The call to die to self that others may live
5th Sunday of Lent B (John 12:20-33)
March 18, 2018
By Fr. Sal Putzu, SDB
VALUABLE items have a high price. Important achievements are the crowning of courage, determination, effort, and perseverance. Medals, whether gained in sports, civil service or war time are never a formality. Behind that small piece of metal there lies a world of self-sacrifice and dedication.
In our existence on earth, there is nothing more precious than our spiritual life. Such a treasure initially comes to us as a gift from God; but it is a “living gift” which has to be protected and developed.
Our spiritual life—the best part of our “selves”—is more like a seed than like a diamond. Every seed has immense (often unsuspected) potentialities: endless riches of colors, flowers, fruit, life . . . All this will come to light, the richness that is within will be made visible only if the seed undergoes the process of transformation, which, in many aspects, is a form of death.
This miracle, in fact, will happen only if the shell opens up and rots away in order for the tender shoot to sprout and grow to fullness.
The best part of us is often wrapped, in a shell of ordinariness and defects like wrong attachments to ourselves, other people or the material world; resentments, grudges, envy, lust, pride . . . These defects are like fetters that cripple us and hamper the development of our personality and spiritual life. If we really mean to attain a new life, or enjoy a fuller life, we must rid ourselves of them with the help of God’s grace.
This will be possible only on one condition: that we be ready to die and be transformed like a seed. The hard shell of selfishness must be opened wide and shattered to give way to a sincere concern for others. Layers of make-up and pretense have to be removed to reveal sincerity and truthfulness. Hotbeds of decay and moral corruption of all denominations have to be scraped in order to allow the roots of a new life to strike deep into our personalities and bear fruits of honesty, dedication, purity . . .
The new life will flower in us only at the cost of the death of our lower, sinful “selves.” This is the meaning of Christ’s saying, “The man who loves his life loses it, while the man who hates his life in this world preserves it to life eternal” (Jn 12:25).
Jesus did not just teach this as a striking, paradoxical theory. He lived it out, and paid the price which this principle entails. “Son though he was, Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Heb 5:8f).
That was a wonderful fruit indeed, sprouting from the seed of his life given for us. We can share in it only if we accept to share in his self-offering and death. Then will our being disciples of Jesus become a wonderful reality.