Monday, March 26, 2012

To Die or not to Die

5th Sunday of Lent, Year B
Jn. 12:20-33

Jesus says to us, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit”.  There are many ways for us to fall.  We can be struck down by illness, beaten down by adversity, tripped by an unseen obstacle or felled by our own human weakness.  But there is only one way to die in the sense that our Lord uses the word here.  In order to pass over the threshold into a new and fruitful life, we must freely abandon our old life through the willing acceptance of the pain this relinquishing entails.  If we do not, then like a seed which never sprouts, we will simply rot away.  We will forever be alone; alone with our precious selves, our horded up “life” that we end up losing anyway because we never gave it away to another, or to the wholly Other.

This timeless truth of the spiritual life is well symbolized by the Poor Clare investiture ceremony.  Last Sunday, our then Postulant Joscelyn was dressed in a bride’s white finery as an image of her youthful life.  

Then the earth colored Poor Clare habit was placed over her, and sheltered by this modest tent, she quickly slipped out of her gown and let it fall to the ground.  Holding on to the hand of Mother Abbess, she then stepped over the bridal dress, and with that step, entered a new life.  At the completion of the ceremony, Joscelyn received her new name, Sister Mary Angelique of the Infant Jesus, leaving behind her worldly identity to become the Bride of Christ and to participate with Him in His mission to redeem the world by willingly sharing in His passion through prayer and penance as a Poor Clare Nun. 

Sister Angelique has said yes to the call of God, has died and risen; but this is only the beginning.  Day by day she will have ample opportunity to renew her yes, her dying and her rising.  Just as the bride of an earthly husband abandons the carefree independence of girlhood and must be faithful to a new life of mature responsibility, so must a Poor Clare.  All women are called to the fruitful gift of self, only the mode is different according to each one’s vocation.  Each day we are called to a new life, but only on the condition that we die to the old.  If we agree to die through love, we will be united to the one we love and will bear abundant fruit.  If we refuse, we will be alone.  That kind of aloneness is more deadly than physical death.  Scripture says that “for the sake of the joy which lay before Him, Christ endured the Cross, heedless of its shame”.  Let us choose life and not be afraid of the suffering it involves.  Its worth it!

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