Dear Followers of Jesus,
“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”
We read this familiar line in today’s gospel from John 12:20-33. It is a sentiment that we cannot overlook in this season of Lent. In fact, it is the core of our prayer in this holy season. We must learn how to die to ourselves and live in Christ. But what does that mean for us? How do we understand dying to self?
Humility is the path to faith. I learn this profound understanding from many people who are in recovery. Unless people learn to die to their own addictions, passions, and destructive behavior, they will never understand the Holy Spirit within them. Our over-inflated egos are very destructive. We don’t always get our way. We are not always entitled to the things we think we should have. Genuine humility is a gift from prayer. Prayer opens us up to view life in a new way. When we pray, we realize we are not the center of the world. Prayer expands our notions of life and that we are part of God’s plan in the world. This is truly liberating for all people, to learn how to die to self and live in Christ Jesus.
Fear keeps us from change. I remember when I ministered at Sacred Heart in 1984-87, I visited a young man in a nursing home who had just survived a motorcycle accident. He was completely paralyzed. As it turns out, we were both the same age, around 29. I was so frightened to go into his room. I was so fearful to face such suffering.
I slowly ambled into his room and introduced myself. He could barely speak. He didn’t need me to tell him any pious thoughts or flimsy notions of God. We struggled to communicate. After a few minutes of shared silence, he said to me. “I am the one who is completely paralyzed, so why are you so afraid?” I will never forget that moment. I hold on to his comment to me with dear life even after all of these years later. I was so afraid to just be a real person to him. I was really facing my own life in this encounter. It was not his letting go, his absolute suffering that frightened me, but rather it was the possibility of change and things being taken away in my own life. Encountering my own control and fear of suffering really opened me up to a deeper life of prayer and entrusting my life to God. I will always remember him.
Resistance is toxic to our spiritual growth. Conversion to a greater reliance on God is lifelong. We are called and challenge to die to self so that God can bring us greater joy, healing and purpose in our lives. In today’s gospel, we hear that we are to lose our life in Christ. One of the lessons we learn in the Lenten season and in the spiritual life is that we must allow God to be God in our lives, because God is God, and we aren’t. We don’t redeem ourselves. We are not the source of forgiveness. We can’t view the world believing we are at the center of it and still believe in God’s loving plan for our own lives.
In today’s gospel, our resistance can stop our spiritual change and growth when we hear about the grain of wheat. How can we view the Lenten season as a source of new life in our own hearts? How can the grain of wheat die and rise, that is our very own lives in Jesus Christ? How can we learn to listen to Christ Jesus in this Lenten season so to grow in humility, faith and love? So, what needs to die in you to discover a deeper, more abundant faith in Jesus Christ?
God give you peace,
Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor