Today we have reached the fifth Sunday in Lent. Next Sunday begins holy week with Palm Sunday. Our focus is on the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem, and more poignantly to the Cross of Calvary. He gave His life for us. He made himself the sacrificial lamb. No animal sacrifice could atone for the sins of humanity. Jesus is the Lamb of God sacrificed on the Cross. This is the sacrifice that brings us eternal salvation. It is the most powerful act of love that ever occurred.
Every sacrificial act of love that follows is connected to the Cross, connected to God‘s love. Jesus speaks in today’s gospel of His sacrifice on the Cross. He speaks of the nature of love. Again Jesus clearly defines love as other-centered. in a powerful sense one dies to the self.
What does this mean? It means that we love others to the point that they become more important to us than our own self. Parents can certainly understand this. Parents place the good of the child above their own interests and desires. Parents of newborns certainly know what it means to sacrifice sleep in order to feed and comfort a baby in the middle of the night. Married couples certainly know what it is to place the good of the other before one’s own. And we can have dear friends that we love so much that their well-being is paramount to us to the point that we consider their needs above our own.
Jesus tells us quite clearly that unless we reach this level of loving then we will only remain focused on our self with little spiritual growth. Jesus uses the image of wheat. He states unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains just a grain of wheat. So in this image Jesus is giving us the blueprint for spiritual growth and the path to great love.
This is very much different than what the so-called wisdom of the world presents to us. The thinking of the world is to deliver the message of self focus. This message tells us to place our goals above all else. It does not make room for focusing on serving others or the concept of sacrificial love. The wisdom of the world states that the highest goals are self promotion, accumulation of comfort and luxury, position and power. The way of Christ is very different. The way of Christ is to achieve the higher state in life by serving others and placing them before ourselves. That is the sacrifice. That is the love.
So let me ask you this – who do you love more than yourself? Who is on your mind during the day? Even if they are not physically with you, who is the person that you pray for? Who is the person that you wish good things? And now let me ask you another question – Who has done this for you? I am confident that at some point in your life you were and continue to be very important to someone else. To your parents. To your siblings. To your children. To your spouse. To your friends. I will tell you very clearly that you are important. You have been placed at the top of the list for God. Remember He gave His life for you.
Today let us hear well and receive well the words of Jesus. Let us follow His example of sacrificial love. Choose someone today and make them important to you. Put the other person‘s needs before your own even if that means giving them attention when you would rather rest or do something for yourself. In this way we will not just live for ourselves but for others. We will serve, we will sacrifice, we will love. We will die to selfishness and live in the Spirit of Christ. Amen. Amen. Let us follow the One who shows us how to live and love.