Looking at the great mounds of snow in my backyard right now it is hard to imagine the transformation that will begin to take place in the next month, as spring begins to do its work.
We have a large bird feeder right outside the kitchen window, and it has been an active place these last few days of snowy weather. As I watch them scatter seed as they eat, I am reminded that later this spring I will be pulling out the volunteer stalks of grain that sprouted from the kernels which escaped their beaks and landed in my garden.
Before they sprout, though, they will first lay in the snowy cold, waiting for the warmth and wet of spring to give them the right conditions to come to new life.
If the kernel of grain could feel, I imagine it wouldn't enjoy that part of the process much, dying to the usefulness it once had as food for the birds and not yet seeing what it will become as it sprouts and grows.
'Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain.'
Jesus uses the image of the grain of wheat to describe our lives as disciples. The grain is only a mouthful for the birds, but if it dies it bears abundant fruit.
It is an image that is so familiar we can be deaf to its meaning. How is it that we can die and be transformed in this way? What is our part? What is it like, that time of dying and waiting to rise to new life?
I've always recognized that the new life that God gives us is so much greater than the one we live on our own, but now I see the significance of the role of the will. Our acts of surrender to God, our fundamental and radical "yes" to faith and to the will of the Father, make us docile to the Holy Spirit at work in us and through us.
We are not passive players in the life of faith, waiting for God to give us the measure of faith that is our due and which allows us to easily follow Jesus to the cross. No, our faith is indeed a gift, but it is also a decision, a choice to give ourselves to God, and to purposely follow him on the road to Calvary. Our obedience to God is our daily living of that choice.
In Lent we are gifted with the opportunity to more consciously say "no" to ourselves, dying to self, in order to say "yes" to God and his will for our lives. Like Jesus, we learn obedience through suffering and that suffering may feel a lot like lying on the cold ground, waiting for spring.
reach for the sun
We wait and long for the life that is to come, for which we were created; life that is as radically different as the small seed in the mouth of the bird compared with the large and stately plant, full eared and reaching to the sun.
(Kathleen Giffin firstname.lastname@example.org)