Sunday, March 18, 2018
The Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year B
(For Reflection for Year A click here or scroll down)
“Amen, amen, I say to you, 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.” John 12:24
Death does not necessarily sound all that inviting to most people. So, how should we look at death?
First of all, death, literally speaking, is a passing from this world to the next. When our time comes in accord with the will of God, we should welcome it and anticipate our full immersion into the life of God.
But this Scripture passage speaks of death on another level. We should see ourselves represented by the grain of wheat that achieves its potential only by falling to the ground and dying. In that natural act, it is planted in the fertile soil and grows, producing an abundance of good fruit.
How should we see ourselves represented in this natural action? We do so by embracing death to self so that we can be planted in the fertile soil of the grace of God and produce an abundance of good fruit.
Dying to oneself means that we let go of all selfishness in life. First, all intentional acts of selfishness must be let go, but then even unintended selfishness must be let go. What is “unintended selfishness?”
Unintended selfishness is a way of referring to everything in life that you hold on to and cling to simply because you want it for yourself. This could include even good things such as a loving relationship. It’s not that we should do away with good things in life, such as loving relationships; rather, we must not cling to anything, even good things, for selfish motives. Love, when it is authentic love inspired by God, always is detached and selfless, looking only toward the good of the other. This is the most pure death to self that we can live. When this level of love is lived, that of complete selfless detachment, God enters into our lives and into each particular situation of our lives bringing forth an abundance of good fruit. This is a gift that is more powerful than anything we can do on our own, because it is the fruit of a total death to self, transformed by God into new life.
Reflect, today, upon your calling to die. First, reflect upon the literal death from this world that you will one day experience. Do not fear that moment; rather, see it as a glorious transition into the fullness of life. Second, look for ways that you can die to yourself, here and now. Identify practical and concrete ways that God is calling you to this form of death. Know that, in this act, glorious gifts of new life await.
Lord, I give myself to You and Your holy will in a total and sacrificial way. I choose to die to self so that You can bring forth new life from this act of selfless surrender. Take me, dear Lord, and do with me as You will. Jesus, I trust in You.
Saint for Today – Saint Cyril of Jerusalem
Let us Go and Die With Him
The Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A
(Note: This Gospel is also optional for Year’s B & C with Scrutinies)
So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.” John 11:16
What a great line! The context is important to understand. Thomas said this after Jesus told His Apostles that He was going up to Jerusalem because Lazarus, His friend, was ill and close to death. In fact, as the story unfolds, Lazarus actually did die before Jesus arrived at his house. Of course, we know the end of the story that Lazarus was raised up by Jesus. But the Apostles tried to keep Jesus from going to Jerusalem because they knew there were many who had been quite hostile toward Him and wanted to kill Him. But Jesus decided to go anyway. It was in this context that St. Thomas said to the others, “Let us also go and die with him.” Again, what a great line!
It’s a great line because Thomas appeared to say this with a certain resolve to accept whatever was waiting for them in Jerusalem. He appeared to know that Jesus was going to be met with resistance and persecution. And he also appeared to be ready to face that persecution and death with Jesus.
Of course Thomas is well known to be the doubter. After Jesus’ death and Resurrection he refused to accept that the other Apostles actually saw Jesus. But even though he is well known for his act of doubting, we should not miss the courage and resolve he had in that moment. At that moment, he was willing to go with Jesus to face His persecution and death. And he was even willing to face death himself. Even though he ultimately fled when Jesus was arrested, it’s believed that he eventually went as a missionary to India where he did ultimately suffer martyrdom.
This passage should help us to reflect upon our own willingness to go forth with Jesus to face any persecution that may await us. Being a Christian requires courage. We will be different than others. We will not fit in with the culture around us. And when we refuse to conform to the day and age we live in, we will most likely suffer some form of persecution as a result. Are you ready for that? Are you willing to endure this?
We also must learn from St. Thomas that, even if we do fail, we can start again. Thomas was willing, but then he fled at the sight of persecution. He ended up doubting, but in the end he courageously lived out his conviction to go and die with Jesus. It’s not so much how many times we fail; rather, it’s how we finish the race.
Reflect, today, upon the resolve in the heart of St. Thomas and use it as a meditation upon your own resolve. Do not worry if you fail in this resolve, you can always get up and try again. Reflect also upon the final resolution St. Thomas made when he did die a martyr. Make the choice to follow his example and you, too, will be counted among the saints of Heaven.
Lord, I desire to follow You wherever You lead. Give me a firm resolve to walk in Your ways and to imitate the courage of St. Thomas. When I fail, help me to get back up and resolve again. I love You, dear Lord, help me to love You with my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
Saint for Today – Saint Cyril of Jerusalem