Jer 31:31-34; Heb 5:7-9; John 12:20-33
I can still remember when I was in Grade Six. Our class adviser would always advise us his students during our homeroom class and it is still fresh in my mind even up to today. He said that if we lose we do not cry; if we win we do not boast.
I do believe that this is true. It is because we should use our failures and defeats as vehicles to train more, to know more, to study more so that the next time we will face such challenges, we maybe able to handle them and win.
Actually, it was not my teacher-adviser who said this first but it was Jesus Christ Himself who taught us first this principle in life. For us, Jesus lost because He died. But His death is an occasion for victory in the sense that through His death we have been saved; through His death we have been born to eternal life. When He rose from the dead He won against His enemies. But He does use His victory to curse His enemies. Rather, before He ascended into heaven, He told his disciples to go into the whole world and preach the good news; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of Holy Spirit.
In a true sense, this is what we call dying to oneself. Dying to oneself is something that we Christians may find hard to do. It is something that most, if not all of us, may be averse of doing especially that we live in a world where there is pressure on all sides to replace the love of God for something lesser. We live in a world of instant gratification, getting things on credit, and getting what we want right here, right now and so dying to oneself is a concept that is anathema to most of us. And yet this is one thing that Jesus had always been teaching us to do. This dying to oneself is what is essentially given focus and importance in today’s Gospel reading. It does not mean that when say, ‘dying to oneself,’ we have to commit suicide. But rather dying to oneself is like: give up oneself for the sake of others; to serve others rather than to be served.
One concrete example are the parents who have fully and generously dedicate themselves for the welfare, perhaps even to the point of forgetting themselves. They choose to do so, so that their children will be prepared for a better future and the family will be one and united.
Somebody also said that teachers are concrete examples of dying to oneself because they devote in preparing their lesson plans so that they may teach well. There are the doctors who painstakingly review the history of their patients so that they may render the best quality of service. There are the people in the service industry, the janitors and maids, who keep the environment tidy. These are examples of dying and may serve as inspiration for us, how people can die to themselves in order that others may be given life. Death then becomes necessary in order to bear fruit. That author continued to say that we may be able to do this (dying to oneself) because Jesus shows us the way. He Himself experience death so many times. He gives up home, family and friends. He spends most of His time and ministry in service. He pours out all His love to His disciples and still experiences betrayal, denial, and abandonment. In the end, He offers Himself totally in His crucifixion. These are clear examples of Jesus’ dying to Himself.
Another message of today’s gospel is also familiar to us. The message is: Dying to oneself entails that we must give like, we must give forgiveness. Like for example, even when a motorcycle driver cut us off and left us steaming in anger, choose to be merciful. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also so that we won’t keep ourselves stuck in a wormhole of anger and bitterness. Let us choose to forgive, choose to give mercy, as we are also pardoned on the Cross. There to be good Christians, we must give. What are those that we must give?
If you can still remember the three T’s, these are the things that we must give and share. Maloi Malibiran-Salumbides in her book, Pro Tips Smart Steps for Everyday Workplace Success, (pp. 34-37) made mentioned also about these three T’s. She said that all of us are recipients of so many things. We have three T’s we always receive everyday. They are:
The first T is Time. According to her, we are given time. All of us are given twenty four hours a day whether we are poor or rich, aged or young. Some of our times are used for our work, family and friends but do we have enough time for prayer and reflection, attending Mass and for God.
The second T is Talent. All of us have talents. All of us have at least one talent. Yes it is true there are some people who are more blessed with talents. They have so many talents. But don’t tell us that you don’t have talents. It is because according to Maloi, all of us have talents. I’m, sure all of us know how to listen; how to clap our hands. Every time we clap our hands we give encouragement and joy to those who have none.
The third T is Treasure. All of us have treasures. All of us have at least, something. This something doesn’t have to be money. It can be unused clothes, a dress that we don’t wear anymore but we put it in our cabinet and you can give this to anybody who needs it very badly. It can also be a song that you can share with others to cheer them up. The bottom line is, according to Maloi, we are recipients of something.
But Maloi added another two T’s and these are:
The fourth T is Tears. Many of us, if not all, are recipients of Tears. Sometimes, other people cause us to shed a tear because of a painful circumstance. Like for example, we are hurt; we are abused. You know our tears can be a blessing to others too.
Maloi told this story of John Piper, a well-known speaker and author, was diagnosed to have prostate cancer a few years ago. He said: “I will not waste my cancer. It will use it to glorify God.” And because he uses his tears to encourage people, other cancer patients developed hope. They saw it in John Piper, he was not afraid of his cancer. And so you see our tears can be a blessing to others. Even our tears can be used by God to serve as an encouragement to those who are in pain, to those who are fearful of something, to those who would like to give up.
The fifth T is Talk. The ability to communicate can be a very big blessing. It is because if we know how to talk we may be able to share our life story. We have to tell it so that it will touch other people’s hearts. If we have a story to share, we have to tell it so that it will touch other people’s hearts. We don’t need audible word if we want to talk. We can even communicate through our facial expressions, the tone of our voice and our presence.
And so during this season of Lent let us die to oneself especially to our pride and selfishness. And also let us be good Christians by becoming giving Christians.
See Today’s Readings: Cycle B