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Pastor's Letter 20210321 - 21 March 2021 - Metamorphosis into a Better Life

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March 21st, 2021

Fifth Sunday of Lent


Today’s Theme:   “Metamorphosis Into a Better Life” 

A Message from Father †Michael


Reflections on Today’s Scripture

Our First Reading shows us Jeremiah’s grim mission was “to pluck up and to pull down—to destroy and to overthrow” (Jeremiah 31-31-34.)  His was a hopeless task—to bring a radical change of heart to his people, genuine conversion, and make them understand their lives were a “fool’s paradise.”  “God could never permit His city to fall and His temple to be destroyed,” they thought.  Captivity by the Babylonians was seen as God’s judgment on a grossly unfaithful people!  When the temple was destroyed—by Nebuchadnezzar—Jeremiah’s role was to comfort his people in their bewilderment, foreshadowing the New Covenant of Jesus Christ, to come (“This cup is the New Covenant in My blood”—Luke 22:20.)

The central theme of our Second Reading (Hebrews 5:1-9) is of Jesus, portrayed as minister and priest, par excellence, of this new and eternal covenant, formulated at the Passover-Eucharistic supper and sealed on the Cross. Christians have confidence, knowing Jesus is our merciful High Priest, Who will give us all the help we need to be faithful.  As an idealized and  compassionate High Priest, (“according to the order of Melchizedek” Psalm 110:4,) and, as victim, His divine vocation was to bring salvation to sinners.

Then, in our Gospel Selection, today, we hear Jesus speak again, of “His hour,” His supreme moment, when all that He has come to do on earth will be accomplished (John 12:20-33.)  The passage is concerned with the relationship between death and life—between sacrificial death and a fuller life.  The analogy of the dying grain of wheat reinforces the metaphor of His own death, preceding a glorious resurrection to new life.  Following Christ, we are involved in despising our earthly life and possessions, in becoming ready to yield everything for His service. In this act, we become “lifted up” from our mortal existence through Jesus’ implied invitation, wherein our hearts are drawn to profound inner action.  

To people everywhere, who are cowed by fear of death, Jesus offers a strengthening vision: One need not be immobilized by the forces of darkness, but be drawn to the One Who is above the earth!

Losing and Gaining Life

Few sights are as beautiful as that of a field, filled with young stalks of wheat (“…amber waves of grain…” ref. “America, the Beautiful.”) To watch them swaying in the wind and dancing in the sun brings joy to human hearts.  But how strange is the process by which these stalks come into being: First, the grains of wheat have to buried in the cold, damp earth, as in a tomb. Then, they have to die.  If they didn’t, no new life would come forth.  But when they die, (from the “grave” of the old grain,) new shoots of wheat miraculously burst forth—an amazing paradox: life coming from death.  

Just as grains of wheat have to die in order to bear fruit, so also must we die to self, if we are to live fully, and fruitfully, and realize our potential as human beings and children of God.  

Death is an inextricable part of life.  We are born to die, so we may live more fully; born to die a little each day to selfishness, pretense, and sin.  Every time we pass from one stage of life to another, something in us dies and something new is born.  We taste death in moments of loneliness, rejection, sorrow, disappointment and failure.  However, we are dying before our time when we live in bitterness, hatred and isolation.  Each day we are creating our own death by the way we live.

When Jesus said, “Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it,” He did not tell us to hate ourselves or our lives.   In fact, we must learn to love ourselves!  Faith teaches us to be merciful with ourselves!  Nobody can love us if we do not love ourselves, nor can we love anyone else.  Of course, we have to distinguish between true love of self, and selfishness.

To forget self, to transcend self—is to lose oneself, deny self and die to self.  It is when we forget ourselves, dedicating ourselves to causes beyond, that we grow and bear fruit!  We may live more comfortably, perhaps, if we take it easy, sitting by the fire, as it were, carefully managing our lives.  But what a poor world it would be if everyone put their own personal safety, security and selfish advancement first and last, as if no one was prepared to “go beyond” themselves.  It has always been the case that some people have been willing to die to self-interest, that the most precious things humans value have come into being.  

Jesus’ example was paramount for us, in that He gave His life in service of His Heavenly Father, and all mankind.  But He didn’t’ find it easy.  At the actual moment of death, He was filled with fear.   But Jesus’ life wasn’t taken from Him—He gave it out of love for God and for us.  To love is to accept that one might die another kind of death, before one actually dies. The way of love is the way of the cross, but the way of the cross leads to the resurrection!   Those who die to self will find the moment of their actual death easy.  Their hour of death will become their hour of glory. This is what is meant in the words of the lovely Prayer of St. Francis: “…and by dying, we’re born to eternal life.”

Our Finest Hour

Often, we are impressed when some noteworthy figure excels in life, like when a great athlete becomes a world record holder, for instance, or some political figure is elected to a high office.  It is quite normal that we would concentrate on their triumph and glory.  We forget the path they followed to achieve their prize, and the hours of “blood, sweat and tears,” required in preparation.  

When we consider Jesus’ “hour,” it might smack of failure—He was humiliated and crucified.  But this “low point” became a “turning point” for Christ, because that was when His “new life” was born.  This is true for us, too, when we sink to a “low point” in our lives.  However, those moments of failure and weakness allow us to “look up” to what may lie beyond our perceived failures, and evaluate ourselves in a new way.  

Of course, surviving life’s lowest moments requires a special kind of faith, so as not to lead to despair.  Without quiet hope mixed with our sadness, such times would be unbearable. For some, sadly, they are just that—leading to destitution, or even suicide.  This is the value of our faith.  Faith gives us hope for a new beginning, a brighter tomorrow, and a welcomed harvest of success.  This can’t be seen from the depths of our doldrums, unfortunately, but only in retrospect.  

Famous artists have said that completion of a grand project requires a good deal of faith, because one cannot prove, at the outset, that they will be successful.  Initially, it truly may involve “sowing” in sadness, darkness and maybe even, despair.  Faith allows us to see ahead, and expect a bountiful harvest, one reaped in joy; and made all the sweeter by the pain endured during the journey.   In the end, “good” triumphs; life triumphs.  

This is the paradox of all worthwhile achievement.  The triumph and glory that the world acknowledges can only be gained by suffering sometimes through baneful periods of unrewarded preparation.  The final word, then, is “patience,” as we work towards our goal.   The actual value of a worthy goal, with visualization of it as already having been acquired, is the satisfaction we receive from following a carefully mapped course, leading to its realization.  During our lives, this is called “success.”  Following our spiritual plan, as emulated by the Life of Christ, our success will become our eternal salvation!  

May God Richly Bless You!

“If a grain of wheat could know fear, it would be paralyzed with anxiety at the thought of being dropped in the ground,

Covered over, put out of sight, doomed to inactivity; yet what a glorious harvest awaits!”

~~Fred Rogers~~ 

To View a live stream of today's Holy Mass, click here:  https://youtu.be/JX2Y5HA-Cjk

  He Is life.docx

Edited by Father Michael
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