That's Jesus' glorification: Suffering typically leads to humiliation. United with Jesus, however, suffering leads to glorification. Like a grain of wheat - like a Passover lamb - Jesus dies to bear fruit.
That principle applies also to you and me. During Lent many of you are reading Finding Hope When Life Hurts. I love Fr. Sica's daily reflections. The only part I don't like is that he keeps telling me I need to die - to let go of certain things to find the hope Jesus offers.
Of all the things Fr. Sica suggests, what do I find most challenging? I don't know about you but for me it was this: Stop procrastinating! Stop putting things off waiting for a more convenient time. I can miss opportunities, for example by placing people on the back burner, always thinking, "I'll do it later." As Fr. Sica observes, "other things take precedence and we get sidetracked by videos, blogs and music."
The best way to avoid procrastination, he says: "be deliberate in doing what you don't feel like doing." Do the worst first, die to self.
Fr. Sica gives this challenge: "What have you been putting off? Losing weight? Mending a relationship? Cleaning out closets? Job hunting? Write down the top three." I'll share mine. Your top three will be different but here are mine:
One involves cleaning out a disaster area in the rectory. The second is about office files that have become unmanageable. The third is a personal relationship that needs mending. In the past I've wanted to do these things and failed. Fr. Sica suggests finding a mentor. In my case a friend has agreed to hold me accountable.
Reflecting on things I need to do, where I need to die, causes me to ask a more basic question: Why deliberately do anything? Why not just drift along, do whatever seems urgent? What is my purpose anyway? I see that purpose reflected in our parish mission statement: Blessed to live in this beautiful valley, we are Christians, in union with Pope Francis and Archbishop Sartain, who strive to lift up Jesus, love one another and make disciples.
Lift up Jesus! Last week we heard Jesus say, "the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life." Today Jesus says "When I am lifted up from the earth I will draw everyone to myself." Early in the Second World War - England's Darkest Hour - Churchill spoke about how much so many people owed to a few brave fighter pilots. In the course of human history many, many people - including you and me - owe everything to one man.
So, lift up Jesus! That's what we do in the next two weeks known as "Passiontide." I encourage you this week to read chapter 11 of the Case for Jesus. Dr. Pitre discusses the meaning of Jesus' crucifixion and answers some tough questions: Why did they accuse Jesus of blasphemy? Did Jesus feel God-forsaken? What's the meaning of the blood and water?
Next week - Palm Sunday - we'll listen to St. Mark's account of Jesus' Passion. It coincides with spring - a time when seeds "die" for the sake of a harvest. The beginning of spring is a good moment to put our lives in order. That's today's invitation: Meditating on what Jesus has done, we ask his help to rightly order our lives. Stop procrastinating! "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." Amen.