Summary: We need to grieve in order to move on in life.
Fifth Sunday of Lent (B)
April 2, 2006
Dying To Live
Learning How To Die
Real living is about dying. If we have never learnt how to die, we will never really live. I’m not just talking about physical death and resurrection. That is the ultimate death and resurrection for which we are preparing all of our lives. But in order to really be alive we need to die to the many things which prevent us from real life.
What we need to die to will change according to how our lives change. The young person, the single or married person, the religious brother, sister or priest all need to die to certain things, if they want to live authentically with the spirit of their stage or calling in life.
The Old And The Young
We need to live our lives with the spirit of who we are at any given time. If we try to live in one stage of our lives as if we were in another, it ends up robbing us of the present. For example, we all see how strange it is when a person rebels against growing old. Older people who try to look and act like younger people, end up looking more like clowns than anything else. Their clothes, hair colour, and make-up all seem out of place. They are refusing to die to their youth.
As St. Paul says, “When I was a child, I acted like a child. Now that I am a man, I have put away the things of childhood.” The same is true of the young person who grows old too fast. They try to act as adults when they are still really young people. And so they often find themselves acting with a false sense of maturity, pretending they are something they are not. This can be very dangerous when it involves behaviour that is entirely inappropriate to their age. Never really living as a young person can be a tragic thing.
The older person needs to put their youth behind them, and the younger person needs to let go of their unreasonable desires. All of us need to live where we are, not where we wish we were. “Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain…Anyone who loves his life loses it.”
Deaths In Marriage
We find a very clear illustration of this in marriage. I use marriage as an example because it affects so many people-- not only those who are married, but their children, and often the parents of the married person.
Marriage is not for the weak of heart. It has great demands built into it and requires a lot of dying. When a man and a woman enter into the Sacrament of Matrimony, they must both put to death the lives they knew as single people. This is an absolute requirement for a happy and fulfilling marriage.
When a married person still lives with the mind-set of a single person, then troubles will soon find their way into that relationship. Marriage Encounter calls this "living as married singles". That means being married, but living as if you were single. Marriage is a community of life and love. A husband and wife no longer have the luxury of making decisions on their own. Every significant decision has to be brought to the partnership, which they have created. The decisions to buy this thing, go that place, do this activity and so on all have to be brought before that partnership.
When one party to the marriage decides that he or she can still think and act as if he or she were single, then bad things start to happen. This kind of behaviour starts to chip away at the marriage partnership. Over time, as the decisions and selfish acts multiply, the marriage partnership gradually gets worn down to a point where it’s hard to recognize an authentic marriage anymore.
Death To Singleness
Many people who enter into marriage, grossly underestimate the work it requires to put away the single life and start living in an authentic and loving partnership. But the simple truth of the matter is that both husband and wife must put to death their lives as single people if they ever wish to live the new reality called marriage. If they commit themselves to dying to their old lives and living their new life, then they will come to experience how wonderful and life-giving such a partnership can be.
I hope you will take these examples of youth, growing old, and marriage, and find where death needs to come into your own particular life so that you can experience the new life, which Jesus promises. “…unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest”.