The body must die to sin, so that the soul could bear fruit of love
By Fr. Emmanuel Emenike Onyia
One of the great doctors and mystics of the Church, St. John of the Cross in his poem titled: The Ascent of Mount Carmel, talks about the dark night of the soul, a night that has united the Lover with His beloved. The night through which a soul journeys towards that divine light of perfect union with God through love. Explaining the nature of this dark night, St. John of the Cross gave three reasons for calling this journey towards the union with God a night. The first has to do with the point of departure, because the individual must deprive himself of his appetite for worldly possessions. This denial and privation is like a night for all his senses. The second reason have to do with the means or road along which a person travels to this union. Now, this road is faith, and for the intellect, faith is also like a dark night. The third reason pertains to the point of arrival, namely, to God. For God as we know is a dark night for those who are still living in the flesh.
Thus, these three nights pass through a soul, or rather, the soul pass through them in order to reach divine union with God. This no doubt, helps us to understand what Jesus is saying in our Gospel passage today, when he talks about his passion saying: 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. I tell you, most solemnly, unless a grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest. Anyone who loves his life will lose it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. For if a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too. Here, Jesus is telling us that the journey towards our God demands great sacrifice that will take away every thing that we so much attached ourselves with.
We must be ready to sacrifice all to the point of dying to sin in order to bear fruit of love, just the way a healthy seed dies to the ground in order to germinate and give birth to a three of life that bear fruit of love, peace and kindness. And the seed that Jesus is referring here is himself, who sacrificed everything at the Cross of Calvary to bear fruit of love for all humanity. Therefore, we must learn how to pass through the dark night of this sinful world, by denying ourselves the gross and sinful appetite for worldly possessions, in order to journey through the dark night of faith that will lead us to true love for God and our neighbours. It is this sacrificial love of Jesus that we are called today to embrace. For although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation, as we heard in our second reading today.
And in our first reading, we heard prophet Jeremiah reminding us that deep within our hearts God has planted his Laws. And there will be no further need for neighbour to try to teach neighbour, or brother to say to brother, ‘Learn to know the Lord!’ No, for we will all know him, the least no less than the greatest. For he will be our God and we shall be his people. Dear friends, what is keeping us today from embracing the love God is offering us? What is keeping us from journeying with our Lord Jesus in this dark night of faith, that helps our to die to sinful things of this passing world, in order to germinate and bear fruit of love? What is it that the world is offering us today, that can be compared to the glory of God and the salvation that the Lord Jesus has worn for us? Why not make up your mind today to embrace the Lord? Why not give up selfishness, pride, corruption, greed and all forms of immoralities in order to join men and women of our time who have given themselves to noble causes for the sake of common good.
For there are great people who today have given themselves to the service of others: they are those who see to the good of others. They are those parents who teach their children the ways of the Lord by their practical ways of life. They are those people who sacrificed to help others who are victims of the challenging moment of our time. They are friends who speak the truth to their friends and stand by it. They are political leaders who stand for what they represent and are willing to renounce power rather than compromise principles. They are teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientist, business men and women who render sincere service to humanity without compromising the truth. It may often seems as if they do not bear tangible results, their sacrifices sometimes seem useless. But they maintain their dignity, they cherish their sense of self worth, they value their sense of righteousness. They are indeed, “dead to sin, in order to bear the fruit of God’s love to the world”.
Today, they are sons and daughters of God, who have conquered the sinful pride of this passing world. So, like Jesus, they teach us to understand what it means to be like the angels, what it means to remain faithful to our belief, what it means to have faith and hope in God, what it means to say that this world is not my home. Are you one of those? Can you be one of those? Why not make up your mind today, for the Lord is waiting for our response. As we move towards the Holy Week, we are invited to journey with the Lord in his passion and death to the things of this sinful world, so as to share in his resurrection at Easter. Happy Sunday to you all.