even death cannot win over us. Jesus said it so well, "In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world (Jn16/33)”. Be of good cheer, Jesus has won!
Notice then some elements of redemption here. Redemption is Christ's message of our true human destiny, namely, communion with God. Christ proved it--revealed it--in his confidence to his Father and his fidelity to his mission. We have been asssured by the revelation of Jesus. The Father himself gave it his "seal of approval", so to speak, by raising his Son, Jesus Christ, from the hold of death. Christ, the Son, came to say were meant for life in fullness with God, and the Father confirmed it in the resurrection. Starting with Jesus Christ, all steps we make are destined to move to eternal life in God where we really belong.

In everyday life

How does this link up with everyday life? First, we need a shift of perspective. We do not live in daily life wary about God's eyes watching us all the time and waiting for us to do bad things. Our view of daily life is far from the notion of "reward-and-punishment". We start with the basic fact that we are beloved by God. God holds no grudges against us and he is not grinding an axe.
In the footsteps of Jesus we move daily in full confidence that God loves us; God never wishes us harm--NEVER. In response to that love we do not bring death to the world. Death is not our daily life option. Corruption, injustice, disregard for human dignity, the marginalization of others...these are not our options.  This is why we need to check now and then if what we say and do daily keep life--not death--moving. In the footsteps of Jesus we need to regularly ask, "Are my words and actions redemptive?"

One of the major obstacles we face daily is the tendency to be so "full of myself". It is the tendency to behave as if "I am the only person" in this family, or school, or workplace, or community. This is not strictly a problem. We need a good amount of ego maintenance too. The problem is when it leads to diminishing the lives and fullness of others. I am so full of myself that I fail to notice that others have feelings, thoughts, dreams, intelligence, ignorance, joys and pains. I am so full of myself that my words and actions prohibit others from blooming and living decently. From the ordinary events in the family to the major political decisions in society, this "being too full of oneself" has strategies of dominating.

We can be reminded of the wisdom underneath what St. Therese of Lisieux called as "the little way". St.Therese sensed that everything of her life was a result of  generous love of God. So in her most very ordinary life the little things she did--like wash clothes--she saw herself manifesting the love of God. For St. Therese it was perfectly alright that others find their space to bloom, be full human. She did not have to be too full of herself because she was already beloved by God. This liberated her. Daily life need not be a place of competing with others for love and respect. Everyone is already God's beloved.

We can also be reminded of Blessed Charles de Foucauld. He wrote about "the lowest place". He wrote that when God came on earth, "God so completely took the lowest place, that no one has ever been able to take it from Him". Blessed Charles intuited that Jesus went into complete solidarity with all humanity to the point that Jesus identified himself with the least--the lowest in society. This was the way by which Jesus made himself available universally to all. This insight liberated Blessed Charles and he wrote, "See Jesus in every human person. Live for others more than for myself". There is no need to live being so full of oneself competing against the existence of others. Jesus has become our model, follow him, follow his foosteps, by "sharing his life in every way".

The crucifixion comes in. In spite of the active presence of being too full of myself can I live in ways that life--not death--is promoted? This being too full of myself rejects my promotion of life. It crucifies me now and then. In society there are many practices that stimulate this being too full of myself. A society might even take it as a norm, "Be full of oneself" at the cost of damaging justice and respect for human dignity. Redemptive life is constantly being put to the cross--constantly threatened.

In the footsteps of Jesus, confident about his Father's love, are we willing to face the threats of our personal and social practices promoting injustice and rejection of dignity? We find this symbol of the cross in many places; often people even wear this symbol. We say it is "redemptive" because it tells us about our own confidence in the Father, like Jesus, and we lead a combat against elements that promote death knowing that human destiny is in life with God. Jesus has won already!

The cross is not to tell us about God's revenge and punishment. It is not to tell us that  we will accept bad things (like corruption and inhuman poverty and injustice) to test our fidelity to God. Remember that Father never wanted the Son on the cross. The cross tells us that we are in combat against elements of death and we have been guaranteed by Christ of victory.