Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year B

Sunday, March 18, 2018
Fr. Jon
Homily transcription: 


Yesterday was one of the greatest days of the year=St. Patrick's day.  Since I am half Irish and bleed green, I thought I would share with you my favorite Irish joke:  What do you call an Irishman who sits outside your house all day?  Paddy O'Furniture!


This is the end of spring break, and we welcome back our student parishioners.  Our parish had four immersions trips this week, to Houston, Appalachia, Nicaragua, and I took a group of students on a monastic immersion to Conception monastery in northwest Missouri.  I would like to thank all those support our TOMS event each year, because you make these trips possible.  I think some of our parishioners learn more on these trips than they do in a whole semester at Iowa State.


On Tuesday evening, our group had dinner and a discussion with our former archbishop, Archbishop Jerome Hanus.  He looks great and is very happy.  He served as our archbishop for 18 years, and retired five years ago and returned to Conception where he is a monk.  


When asked about his life, Archbishop Hanus described it this way:  When I was baptized, my parents said yes to Jesus for me.  When I was confirmed, I said yes to Jesus myself.  When I became a monk, I was excited to say yes to Jesus.  When I was elected abbot of the monastery, I was surprised, but said yes to Jesus.  When the Pope appointed me as a bishop, I really did not want to do it, but how could I say no to Jesus now. So I said yes.  When I was appointed archbishop, I did not want to move, but said yes to Jesus again.  Now I am back at the monastery in the autumn of my life.  I did not come here just to die.  I am actively preparing for my death so that it can be my final yes to Jesus.


His life has been a series of yeses to Jesus, and each involves sacrifice, each involves surrender, each involves a little death.  He is a good example of today's Gospel, when Jesus said, "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.


In John's Gospel, today's Gospel comes right before Jesus passion and death.  It is meant to interpret what would happen in the crucifixion.  This is what happens on the cross, the death that produces much fruit for others.  Jesus' death did not just happen to him.  He freely chose it as his total yes to God.


The Gospel goes on to say that what was required of Jesus is also required of all of us who claim to be his disciples.  Not just retired archbishops, but all of us enter into the paschal mystery, which says we just die to grow.  So the young must die to a fixation the pursuit of fun so they can become responsible adults.  Spouses must die to an old way of life when they were in control and called the shots, so they can build a life together.  And all of us must die to a certain self-centeredness so the Lord can use us to reach out to those in need.  To become like Jesus means that throughout our lives, we are invited to go deeper.  And each yes to Jesus involves sacrifice, surrender, and a little death.


The author John Shea sums up today's Gospel this way.  "Die before you die, so when you die, you won't die."  That is what the Christian life is about, dying before we die, so that when we die, we won't die.


Like Archbishop Hanus, if we are faithful to God's will, we are constantly saying yes to Jesus in different circumstances of our lives.  Each yes involves a little death to our life as we know it, and often to life as we want it to be.  Each yes prepares us for our final yes, our final surrender at our death.


Jesus promises that the grain of wheat that dies will produce much fruit, not just in our lives but also in the lives of others. I see that in what Archbishop Hanus' life has done for so many, including you and certainly including me.  I see that is the big smile that is on his face.  I see that in lots of people in parishes I have served throughout the years, intentional disciples who over and over and over again, say yes to Jesus.