Sunday, March 29, 2009

5th Sunday of Lent - homily

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”.

Let’s pretend I am holding a grain of wheat in my hand - a little, tiny seed of wheat. In his life, this little guy doesn’t do a whole lot for me or you. But, in its death, it gives us a lot! When this little seed of wheat is buried in the ground as if it were dead, then it gives us so much fruit – well, actually, things like bread, cookies, and, of course, my favorite cereal: Golden Grahams! Seriously, the first ingredient that is listed (on a box of Golden Grahams) is whole grain wheat. So much comes from this little seed – not from its life, but from its death.

Jesus often uses the analogy of a seed in the Gospels. He uses this analogy to refer to Himself – He is the seed. He is the grain of wheat which dies in order to produce much fruit. He is using this analogy today to talk about his upcoming death and to show its necessity. His death produces much fruit for us. The fruit of his death is our salvation. The fruit of his death is life for us…eternal life. In his death we have life.

How is each of us to be the grain of wheat? Is Jesus telling us that we need to fall to the ground and die as He did? Is he calling us to crucifixion? No. He is not calling us to a physical death, but to a personal death. He is calling us to die to self. He explains: “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life”. The word “life” here means “self”. Whoever loves himself (or herself) loses himself…his soul…his life. Whoever loves himself less (“hate” here means “love less”) will save himself…his soul…his life. The person who does not die to self does not produce fruit and loses eternal life. The person who dies to self produces much fruit and gains eternal life.

Let’s look at some examples - first, marriage. In marriage, each spouse is called to die to self, first in their promises to one another and second in living out what they promise. They lay down their life for the other; their seed falls to the ground and dies. And, it produces much fruit – the fruit is on their love and in their children. Children are the first fruits of marriage. But, if one of them decides not make the promises in the first place or not to live out their promises – really because of love of self, then they remain a grain of wheat and produce little fruit.

Another example is Confirmation – we have young men and women here tonight who were made their confirmation retreat today. Confirmation gives us the help to live out this Gospel – to die to self. And, these young people have a great challenge ahead of them- they will be confronted by a culture that says, “live for yourself”. Each time they tell their friends that they are going to Mass or Youth Group, they will die a little death. Whenever they tell their friends that they are pro-life, they die a little death. In relationships, when they talk to the other about living chastity, they die a little death. The Holy Spirit will give them help at Confirmation to stand up for what’s right even if means that their image dies. He will give them wisdom and courage to live for Christ and for others. To all of our young people here tonight, I say that we support you, we love you, and we have great confidence in you!

Next, Confession. Confession plays a role – I think a big role – in this Gospel because it is where and how we die to self. Confession is where our sins go to die. It is where our pride, anger, laziness, whatever go to die. And so, those parts of ourselves die – the person coming out of confession is different than the one who went in. The proud, angry, lazy person has died; a new person lives and produces much fruit. Confession is necessary for us if we wish to fall to the ground and die, and to produce much fruit. A Catholic who never goes to confession is like a grain of wheat that remains just a grain of wheat: he or she doesn’t produce much fruit.

Finally, the analogy from this Gospel is also a reference to the Eucharist. Christ is the grain of wheat which falls to the ground and dies, producing the Bread of Life (the Eucharist). Holy Communion is the abundant harvest of the Lord in which we all share.


At 10:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good homily, Father.

At 1:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also liked your homily FG. This is a keeper for YG and adults.

At 9:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lent is the time of year when I think about my own death. I do the practical things like updating my will and do the necessary things like reflecting on how I’m living and going to Confession. Maybe it sounds morbid, but throughout Lent, I think a lot about death.

This past year, my kids experienced the death of their elderly great-grandmother, a young cousin and the father and mother of different friends. My children attended the wakes and funerals for each.

My 8 year old had a difficult time with the recent death of her friend’s mom. Upon seeing her struggle, a friend told me I shouldn’t have exposed her to that (the funeral was especially hard). For many reasons I disagree. The only thing we are absolutely guaranteed from the moment that we take our first breaths is that we will take a final one.

I explained to my 8 yr old that her friend’s mom was in a better place now- one where she wouldn’t be sick or be in any pain. Her concern turned to her friend, “What will she do without a mother?” I explained that she has a great sister, loving dad, lots of family and friends who love her. To which she replied, “But no one will love her like her mother.” I agreed and suggested that maybe we each needed to love her “a little extra bit.” She immediately agreed but then thought for a while before she said, “I guess that’s how I’ll get to Heaven too.”

At 1:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“In relationships, when they talk to the other about living chastity, they die a little death.”

I had a talk w/my daughter after the Confirmation Retreat and Mass. I don’t know what was said at the retreat (one day, maybe someone will understand it’s helpful to tell the parents what you’re telling our kids), but through the filters of my child’s ears (and her understanding is all that really matters to me anyway), I was disappointed about one thing from the day- the talk on chastity.

She said they were told to wait for marriage to have sex, it’s wrong to hold hands with boys, you shouldn’t kiss a boy and you shouldn’t hug a boy. Again, I’m sure there was more to it than this (I just have NO WAY of knowing), but this was her basic synopsis. I said, “Okay, you had an abstinence talk, not a chastity talk.” We discussed those topics (and several others) in detail from a bit of a different perspective.

I understand how in a secular environment it won’t happen, but in a Catholic one, abstinence should be taught hand in hand with chastity. Abstinence can seem negative as it focuses on avoidance, but chastity is positive. It focuses upon personal growth. I was able to talk to my daughter about making choices to “die a little death” to grow something so much greater in the future. Your homily was the perfect gateway to talking about this with her.

At 11:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“Confession plays a role – I think a big role…Confession is necessary for us if we wish to fall to the ground and die, and to produce much fruit.”

I chose to have trust in these words. FG- I’m not sure you understand how much I trust in these words as a direct result of your saying them in many ways, over and over (and other times- very directly). Thanks!

At 11:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something strikes me funny- there are times when I plan to go to Confession- during Adoration, after certain Masses and at the specified time on Saturdays. I go and wait in line. Several (many) times I’ve left b/c the lines were longer than I anticipated and ran out of time. Tonight, there was a Penance Service. Very few were there. Why? It didn’t make sense to me, so I’m interested in the feedback- is there sufficient time for Confession during other times, is midweek inconvenient, or is it under advertised (can’t imagine that), but what? I’m just curious.

Also, does Religious Ed provide a specified times for Confession as does the school for its students. I’m interested, b/c it affects what I need to do with my CCD student.

At 3:55 PM, Blogger fran said...

"Chastity is a Lifestyle"
( A poem by an unwed teen mother)

Chastity... the key to
Heaven's Gate.
Chastity, if he really loves you,
he'll wait.
It's all about the truth, love
and understanding.
If he really respected you,
he wouldn't be so demanding.

Don't be fooled by Satan's
A lot of things can happen.
Know what I mean?
Don't give in to every word
he says.
'Cause you'll be miserable for
the rest of your days.

Trust in the Lord and never lose your faith.
Just wait for the time He sends your mate.
But if you think you've found
him, and you think it's true,
The only way to tell is
if he waits for you.

So if he has any plans to leave and walk out the door,
Let him go, always remember,
you're worth waiting for.

At 4:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughter and I talked about how all little girls dream about their weddings- the dress, the cake, the flowers, their (ahem) "perfect," handsome groom and this whole magical day. I told her how sad I think it is that, for so many, the wedding night isn't part of that "fantasy" anymore. It really should be.

At 5:53 PM, Blogger fran said...

Hi 4:17,

I agree with you. Just keep talking. And praying. Repeat.


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