with Paul Ray
Grace After Grace
In this Fifth Sunday of Lent I would like to focus on the Gospel reading. We hear something difficult, yet so instrumental, from our Lord that challenges us to the core. The entire reading is from John 12:20-33, but what I desire is to take a closer look at verse 24-26. To set the stage, here Jesus is approached by Andrew and Philip about a Greek who wanted to talk with Him. Christ’s response is this: “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. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servants be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.” What is our Lord telling us here?
The grain of wheat, first of all, was Christ speaking of Himself. It was He who must “fall to the ground and die” so as to produce much fruit, namely, our eternal salvation. He is, however, also speaking to and about every one of us as well when He says, “whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” In others words, Jesus did His part by suffering and dying for us, thus opening the door to heaven, but we must do our part by cooperating with Him once we’ve received the grace that He merited for us through that act.
Moreover, our lives are the grain of wheat. More specifically, our wills. To do what we will is to not produce fruit (for the kingdom). We must die to (our) self (will) in order to produce fruit. This is what He means when He says, “Whoever loves his life loses it.” If we live for self and for the world we are doing our own wills instead of God’s. Therefore, by doing so, we will not preserve it for eternal life. But if we freely and sincerely surrender our wills (our lives) to Jesus, we will preserve it for eternal life. This is what He means when He uses the phrase, “whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it … “. He is not speaking of a literal hate, as in and angry way. No, He is simply telling us that we must learn how to love His will so much so that we no longer even desire to do our own.
How is this possible? How can you and I learn how to “fall to the ground and die“? The answer: The Blessed Sacrament. In the Holy Eucharist is Christ, fully alive and ready to dispense the grace He won for us on the cross. If we want to produce fruit and gain eternal life we must learn how to receive these graces. For the remainder of Lent, and after, make it a point to spend more and more time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament; whether at Adoration, or before the tabernacle. Learn form Him, and let Him shower you with grace after grace and watch your heart be transformed! - Paul A. Ray