Friday, March 23, 2012

5th Sunday of Lent, Year B (Gospel: John 12:20-30) Unless a wheat grain falls to the ground and dies it remains just a single grain

A survey was done in America a few years ago to see who were the happiest people and why.  The survey found that the happiest people were old black women.  The second happiest people were old Hispanic women.  The third happiest group of people were old women in general.  Why?  Because they had suffered so much throughout their lives. It had taught them so much and they had learnt to be at peace.  And now they were very content and very little would put them out.  I used to notice the same thing with many of the old people when I worked in the hospital. Older people were usually much more patient and tolerant that younger people, even though they would often be suffering more.  But they had generally learnt to be tolerant and patient.  They weren’t too easily phased.

We always wonder when we see people suffering, why we have to suffer so much, especially at the end of someone’s life.  It is the one thing that all of us find hard to face and we have no explanation for.  However, the whole journey of Lent tells us a lot about the place of suffering.

Suffering is an unavoidable part of this life, where everything is so imperfect, but it does have its use.  God doesn’t want us to suffer, but God brings great good out of the suffering by allowing us to be transformed by it.  However, it is a slow process and we don’t usually see the benefit of it until afterwards, which makes it all the more difficult.  If at the time of suffering we knew that it would lead to something much greater, it would make it a lot easier, but the problem is that we usually cannot see any point to it at the time, and that is part of the suffering.
Unless a wheat grain falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a single grain.  But if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.

The whole life of Jesus is also telling us something about what we are called to.  As you know, his life was one of total self-giving.  He lived for others.  Yet in spite of all that he did, he was continually persecuted.  And in the end he was betrayed for money, falsely tried and executed and yet he was totally innocent.  Totally unjust, and yet look at what God brought about from the death and resurrection of Jesus: we are now offered eternal happiness with God when we die.  From the point of view of worldly thinking it makes absolutely no sense, but seen with the eyes of faith we see something quite different and that is why our faith is so important.  It helps us to make sense of what does not make any sense from a human point of view.

You know how angry we all get when we are faced with injustice.  What’s going on with the economy is a good example.  The greed of a few causing great suffering for so many and as a result everyone is enraged and rightly so.  It is totally unjust and yet I have no doubt that we will see great good come out of it as well.

It says in the second reading, ‘Although he was Son, Christ learnt to obey through suffering.’  Jesus didn’t want to suffer any more than we do, but he trusted that the Father knew what He was doing, and so He accepted his will.  He became perfect through suffering.  We don’t want to suffer either, but we try to trust that God knows what he is doing.

Our society continually tells us that we should be able to have everything exactly as we want it and whenever we want it, and that we should never have to give in to anyone.  Everything is for our pleasure.  But that’s not what Jesus taught us.  He said, ‘Try to enter by the narrow door’ (Lk 13.24).  And he said, ‘Anyone who loves his life loses it, but anyone who hates his life in this world, keeps it for the eternal life’.  Jesus is telling us not to invest everything in this life, because it is passing and what we have here is not really important.  The only thing that is important is what will happen to us in the next life.  We are being faced with a long-term investment.  If we try to find total happiness here, we will be disappointed, because it is not to be found.  When Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette at Lourdes she said to her ‘I cannot promise you happiness in this world but in the next.’  That is also why it is so sad when you see people driven by greed, even if they get away with it.  They are trying to find happiness in this life, through money.  But no matter how much they are able to acquire, they still won’t be happy.  It cannot bring happiness, because we are much more than that.

The Lord is telling us not to be afraid of what we have to go through in this life because it is gradually transforming us and helping us to become the best version of ourselves.  God is well aware of the potential we have and God wants us to reach it.  That is why we must trust him with the process of what He allows happen to us.
Unless a wheat grain falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a single grain.  But if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.

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