A Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent
Sunday, March 17, 2024
Holy Ghost Church – 8:00 & 10:00 Masses
Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15; Hebrews 5:7-9; John 12:20-33

Audio Recording


Just two more weeks until Easter. How’s your Lent been? Have you kept your prayer, fasting and almsgiving promises? I know that I haven’t perfectly kept all of mine. As a result of our Lenten exercises, are we better prepared to meet the risen Christ at Easter and experience him more deeply in his risen glory? If we’re not quite ready, the good news is that we still have two more weeks to prepare, including the most solemn week of our Church year, Holy Week.

In today’s gospel Jesus speaks what many would consider to be disturbing, or at least strange, words. “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” This just doesn’t sound right, does it? We’re supposed to hate our lives? Does Jesus mean this literally?

When Jesus tells us we must “hate” our lives, he doesn’t mean that we should despise our life, that we should be depressed and sad all the time. No, he’s not saying this at all!

To hate life in this world DOESN’T mean that we should hate our earthly existence as such. In fact, earlier in John’s gospel Jesus tells us that he has come so that we might have life and have it more abundantly! What hating our life in this world means is that we should be DETACHED FROM SIN and all the things in life that lead us away from and cause us to rebel against God. If we embrace the attitudes that Jesus prescribes and put them into practice, we will preserve our lives for eternal life.

Jesus is teaching us that only by dying to ourselves can we become truly alive and grow into our full potential, like a grain of wheat that’s planted in the ground. Only when a seed gives up its “seedness” does it become a beautiful plant. It’s the same with us. We must be willing to give up the strong desire to only look out for number one, the strong impulse to hoard what we have, if we are to become the fullness of what we were created to be.

To put it another way, we must accept the deaths of repentance, sacrifice, obedience, suffering, and persecution in order to experience the resurrection. Many of you are familiar with the old song “Everybody Wants to go to Heaven, But Nobody Wants to Die.” We might paraphrase this to say, “Everybody wants the resurrection without the crucifixion, the glory without the cross, Easter without Lent.

C.S. Lewis puts it this way when he says: “We are like eggs at the present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” What he’s saying is that if we continue to live our lives selfishly with little concern for growing spiritually or for the needs of others, we will never hatch into the beautiful beings we are intended to become. Instead we will become rotten and good for nothing.

The eternal life that Jesus gives to those who respond positively to him with faith and true discipleship is not simply the promise of eternal life after our short time here on earth, it’s the sharing in God’s abundant life here on earth. God’s kingdom is among us now. His love for us, for EACH AND EVERY ONE of us, is so great that he wants to share his own eternal life, his very self, with us in both THIS life and the next.

Sharing in the love and the life of the Trinity is the ultimate goal and meaning of human life. This is why we were created and the end to which EVERYTHING we do in our lives should be directed. This is our hope and our incredible destiny. We were created to live with God for all eternity! This is our Christian faith and our hope…this is the REALITY that Christ made available to us when he came to rescue us from sin and death. On the cross he conquered death so that we who believe and live obedient lives of faith might live forever! Do you believe this? Do you REALLY want this? Are you willing to die for this?

Living our lives totally for Christ and his Kingdom is what it means to hate our life in this world so as to preserve it for eternal life. The amazing mystery of our faith is that by doing so, by dying to ourselves and letting Christ live his life in us, we will experience joy and happiness in this life that absolutely dwarfs the passing, temporary pleasures we experience when we embrace a life of sin and selfishness.

In dying to ourselves we give meaning to our suffering and come to realize that eternal life is awaiting us on the other side of the crosses we carry. In dying to ourselves we become the beautiful plant that is lying dormant in the seed of our earthly life, a plant that bears much fruit and is a delight to behold.

When we use our God-given gifts for the good of others, rather than hoarding them for ourselves, we multiply these gifts and produce an abundance of fruit to share in this life and to present to our Master when we finally meet him face-to-face at the end of our life. We will each be meeting him soon. Will we have a full basket of ripe and juicy fruit to present to him? Or will all we have is a rotten egg?