Cusp-a point of transition, as from one historical period to the next;
the borders between the twelve astrological signs.
You are considered to be "on the cusp" if you were born
within a day or two of the beginning or end of any sign.

The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak, 1863; Albert Bierstadt

22 March 2015

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent B, 22 March 2015


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.

This is the time of year that really starts to get us moving. After being cooped up for the winter we’re eager to get out doors and do things. All those little chores that were left under the snow are now catching our eyes and begging for our attention. Other signs of the season are appearing as well. Garden catalogues and seed displays at the stores are getting us to thinking about the warmer days ahead.
Sometimes in the excitement of the new season we get ahead of ourselves and make greater plans than we actually complete. I confess I have bought packets of seeds that have never been opened, and flats of plants that have dried up in the tray, or nursery stock that died because it was left in an out of the way corner of the yard. I allowed other activities or lost ambition or, dare I say, laziness wither those plans like the sun dried seedlings. I was unwilling to pick up the shovel to break the ground, and the rake to smooth the seed bed. I was unwilling to make the effort.
Sometimes Lent is like that. We make our vows to give up this or that, to do more of one thing or another and we get so far and then loose heart. We buy the seed packet and maybe tear it open but the seed never gets in the ground. We never see the flower or the fruit.
Jesus talks about a single grain of wheat falling to the ground and dying and then producing much fruit. Have you ever seen the head of a ripe stalk of wheat? Depending on the variety it can produce ten or twenty grains from the single grain that was planted. What abundance! But the grain had to be planted first. Fields of wheat do not spring up by themselves. It takes effort; it takes effort.
Jesus has been telling his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer and die to accomplish the will of the Father. In his death not only will he rise to new life but so will all of us who follow after him. Instead of a shovel or rake the tool Jesus had to use was the cross.
These were hard words for his disciples, not because they were not willing to die, but because they weren’t willing to die without a fight. They couldn’t bear the thought of the Messiah just laying down his life. This is why Jesus warns that those who would save their life will lose it but he who loses his life to this world will have eternal life. Eternal life comes when we surrender to the will of the Father, take up our cross and follow Jesus.
This is why these things we do during Lent matter. They help prepare us to take up the cross. They help us to die to ourselves so that that those little seeds we plant in our acts of self-denial will bear fruit in eternal life.
In our Eucharist we share in the abundant fruit that Christ has provided for us by his suffering, death, and resurrection.
Father in heaven,
the love of your Son led him to accept the suffering of the cross
that we might glory in new life.
Change our selfishness into self-giving.
Help us to embrace the cross you have given us,
that we may transform its pain
into the life and joy of Easter.

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