Sunday, March 22, 2015

ready to die

5th Sunday of Lent B
Christ the King Catholic Church Topeka
22 March 2015

I have a pet peeve when it comes to sports fans.  I hate fans that are afraid to play a game.  I got into it the last two years with KU fans that were afraid to play Duke and Kentucky in the Champions Classic.  We beat Duke, lost to Kentucky . . as everyone has this year.  Yet in either case, no matter who you are playing, you can't be afraid to play the game.  I can't stand it when fans are scared of losing.

Of course that was all the talk yesterday as the KU/Wichita State matchup emerged and became a reality.  A tough reality for me, since I will be at a funeral home saying a rosary then celebrating the evening Mass while the game is going on . . thank goodness for DVRs!  The talk is that KU has been scared to play Wichita State . . scared of losing.  Whether or not that is true doesn't matter . . it's the storyline that is adding fuel to what should be an amazing game.  I can't wait to watch it . . . after hours of confessions at our penance service tonight.

I'll go on record as loving Bill Self as a coach, and he knows a lot more about running and scheduling a basketball program than I do, and what's best for his team.  So I'm not saying I'm right.  But I'm a fan who loves to play the toughest schedule possible.  If Wichita State is great, I want to play them.  If they're not, I don't.  That's just how I feel.  One of the commentators had it right yesterday during the KU game - if you're a team, there is only one attitude permissible - we'll play anybody at anytime and anywhere . . and you can bring your own refs!  You can't fear anyone - it s not the way to success.

What gets me much worse than basketball fans that are afraid, however, are Christians who are scared.  What have we to be scared of?  The love of Jesus Christ has conquered evil and sin and death, and as the Lord promised through the prophet Jeremiah, the law of God, a law of sacrificial love that is stronger than death, has been written on our hearts.  It has been written in blood - at the cost of Christ's blood.  The victory has been manifested in the Resurrection!  Love is stronger than death, and life increases whenever it is given away in sacrificial love.  So what do we have to be afraid of?

Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it.  We know this to be true.  Whenever we are scared, our life gets smaller and smaller.  Whenever we step out in courage and faith, our life grows and the impossible becomes possible.  So there is something much worse than a basketball fan afraid of playing a game - it is a Christian who is afraid to follow Jesus through his suffering death and Resurrection.  Or to put it a better way, a Christian who is scared to allow Jesus to accomplish his paschal mystery in the time and circumstances of his life.

If you had to hit 'send' on the draft of your life's story today, would you hesitate?  If so, you need to have a good Holy Week coming up.  You need to get over your fear of the suffering that will conform your life more closely to Jesus.  You need to get over your fear of dying to your sins and instead find something worth dying for.
You need to get over being scared of changing, entering into Resurrected and eternal life, and shying away from glory.  You need to be ready to hit the 'send' button on your life's story - if you're not ready, you need to encounter the Paschal Mystery of Jesus much more deeply during Holy Week this year!

Another way to ask this question is even more stark.  Are you willing to die today?  In today's Gospel, Jesus receives a sign that now is the time for him to be glorified.  He understands that this can mean only one thing - that he must be ready to die to accomplish his mission.  He is scared, but his faith and hope and love give him courage to say yes, and to allow himself to be lifted up for all to see and be glorified by God.  He says yes, and so opened up the space for us to participate in the suffering, death and Resurrection that redeems our own lives, that saves the world, and that produces the fruit of eternal life.  If you are not ready to die, then you need to have a good Holy Week.

Whoever serves me must follow me, for where I am there also will my servant be. Jesus invites us into the heart of his paschal mystery in these most Holy Weeks of the Year.  Are we too scared to follow him?  Are we ready to suffer and die with Him?  Scared Christians are the most pitiable people of all. If our faith does not make us more courageous and adventuresome , it is worthless.  Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat.  But if it dies, it produces much fruit.  Amen.