We are now beginning the fifth week of Lent. We are coming closer to the cross, to remembering the suffering, crucifixion and death of Jesus. In today’s Gospel Jesus is sharing with those in his midst that he will lose his life in fulfillment of his Father’s will: “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name” (Jn 12:27-28). Jesus has come among us, to be one with us and to experience the fullness of being human. In becoming human, he is opening the door for us to experience his divinity.
To be able to experience the divinity of Jesus, we have to die to our self. Death is not a partial thing, it is a total surrender. As Christians, our first experience of this death is Baptism. In Baptism we die with Christ, and we rise to new life with him. We are purified from the condition of Original Sin as we are born again in water and Spirit. We are conformed to and indelibly marked to Jesus and incorporated into the living organism of the Church, the Body of Christ. We become a part of his new creation.
In Confirmation, we continue the path of giving more of our life to Jesus. We are sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are empowered through the imposition of the laying on of hands and the anointing with chrism. We join in the apostolic mission of those who were and continue to be sent by Jesus to proclaim the Gospel, the Good News, that Jesus has become one with us so that we can be one with him. Jesus has given his life and returned to the Father in the fullness of his humanity, so to unleash the power and fullness of the love that he shares with his Father.
This is possible because what one human being experiences, sin or grace, all people experience. God has created us, as with all of his creation, as interconnected. Each one of us are distinct and unique, one of a kind, while at the same time in communion with God and one another and all of creation. The Son of God, in becoming human, and in his willingness to experience our suffering and death, has risen from that experience and returned to the Father in the fullness of his humanity. What he experiences with the Father, we have access to in our life, to the degree that we are willing to accept our humanity, participate in his life, and his invitation to receive his divinity.
When we reject our humanity, reject the fact that we are created beings, not totally self sufficient within ourselves; when we assume, grasp at, and appropriate for ourselves, self autonomy and stand firm that we need no help from God, we assume that we are the center of the universe and all revolves are us instead of God, we separate ourselves from the source of the very communion we live, crave, and hunger for.
Any act of the will that we place before God must be rejected, must die. To the extent that we can surrender our whole mind, heart, soul, and strength to Jesus, is the extent to which we will participate in his life and divinity. Jesus died for us so that he can also be with us always. We are not orphans, for he continues to be with us in the Mass. We come to receive him, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, during each liturgical celebration. We consume him and so continue to be nourished, to be transformed into his Body. We participate in this reality as well spiritually, when we are not able to attend Mass in person. We are dismissed from our time of worship and communion as bearers of Christ. We are sent to bring him to those we encounter in our realm of influence through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. At the very least we are to respect the dignity of each person we interact with.
By participating in the Sacraments of Initiation; Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist, we become the grain of wheat that dies, germinates in the ground, then sends forth roots and shoots. As we continue in our daily surrender to God and participate in the disciplines of prayer, fasting, worship, study, service, and almsgiving we begin to bear fruit. For whoever serves Jesus, must follow him, and wherever he is, there his servants will be. The Father will honor whoever serves his Son (cf. Jn 12:26). Surrendering our lives in this way to Jesus we can say with St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta: “Each time anyone comes into contact with us, they must become different and better people because of having met us. We must radiate God’s love” (Mother Teresa, pp. 18-19). Let us, like the grain of wheat, die to our false self, allow the shell of our ego to be cracked open, so as to rise with Christ in his glory of being fully alive in him, to actualize who he calls us to be, and to bear the fruit of his mercy and love with others!
Photo: Twelfth Station of the Cross on the grounds of Cardinal Newman HS.
Mother Teresa and Devananda, Brother Angelo, ed. Total Surrender. Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publications, 1985.