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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dying to Produce Fruit

By Dean Louis Bascon

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus."

Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, 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."

"Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me."

"I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name."

Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it and will glorify it again."

The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered and said, "This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself." He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

As we are nearing the celebration of Jesus' passion, death and resurrection, the Gospel readings are already pointing to the events of Jesus' crucifixion. In the Gospel last Sunday, Jesus explained to Nicodemus how He must be lifted up like the serpent in the desert from Old Testament times. Today, Jesus speaks about His hour, the hour when He will fulfill His mission on earth, the hour when He shall die on the cross, the hour of His glory.

Jesus compares Himself to a grain of wheat that must die in order to produce fruit. But more than just a metaphor for His death, this parable of the grain of wheat is a call for us followers of Christ to "die" so we may bear fruit. As Jesus said, "Whoever serves me must follow me..." (Jn 12:26) Therefore, if Jesus' mission is to die to produce fruit, we should also follow Jesus' example. We should also die.

Now "dying" does not necessarily have to be literal. Dying in order to produce fruit means that we should die to our sinful selves and emerge as new persons, just like in Baptism. It also entails sacrificing for other people who are in need, denying oneself in order to help them. Literally dying for the faith, or dying a martyr's death, is not an opportunity given to all Christians. But even if we are not given the chance to die for God and for our neighbor, the challenge for all of us is to live for God and for our neighbor. Our whole life can be a sacrifice to God, in service of our neighbors. And this sacrifice, since a sacrifice always hurts us, will be our "death" that will produce much fruit.

In Jesus' death, He will gather all people to Himself. By "all people", He meant everyone. This is symbolized by the Greeks who came looking for Jesus. Jesus' salvation is for all of us; it is not exclusive, because we are all in need of salvation. Jesus' blood is enough to purchase all men. There is no single person whose sins are so great that Jesus could not have saved him. Nevertheless, all who seek salvation must first believe and follow Jesus.

As we enter Holy Week, let us remember the importance of sacrifice, the importance of pain and suffering. For as Jesus said, "Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life." (Jn 12:25). Therefore we must set our eyes to the things of heaven, and deny ourselves and sacrifice for the good of all. Let us also remember that Easter cannot come without Good Friday and that the hour of Jesus' glory (Jn 12:23) is the hour of His death.

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