Die to Live

Readings: Jer 31:1-4; Heb 5:7-9; Jn 12:20-33 or Ezek 37:12-14; Rom 8:8-11; Jn 11:1-45 or 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33-45
"I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in Me, even if he dies, will live." Jn 11:25

This coming week, on April 2, is the fourth anniversary of the death of the unforgettable pontiff, John Paul II. Whenever we think of him, many of us are moved to tears as we recall his eloquent witness to the Gospel of Christ - especially the call to die to ourselves, so as to live forever in God. In this way, John Paul's life demonstrated a paradox of the Gospel: the call to die to live.

Our Blessed Lord in the Gospel of John says: "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat" (12:24). These words remind us that spiritual growth occurs when, like the grain of wheat, our pride falls to the ground and dies. This spiritual death gives life and enables us to live a more human life.

Pope John Paul II, by his living and by his holy dying, puts flesh on these words of our Blessed Lord. We saw John Paul's witness of giving his life away - particularly when he suffered from the attempt on his life in 1981 and then bore so many physical infirmities into old age - including the debilitating effects of Parkinson's disease.

Perhaps, his greatest teaching came at the very end of his life. As he lay dying in his papal apartment, we will never forget how Vatican officials described the suffering Pope as "lucid and serene," praying to the end. Truly John Paul II showed us how to be like a grain of wheat that dies and then rises to new life.

Lent is the perfect season to die to self and allow Jesus, The Divine Mercy, to give us life to accomplish His wonders in us. John Paul II certainly will join in praying this for us.

O Lord, grant me the grace to die to live. Give me the courage, like Pope John Paul II of beloved memory, to accept my share in the sufferings of Christ. I, too, want to be an eloquent sign of Your life-giving love to others. Amen.

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