“Sir, we should like to see Jesus.” That simple statement is refreshing in its civility especially in the middle of the growing hostility around Jesus at this point in John’s Gospel.
The miracles that Jesus worked in His earthly life were signs that point to the power of His crucifixion. In themselves, those earthly miracles had no lasting, no ultimate power. The man born blind whose sight was restored would die and still needed to be saved. The multitudes on the mountainside that were fed by Jesus’ multiplication of loaves would die and still needed to be saved and so on.
It is a wonderful grace to receive a miracle from the Lord in our life. But does such a miracle lead us to conversion of life, to a stronger following of Jesus? Or do we grab the miracle and run?
Some people receive a miracle of healing in their life. Others, equally filled with faith, do not. We don’t know why some do and some don’t. But whether we are healed in our life or not, the true miracle that is available to all of us is the miracle of Redemption, a soul corrected, cleansed and forgiven by the saving blood of Jesus Christ and his Cross.
The Cross is the place of true Salvation. The Greeks asked for a miracle. Jesus says, “When I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself.”
The true enduring miracle of Jesus is His serving death and Resurrection which is made present at every mass. The power of that miracle, called Redemption, is available to all of us.
Then the Lord widens the screen. Jesus says something more “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains first a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”
The ‘grain of wheat’ refers first of all to Jesus. It took Jesus’ death on the cross to break the shell, the limitations of his human nature so that, now risen, He is present in countless places, to countless lives.
The Lord is also speaking about a deep and wider truth about every Christian life. Something about us has to die for new life to be born and released.
In other words, Dying to self is necessary to receive new life. If we forget that new birth is what Lent is all about, we can do many things without any real change on the inside.
If we forget that new birth is what Lent is about, we can end up like Paddy Murphy – Paddy Murphy went to mass, never missed a Sunday, Paddy Murphy went to hell for what he did on Monday.
If we forget that new birth is what Lent is all about, we can end up with a religion of childhood memories but little about commitment, a religion loaded with nostalgia but unable to transform us today.
When we die to self and crack open the shell of sinful behaviour in our life, it is to bring something else to life, spiritual wisdom in our daily affairs, a powerful and personal relationship with God, closeness to Christ, the strength of the Holy Spirit in any storm, the power to enhance the lives of others through forgiveness and through intelligent, wise, discerning love. That is what our dying to self is to bring forth and that is what Lent is all about.
The question we have to ask ourselves is what is there in your life that has to die for new life in Christ to be born? Fr Andrew