“Seeing” Paschal Mystery
by Father Peter Iorio
As often as it happens, I never cease to be amazed at the daffodils, crocuses, and blooms on trees that are very resilient. When snow and freezing temperatures arrive, they droop and wilt, but they almost always come back. Our souls are like that.
In the Gospel there are people who want to see Jesus. Lent is meant to help open our eyes to be able to “see” better… to see Christ present in our life and all of life. To be able to see God’s glory in our suffering. In this way, an alcoholic in recovery can declare, AA is the best thing that ever happened to me. Someone else says: I thank God for my nervous breakdown. It taught me so much and also changed me for the better.
In the Gospel today, just before His own horrible Passion which is “His hour,” Jesus uses the image from nature of a grain of wheat having to die – fall to the ground, break open, and mix with the earth – before new life comes about. So He/Jesus must die before the new life of the resurrection comes about. There’s no other way. And so we have to practice dying by denying ourselves and serving others before we actually die a physical death in our bodies.
Christians believe that the death and resurrection of Christ is the best thing to happen to humanity and is truly God’s great love for us. We follow Christ by choosing this path, and if we follow our Lord, then he is showing us this path for all life… Look at the natural world. We are fortunate to have 4 distinct seasons where we can see the fullness of life in summer; the dying of living things in fall; the harsh cold reality of death in winter; and the resurgence of new life in spring.
Just as the crucifixion leads to Christ’s glorious body, so our self-denial generates the Reign of God. Sometimes we forget that it’s the little things that matter.
How many wives or husbands would say that your spouse fails to really listen to you? No hand raising necessary but you can give one another “the look.”
Putting down the cell phone or the tv remote or whatever hobby you have and opening your ears and hearts to your spouse is dying to self, and it can generate new life in your marriages and in your families.
Have you ever had an uncomfortable feeling about a relationship and a little nudge inside you to do something about it? Don’t be afraid to follow through. This is dying to yourself and calling forth the virtue of humility, going down into the earth, humus.
The process most likely will be painful or at least somewhat uncomfortable, but trust that God is there with you. Ask Mary who has been there at the foot of the cross to accompany and guide you.
Think about this. When her son was hanging on the cross, she said Yes to God again just like she did at the Annunciation when the Angel Gabriel said that she would be Mother of the Most High….let it be done to me according to your word. We call this her great FIAT.
At the foot of the cross, she gives her second fiat or yes to God by giving back to God the Son that God the Father had given her. She has the humility to say “yes” again. It was very painful to lose her Son Jesus and probably very uncomfortable to accept Jesus’ invitation to take the Beloved disciple as her son as told in John’s Gospel. From Mary, we learn to stand at the foot of the cross like she did. We try to imitate her, being united to him in the passion. The art of letting go is not easy. She is the Stabat mater…literally the “standing mother.” Mary is standing, sorrowful in Love, letting go. It is knowing how to lose. And in that losing, there is a deep trust and hope that she will gain so much more. And Mary certainly does.
We can say: I don’t like it. It is not fair. But I choose to let go of that which I cannot control and I trust that God is most certainly in control. It generates love and goodness and beauty. Sometimes this fruit of letting go, of dying to self comes about in different ways and times than we expect, but when we have eyes to see, it is a grace.
I realize that my family received the fruit of my mother’s example of learning how to lose. About twelve years ago, my dad simply did not want to be married and asked for a divorce. My mom and all of us kids didn’t want it. It probably took Mom 5 years to truly let go of any chance of him wanting to return to the marriage. She continued to die to self by forgiving him and letting go of resentment and choosing to love him just as he was. When my mom suffered a massive stroke last summer, my dad left his vacation to be with my siblings and me during the last days of mom’s life on earth. During that experience, Dad was able to listen to his deepest desire more than any selfish notion of wanting to be by himself. He’s been telling everyone that he always loved Mom and made a mistake when he divorced her. A grace which I believe is the fruit of her selfless love.
This is Christianity: to live the death of Jesus because He rises in us, moment by moment. One of my favorite spiritual writers is Chiara Lubich (the foundress of the Focolare Movement) and she has a little thought on this called ‘His Mass and ours’:
If you suffer and your suffering is such that it prevents any activity, remember the Mass. Jesus in the Mass, today as once before, does not work, does not preach:
Jesus sacrifices himself out of love.
In life, we can do many things, say many words, but the voice of suffering, maybe unheard or unknown to others, is the most powerful word, the one that pierces heaven.
If you suffer, immerse your pain in his: say your Mass; and if the world does not understand, do not worry: all that matters is that you are understood by Jesus, Mary, the Saints. Live with them and let your blood flow for the good of humanity—like him!
The Mass! it is too great to understand! His Mass, our Mass.