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Fifth Sunday of Lent

This Sunday Jesus teaches us how death can lead to life and defeat can lead to glory Jesus de- scribed his approaching death on the cross as his “hour of glory” (John 12:23) when he would be “lifted up from the earth” and would “draw all men to himself” (John 12:32). Jesus saw his death on the cross as triumph over the powers of sin and darkness. Jesus drew an illustration of the “grain of wheat” to show how this principle works in God’s kingdom. Seeds cannot produce new life by themselves. They must first be planted in the earth before they can grow and produce fruit. What is the spiritual analogy which Jesus alludes to? Is this simply a veiled reference to his own impending death on the cross and resurrection? Or does Jesus have another kind of “death and rebirth” in mind for his disciples? Jesus, no doubt, had both meanings in mind. Jesus’ obedience and death on the cross obtain for us freedom from sin and new the life of Sanctifying Grace. His cross frees us from the tyranny of sin and death and shows us the way of perfect love.

If we want to experience the new life which Jesus offers, then the outer shell of our old, fallen nature, must be broken and put to death. In Baptism our “old nature” enslaved by sin is buried with Christ and we rise as a “new creation” in Christ. This process of death to the “old fallen self” is both a one-time event, such as baptism, and a daily, on-going cycle in which God buries us more deeply into Jesus’ death to sin so we might rise anew and bear fruit for God. There is a great paradox here. Death leads to life. When we “die” to our selves, we “rise” to new life in Jesus Christ. What does it mean to “die” to oneself? It certainly means that what is contrary to God’s will must be “crucified” or “put to death.” God gives us grace to say “yes” to his will and to reject whatever is contrary to his loving plan for our lives. Jesus also promises that we will bear much “fruit” for him, to the degree we choose to deny ourselves for his sake. Jesus used forceful language to describe the kind of self-denial he had in mind for his disciples. What did he mean when he said that one must hate himself? The expression to hate something often meant to prefer less. Jesus says that nothing should get in the way of our preferring him and the will of our Father in heaven. Our hope is not earth-based but heaven-bound. St. Paul reminds us that “what is sown in the earth is subject to decay, what rises is incorruptible” (1 Corinthians15:42).

Lord, let each of us be wheat sown in the earth, to be harvested for You. We want to follow wherever you lead us. Give us fresh hope and joy in serving You all the days of our lives. Amen.

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