Saturday, March 24, 2012

Unless a Grain of Wheat Falls to the Earth and Dies it Remains Just a Grain of Wheat

Fifth Sunday of Lent     Year B            25 March 2012         

Unless the Grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies it remains just a grain of wheat

Today Jesus declares: “Now is the Hour for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Then he says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies it remains just a grain of wheat.”

A grain of wheat is no good if it is simply kept safe and dry on a shelf. Only when seeds die and break open do the seeds give way to a transfigured life and live again!  

Can you imagine hoarding a harvest? It would become infested with bugs and mice and begin to rot. Seeds were meant to die in order to give life – by being baked as bread or by being planted in order to produce fruit for another harvest.

We cannot hoard our lives or our time, talents, or treasure. We know that we will die. We also know that we have to let go of our security, but we want to hold on.

When we clutch at our wealth or possessions, it prevents us from living an abundant life.

Sure, we may stay safe and avoid the cross, and we may exist and live to a ripe old age, but we will never truly live!

Only by our willingness to let go of one way of life can there be hope for another way of life. Falling to earth and dying is what gives and brings life!

So how do we die to self?

It might be as simple as helping your spouse or mom or dad clean the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink and doing the laundry.

Others of you have the difficult task of caring for a spouse or loved one who is dependent upon you for assistance. This is certainly a dying to self. Or what about those who have lost their independence and control over their lives? They have the burden of being dependent upon others to help them through their days.

One of my classmates from St. Meinrad School of Theology, Fr. Joe Wiegman from Toledo, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis three months before his ordination to the priesthood. When he was first diagnosed with MS, one of the monks at St. Meinrad told him: ‘Joe, you don’t get to choose whether or not you have MS. But you do get to choose what you’re going to do about it.’

When Joe began walking with a cane he said, “Okay, God, I can handle this, but no more.” And each time the disease weakened his body he would say, “Okay, God, I can handle this, but no more.”  

And then with the crutches, “Okay, God, I can handle this, but no more” and then “Okay, God, I can handle the electric scooter, but no more.” Yet each time He found God’s grace strengthened him to go forth.

But let’s be honest; Fr. Joe did not readily accept his cross. At first he was in denial that he was even ill. Then he bargained with God, then he accepted his illness for a while, but then when it got worse, he got angry and depressed. He tells me that he prayed, “Father, take this cup of suffering from me.”

Joe says, “I didn’t surrender to the Father’s will as readily as did Jesus. But I knew that God had not abandoned me. I clung to the hope that with God all things are possible.”

Fr. Joe now lives in a nursing home at the age of 50. He is still coming to terms with not being able to drive or live independently. He writes: “My fellow residents are dealing with the same issues of loss. Loss of control, loss of independence, loss of many simple joys of life.

Fr. Joe wrote: “I have finally chosen to embrace my cross.” Like Jesus, his soul was troubled, but he trusts in God to strengthen him.  

Only by our willingness to let go of one way of life can there be hope for another way of life.
God awaits our choice—we can step out in faith or remain as we are. It is not an easy choice. Many of us live life with a fearful grasping for control. Jesus had a choice to be delivered from his Passion and Death or to go through with it.

His Hour had come! And even though he knew it would come, and he had often spoke of it, he speaks of his soul being troubled as he considers what his Hour means. He is in agony, and yet this is his mission!

But a cross is a cross. 

Jesus agrees to conquer death through the Cross. Jesus humbly obeys out of love for the Father and love for each one of us, and prepares to cast out the devil, the ruler of this world, and crucify all disobedience, deceit, lies, and cruelty.

Jesus chooses to embrace His Hour and go forth with his mission. He isn’t focused on wealth, power, pleasure, or fame – He is focused on the cross.

The Hour of Jesus’ Passion has begun. He is in agony, but he surrenders to the will of the Father. Jesus accepts His Cross and is at peace to be lifted up, for by being lifted up he will lift all of us up. His Hour becomes our Hour when we too can rise to new life!

His death will reveal God’s glory and victory. His Cross will defeat of the Evil one and draw together Jesus' community. 

Satan does not want us to have life, but Christ will drive out the prince of this world! Believers can claim the defeat of Satan at the cross, and they can break free of his hold through union with Christ and as members of his holy Church.

The Greeks said, “We would like to see Jesus.” Seeing Jesus comes at a cost. We must die to our selfish ways. And it may even cost us our lives.

We come to see Jesus and his glorious kingdom as we walk his path, a journey that ends not at the Cross, but in the glory of being lifted up in resurrection.

May we be like a humble grain of wheat, dropped in the earth, allowing ourselves to die, shedding our outer shell so as to give way to a new way of life, where we will see Jesus!