In this past Sunday's gospel reading, Jesus says to his disciples, "Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (John 12:24, NRSV). As he often does, he is speaking on two levels. Yes, he is going to be put to death, and in his death, new life will grow. But there is another death, one that all of us must undergo if we are to truly live our lives as people of God. We must die to our fear.
Fear is what holds us back from welcoming the stranger. Fear is what strangles us from speaking out against injustice. Fear is what binds us in a poverty of spirit that darkens our very soul. And it is that darkened soul that spews forth acts of violence, both verbal and physical, against others. It is the breeding ground of ignorance and hate.
There is a play touring now called "8" that depicts the courtroom testimony in the account of the Federal District Court trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the case filed to overturn Prop. 8, which eliminated marriage equality in California. The television cameras were blocked from the original trial after the defendants (those opposing marriage equality) fought to keep them out. Why? Because, as is clear when one hears the testimony, what was being put on trial there was fear and hate.
Like the butterfly, who must die to its former life as a caterpillar in order to be born anew with the ability to fly, we must also die.
We must die to our fears in order to live fully into who we are as children of God. Just as in baptism we die into Christ's death and are re-born into Christ's life, we must die to all that binds us, all that traps us in a life of hate, violence, and anger toward our brothers and sisters on this earth - and for that matter, for all of creation. We must die to our ignorance, our willingness to look away from the horrors of our actions in the world against other human beings, helpless creatures, the land, the sea, and the air.
And when we die to the fear, we will be reborn to a life of light and love. We will see the stranger as our brother or sister, the animals in the world as part of a flock over which we watch, and the earth as a precious gift. Imagine a world such as that!
Wishing you all the blessings of a Holy Week that brings you into the fullness of death and the resurrection to come. May the transformation bring new life to you, that you may fly with the wind!