5th Sunday of Lent              

            A lighted candle says this to us: “You have lighted me and now you gaze into my flame.” “You enjoy the warmth and brightness that I spread.” “I’m happy to be useful and to burn for your pleasure.” “Otherwise, I would just be lying idle in some box on a shelf.” “I only have meaning, a fulfillment, while I am burning, although I know very well that the longer I burn, the shorter I become and the nearer I get to the end of my life.” “And when it is over, I know that you will say, ‘The candle is burnt out.’” “I know I have a choice of staying in a box and remaining unseen, untouched, and useless.” “Or I can burn myself out by giving light and warmth – and hasten my own death by doing so.” “But I find that giving is more beautiful and meaningful.”

            We, humans, are like that candle: Either we keep boxed up and remain cold and empty, or we mix with people and share our warmth and love, and then give our lives purpose, meaning and fulfillment. As someone puts it: “A bell is no bell till you ring it… A song is no song till you sing it… The love in your heart was not put there to stay; Love is no love till you give it away.”

            This illustrates what Jesus is talking about in today’s gospel: “Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth 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.” What Jesus is saying is this: Unless we die to ourselves, we will not have real life, we will not be able to give life, we will produce no fruit.

            One of the greatest ironies of life is how death leads to life. The greatest testimony to this truth is Jesus himself: he died to give us life. And this is one basic truth in our Christian faith: We have to die to ourselves to be able to give life. Jesus is the grain of wheat that died in order to bear much fruit. His pain is our peace and his death is our life. He died that we might live. This encapsulates or sums up the life of Jesus.

            Kung ito ang buod ng buhay nit Hesus, ito rin dapat ang maging buod at panuntunan ng buhay natin: kailangan din tayong mahulog, tulad ng trigo, para mamunga nang masagana. We also must die to ourselves to give life to others.

            Lent is all about new life, and it requires dying to self. It means dying to everything that prevents us from producing much fruit for God. It means dying to our self-centeredness and selfishness in order to put God at the center of our life, fix our eyes on Jesus, and live for the Kingdom. It means dying to our selfish interests and ambitions in order to commit ourselves to God and get serious with our God-given missions. It means dying to our selfish ways and attitudes in order to follow Christ on the way of the cross, which is the way of self-giving love. It means dying to our craving for security – the false security we get from our possessions – in order to live unencumbered, uncluttered life – a life of faith, confidence, and trust in God. It means dying to our attachments and addictions in order to let God be God for us.

            Going back to the image of the candle… Each of us must be a candle to other people… a candle to burn to give light and warmth. Sadya ngang ang buhay natin ay nagiging makabuluhan lamang kung tayo, tulad ng kandila, ay unti-unting nauupos sa pagbibigay natin ng init ng pagmamahal at liwanag ng pag-asa sa kapwa natin. “Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”

            Let us end with a prayer: Lord, teach us what life is all about: losing our selves to gain our selves, emptying ourselves to find fulfillment, closing the door on the old to open up to the new, sacrificing the destination to enjoy the journey, releasing the need for answers to embrace the mystery, relinquishing control to gain freedom, surrendering to win serenity, admitting weakness to develop strength, dying to be born anew. Lord, make each of us a grain of wheat that falls to ground to produce much fruit. Amen.

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