“Now and at the hour of our death”

     Before making our first communion, the “Hail Mary” was one of the prayers we all learned.  Now, we can pray the prayer automatically.  Maybe we have not thought recently, but as we pray, we are asking the Blessed Mother to pray for us at two specific times:  (1) Now and (2) at the hour of our death.  Why at these two times?

    NOW – at this moment, in this situation we are asking for the intercession of Mary.  Now — the present — is the only time we have control.  The past is the past – it is over and done.  The future has not yet arrived.  But, NOW is right before us.  We have choices to make, decisions to make — things to which we must say “yes” and things to which we must say “no”. We are asking for the concern, the help, the guidance of Mary, the mother of Jesus and our heavenly mother.

     AT THE HOUR OF OUR DEATH — for most of us, as strong as our faith might be, when we are facing physical death,  we know we will leave this earth alone. … and there is a little fear is the strongest of us.  We do not know what is ahead.  And like when we went to school for the first time, it is good to know that our mother is with us.  Because our earthly mom’s cannot take the trip with us, we are asking for the prayer support and the prayer-presence of Mary.

      As we look at this weekend’s Gospel reading (John 12:20-33), we cannot ignore the most literal teaching offered by Jesus.  Remember, the plan for his arrest and “trial” and eventual crucifixion has been set into motion.  Jesus knows he is facing death.  The HOUR had now come — the day of reckoning was at hand.  It was for this PURPOSE that he had come.  And, he knew that for him to fulfill his purpose, he had to die to this earthly life in order to rise to a new, glorified life.

      Jesus used an example known to everyone around him and to all of us.  A seed would remain a mere seed unless it went into the darkness of earth, to die — and to break through the ground as  THE FRUIT OF the grain of wheat.  Left on the shelf — it would remain just a grain of wheat.

       So it is for you and for me — we only become our fullest self when we die and rise.  Until that moment — no matter how developed we are in faith — we are still short of our goal, to be a glorified son or daughter of God.  In some sense, “our finest hour” is when we die to become the person God has destined us to be — short of that, we are less that what God has intended us to be.    At some point, OUR HOUR will come …. at some moment, the purpose for which we long, will come.  AND, it will be o.k.  For men and women of faith, we would not want the Father to save or to keep us from this “hour”, from this experience for which I am destined? 

        In order to take this step more easily, we LEARN to die well throughout our lives.  The more we accept “the little deaths” that come our way, the more easily it will be for us to take the ULTIMATE step through death into life.

        My great-nephew told me last year that he did not want to leave kindergarten because first grade might be too hard.  Maybe we remember those days.  But, we learn that we MUST go to first grade and then second grade and on and on in order to learn the new things in store for us.

        Rarely would someone learning that they are losing their job see this as a “good thing”.  Yet, dying to what was and waking up to hope that something else is out there is necessary for someone to move forward.

       We have all seen … and some have lived … people who must go through the experience of divorce in order to be born again to a different and hopefully a happier life.  The experience of divorce is not good, but it is the death necessary in order for a new way of living and being to come forth.

      Throughout our lives we remain JUST A GRAIN OF WHEAT if we stay where we are.  The real fruit of life will come only when we die to what is less than who we are meant to be.

     Some must die to pride in order that real joy might be born in their hearts.

     Some must die to fear in order to take a step into a new job with better benefits and security.

     Some must die to control in order to have a relationship of mutual support and care.

     Some must die to a sin in our lives in order to become truly free.

     Some must die to an “impossible dream” that can no longer be fulfilled in order to accept a good possibility.

     Some must die to sheer laziness in order to take action and move forward.

REMEMBER THESE STEPS:  1] Awareness of what needs to happen  2]Anger at having to let go  3]denial that this is really happening  4] acceptance  5]death  6] resurrection to new life

     THIS LENT, THIS WEEK, THIS HOUR might well be THE MOMENT we are called to let go to the old and the deadly in order to take on the fruit of new life, new possibilities — true freedom.

        God has written this message on our hearts.  (Jer. 31:31-34).  We know we must die … just as Jesus knew what he HAD TO DO.  With the help of others …. including the prayer of our Blessed Mother … we can do what we must do.

       WHAT MUST YOU DO NOW … in order to become the fully alive person God created you to be?  Can you embrace this death?  Will you embrace this death?  Do you really believe that there is still a fuller life in front of you that requires a “going down” in order “to burst forth”?  What is keeping you back?

hjm

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