Giving our lives to safeguard, help and empower others, brings greater joy: it’s the kind of ‘dying’ Jesus invites us to


Giving our lives to safeguard, help and empower others, brings greater joy: it’s the kind of ‘dying’ Jesus invites us to

John’s Gospel is not easy to get into.  Let us start with the part in the middle: “Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life.

This sounds stupid right?  But it’s not: hate, in this context, means to give higher priority to something other than my life.  We grow tired of people who think they are better than others, and avoid their company.  But love your bodies so we are healthy and helpful to others.

Eternal life must be put into the context of both before and after our bodily death.  When Christ came he said, “…know that the Kingdom of God has come upon you.”  Kingdom of God means eternal life.  Every Our Father prayer we say we ask: “your Kingdom come on earth, as it is in Heaven.

Think of a husband and wife: the man who loves himself too much neglects his wife, and soon the marriage will die or, at least, be quite unhappy.  So when the man “hates” his life, and gives priority to the wife, he will keep a happy life.  Likewise, the wife can love herself too much.

With that background, we can better understand the first part of the Gospel where Jesus says: “…unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain;

Here, we are reminded that a happy life is only achieved when we are fruitful: either producing things, doing work that empowers others (eg. keeping the house clean, cooking, teachers, police, lawyers, ++), or using our energy to heal others (Doctors, Psychologists, religious, ++).

Parents tend to do all three!  Healthy families are formed when parents and children are “productive.”  But to be productive, the single grain must die to produce a harvest.

This does not mean we have to be dead!  No, but at every stage of our lives we need to let our previous lifestyle die, and transition into a new lifestyle.  Secondary students will punish other students terribly if they behave like primary school kids.  At University we enjoy the party lifestyle, but we have to let that “die” or we will never get a good job!

At the risk of being too critical or judgemental, could this issue of not wanting to die to our previous lifestyles contribute to the big increase in struggling marriages and domestic violence?

Men have a bigger struggle, I believe, to let the free lifestyle go.  Women automatically change, usually, when they become mothers, because of the maternal instinct and demands of the baby.

It is not easy to let ourselves die to our current pleasures and securities and take on a new “adventure” in life.  Even Jesus struggled, and we see this later in the Gospel: “Now my soul is troubled.  What shall I say:  Father, save me from this hour?  But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour.  Father, glorify your name!’

We see a movement in the thinking of Jesus from fear, to understanding to courage and trust in God.  And God, understanding the weakness of the human condition, gave a message of encouragement.  “A voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’

Let’s be people who encourage others!  Wedding ceremonies are great occasions of encouragement: the people affirm the married couple, and provide an example of many supportive families as role models for the new couple.  This can be characterised as a voice from Heaven: especially those in the context of religion.  Although some weddings may not.

Finally, we see this ominous text: “‘Now sentence is being passed on this world; now the prince of this world is to be overthrown.”  This should be taken as a positive sign of God’s care for us who are trying to die to our previous lifestyles, and take on new lifestyles that are generative and more helpful to others (eg. getting married and raising a family).

Those who fail to do so are the people who will suffer so much more in life, and find no lasting joy.  Thinking back to University, I remember a few young men who never stopped their party lifestyle and they destroyed their careers and futures: most became alcoholics.

We are born as Kings and Queens: everyone does everything for us, and we can do anything we like.  But, when we are no longer babies, we begin the long slow process of dying many times, until finally we are truly happy servants of others.  The more we give our lives to safeguard, help and empower others, the happier we become: that’s the kind of ‘dying’ Jesus invites us to.

But it’s a process!  First of all, as younger people, we must work hard to acquire knowledge, wisdom, and material things, so that we have something to give away as we grow older:
Let’s pray for the courage to trust God and die regularly to embrace new experiences.

By Gerard Conlan, OMI