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God Is Unafraid of Paradoxes
Feast of Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr
Jesus said to his disciples: “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.”
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, grant me the grace to enter these moments of prayer with you and to enter just a bit more deeply into this mystery. May I not be afraid to “die” to myself for love of you and others, but may I do so with you and for you, precisely as you have done for me.
- Witnessing the Paradox: Today Mother Church offers this passage, marking the feast of a saint who shared by his life of service as a deacon, and his witness of martyrdom, that paradox that Christ was speaking about to his disciples: In order to preserve one’s life for eternity, one must be willing to lose his life. This paradox might not be worthy of belief had it not come from the mouth of the Savior himself who first lived it. Ours is a privilege the first disciples did not have—we live in a post-Resurrection age. Christ has already risen from the dead and showed his power and fidelity. Countless witnesses through the ages give testimony, too. And yet, the foundation for this truth comes from one and one source alone: Jesus Christ lived and died, rose, and lives now, never to die again. The witness of these saints and martyrs come from him and should always direct us to him.
- Unless It Falls…: Gently and persistently, Jesus strove to prepare his apostles for what was coming: he would fall to the ground under the weight of the cross, be raised upon it in ridicule, and be taken down, a dead man, buried in the tomb. How could they understand what he meant when he spoke these words? They saw him before them, very much alive and powerful, a miracle-working and charismatic leader like none before him. Perhaps this word of Christ was also a seed planted in their hearts, nourishing and taking root throughout their discipleship, until they, too, were ready to give their lives for him. God’s work in our souls is often like this too—God plants a seed God and tends it, sometimes gently, sometimes firmly, until we are ready to bear the fruit he desires. It’s okay not to understand all that he is doing or asking; it may be part of the seed burying, which will rise to new life in us. We are reminded by the apostles and saints throughout the ages: What is important is that we keep our eyes on him.
- If it Dies, It Produces Much Fruit: Christ asks nothing of his followers that he himself has not done first. How could such human weakness as the failure to recognize the Son of God bring such glory to God? And yet it has. The death of God’s only Son has resulted in life for the whole world. Are there any aspects of my life that I have felt to be a sort of death? Suffering in my own life or in my loved one’s lives? Loss or failure, deception or disappointment? We can place each of them into the heart of the Lord who was the first one to fall to the ground. With renewed faith in him, let us trust him with our struggles.
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, so many times I do not understand your action or even your seeming absence in my life. But I believe that you are faithful and that you never abandon your children. Even if I feel lost or buried in darkness, strengthen my faith by reminding me that you first allowed yourself to die and be buried, in order to bring me life. Come into my darkness and bring me your light and life.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will try to make conscious acts of giving of myself for love of you and the good of others.
For Further Reflection: In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Christian vocation as a sharing in Christ’s priestly, prophetic, and kingly mission, is discussed. CCC 786 touches on this kingly mission as one of service. Consider this text in light of today’s Gospel passage.
Beth Van de Voorde is a Regnum Christi Consecrated Woman, currently serving in pastoral ministry to families in Madrid, Spain. When she’s not reading Ratzinger or humming along to some song or another, you may find her making her pilgrim way through Spain’s timeless history of faith, walking alongside the beautiful families she’s there to serve.