Today we honour the memory of Saint Richard of Chichester, who is not quite a local saint, but he was chancellor to our own Saint Edmund of Abingdon when he was Archbishop of Canterbury. After Saint Edmund’s death Richard was appointed Bishop of Chichester. He was also a Dominican tertiary. The Church in England honours Saint Richard for his pastoral zeal and for making a moral stand against corrupt government. He died in 1253 and was canonised nine years later.
What did Paul mean when he wrote about “carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:10)? Is this just philosophical rhetoric? A stirring, but vague, discussion of suffering for the gospel?
Not at all. This is the heart of the gospel. Jesus died and rose for each of us, and his cross now stands as the gateway to all God’s blessings. As we are united with Jesus’ cross and resurrection, we receive the life that God has always wanted to give us: an intimate relationship with him. We receive his love within us, and that love flows out of us and touches other people.
We need only reflect on our attempts to change our hearts to know that we need God’s “extraordinary power” (2 Corinthians 4:7) if we want to become like Jesus. We are all too familiar with the drives toward anger, selfishness, lust, jealousy, and resentment that are within us. How we long to be free of them! How peaceful our lives would be without such burdens! And this is exactly where Paul’s “death-to-life” principle applies.
To “carry the death of Jesus” means to keep his cross in the forefront of our minds, recalling it in our prayer and throughout our day. This is the precious treasure that we carry in the earthen vessels of our hearts—the all-powerful life of Jesus at work in us daily, changing us and filling us with his character. Take the death of Jesus with you today, recalling what he accomplished on the cross. Thank him for his death and resurrection and acknowledge it as the power to change your heart. When you experience temptation moving in you, proclaim in faith that you are crucified with Jesus and that he lives in you (Galatians 2:20). Trust that just as his death is at work in you, so too is his life—flowing out of your heart and touching others with the love of God himself.