PAIN REDEEMED

5th Sunday of Lent              

            A little boy was crying bitterly in class. The teacher asked what was wrong. And the boy said that his little sister was really dead, because they had put her in the ground, and covered her up

            The teacher took the boy by the hand and brought him over to the window, on which was a box of clay. Some weeks earlier the class had planted seeds in the clay. The teacher explained that they were not intended to remain as seeds. They were planted in the clay, and after a while they began to sprout and grow into plants, and flowers – which is what they were meant to become.

            She poked in the clay with her finger and removed one of the seeds, which has already begun to put forth shoots, and to put down roots. And she said, “The seed is not dead.” “It is changing and it is now becoming what it was always meant to become.”

            This anecdote is a good introduction to today’s gospel reading about the seed falling to the earth and dying. It is a good illustration of the words of Jesus: “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.”

            One of the greatest ironies of life is how death leads to life. Jesus is telling us: “Life comes through death.” The greatest testimony to this truth is Jesus himself: He died to give us life. Here a completely new way of living is revealed. It is the way in which pain can be embraced, not out of a desire to suffer, but in the knowledge that something new will be born in the pain.

            For countless generations before Jesus, humankind had suffered and found very little meaning in their pains and sorrows. Life was a long litany of suffering and misery – a valley of tears. This seeming absurdity of life is captured by the writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes who bewails the pointlessness and vanity of life.

            In Jesus, however, this human condition is finally redeemed. For the first time in the history of humanity, suffering was not something absurd, meaningless, and pointless. Christ’s passion and death made certain that, henceforth, even the most sorrow-filled existence would mean something, would have a point and purpose to it.

            After the death of Christ, humankind could make sense of what before seemed senseless. After the death of Christ, human suffering became an opportunity for humans to share in the passion of Christ, thus, gaining a meaning and value far beyond what any human before could ever have imagined. Thus, our pain and sorrow are redeemed, not only because they represent our participation in the suffering of Jesus, but more importantly, because they represent Jesus’ participation in our own. We do not suffer alone, for Christ will always be there with us.

 Again, one basic truth in our Christian faith is this: We have to die to ourselves to be able to give life. In our own personal growth, there has to be a dying to some of our old attitudes and forms of behavior before we can assume a new way of life – one that enhances our Christian discipleship. Unless we put to death our self-seeking ways, we cannot bring life to others by the joy we spread and the hope we inspire. Unless we die to our vested interests, we cannot bring life to others by the genuine sharing of our selves.

            Jesus is the great of wheat that fell to the earth and died and produced much fruit. He died that we might live. This encapsulates or sums up the life of Jesus. Kung ito ang buod ng buhay ni Hesus, ito rin dapat ang maging buod at panuntunan ng buhay natin: kailangan din tayong mahulog,    tulad ng trigo, para mamunga nang masagana. As disciples of Jesus, we must find meaningful ways to make our own pains and sufferings become the source of salvation for others.

            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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