We celebrate today the Feast of St. Lawrence. Lawrence gave a powerful witness to what Jesus says in today’s gospel: “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.” Jesus then explains what he means – saying: “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”
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. 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.
“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.” With the inspiration and prayer of St. Lawrence, may we learn to embrace this principle… may we have the strength and courage to take the path of self-giving love.