Homily for Fifth Sunday of Lent - B

A germinating grain of wheat, seen through a scanning electron microscope.
: Discover Magazine

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent March 29, 2009

Jeremiah 31:34-34
Hebrews 5:7-9
John 12:20-33

I see it all the time - and I never fail to stand in awe of what I see.

• I see it in parents who would gladly take on themselves
their children’s pain and problems and disappointments
to spare their children those burdens…

• I see it in spouses who would do the same for their beloved,
especially as they grow older and the pain of aging increases,
and one spouse, healthier than the other, aches to take on
the partner’s pain to spare the beloved…

• In the parish I see it in folks young and old with already busy lives
who selflessly take on responsibility for nurturing and caring
for our parish life and its ministries,
in the middle and at the end of their already crowded days and nights.

• I see it on Mark Merlino’s FaceBook page,
Mark’s a parishioner deployed to Iraq:
I see how he and thousands of others in the service overseas
have left family and safety and jobs behind
to work with the Iraqi people to prepare that country to care for itself.

• I see it in the young people in our parish who give their time
to the poor at the Boston Rescue Mission and St. John’s Soup Kitchen
and to residents at the Fernald School
and those who offer a week of summer vacation time for service trips
– and the high school students who spent the last two Thursday nights
rehearsing proclaiming the gospel –for you- on Palm Sunday.

• I don’t always see it but I often hear how many people in Concord
in more ways than we might imagine,
reach out quietly, behind the scenes, selflessly,
to care for neighbors in need and in trouble…

I see it all the time - and I never fail to stand in awe of what I see.

What do I see?

I see the living of Jesus’ hard sayings in the gospel today:
If you love your life, you will lose it…
If you hate your life, you will preserve it…

If you have trouble with those words, that vocabulary,
think of all the people I just mentioned:
all the people who make the choice to prefer God and neighbor
to their own lives and interests.

Some of those examples are more demanding than others
but even the smallest are the choices and deeds
that prepare us to give more fully when the occasion arises.

What Jesus teaches with the image of the grain of wheat
is what we see lived out in the lives of loving and generous hearts.
If I keep my life intact, for myself,
that's the seed that does not fall to the earth and die.
But if I allow my self-interest to die, on behalf of others,
then I preserve the life I have - forever.

How much should I give of myself? How generous need I be?
How much dying to self does this entail?
How often must the seed of my life fall to the earth and die?
Good questions… hard questions…

Most of the things I mentioned earlier
are the deeds of all generous people.
Those who follow Christ
are summoned to an even deeper generosity.
Especially in Lent, we remember how selflessly
Jesus fell to the earth and died - that we might have life…

At the very least the Lord calls us to consider our lives as seed,
seed that needs to die before it can truly live and give and prosper.

Every week we gather beneath the sign of the Cross,
the image of Jesus, the seed sown for us,
the seed who died so that we might live...

At this table, this altar, in the bread and the cup of the Eucharist,
he nourishes us with his sacrifice
that we might have the love and courage to bury our self-interest
and give ourselves to the needs of others.

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

But if it dies,
it produces much fruit.

If we keep our lives for ourselves, we will lose them.
If we lose our lives in love and service of others,
we will preserve them for eternal life.

The choice is ours.


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