March 29, 2009
LENT V (B)
Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. – Jn 12: 25
Easter is only two weeks away. But before we get to Resurrection we must go through Crucifixion. Why? As one of my former parishioners put it, “Why did He have to die in such a horrible way?” Because words do not mean much unless we can see first hand what He is talking about. It is nothing less than the secret to eternal life, which is not something reserved for the other side of the grave.
As our Lord Himself put it, “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, & the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ” (Jn. 17: 3). To know God, not just intellectually, but with our whole being, is to experience eternal life. It is a quality of life embedded in the present. To do this means to experience His love for us & every other human being; but as with anything of value (& here we’re talking infinite value), there is a price tag that comes with it.
Tapping into God’s life is a process that requires us to learn to hate our life in this world. But why? What’s wrong with it? All the modern conveniences are designed to help us become more comfortable in this world. Besides, right after Creation didn’t God look at all He had made & pronounce it good? Yes, but notice, he said that before the Fall, before we humans messed things up. If there is anything wrong with world it is to be found within our own hearts & souls. It’s called SIN, & we’re not just talking about peccadillo’s here. So long as our life revolves around us, around getting our way & what we want, eternal life will remain a mystery.
What the saints have done throughout history seems madness only to those who have yet to learn this lesson. I cannot claim to have learned it fully myself yet – I’m still a work in progress – but I’ve come close enough to glimpse it through a glass darkly, & I can tell you this much: it is not just awesome, it is mind-blowing.
The prospect of losing individual selfhood always produces fear & anxiety. Even Jesus was no exception. Even He asked for an exemption. But He resisted the temptation to “love his life in this world.” He was born to die; His whole life was geared to reveal the Father’s love that transforms human life through death. This is the glory of the Father: to bring greater life out of lesser death, & it makes all the difference in how we view our life in this world.
Embracing this vision – that death is a transition that leads to higher & greater being – can be essential for peaceful living. The last lines of Goethe poem “The Holy Longing” seem to suggest this:
“As long as you haven’t experienced this: to die & so to grow, you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth.”
There is a code phrase for this project: Die before you die so when you die, you won’t die. If death is a transformative process, we need to get a head start. AMEN!