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The Grain and St Augustine (5th Sunday of Lent)

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to reflect on this weekend's readings. During prayer, I couldn't help but to think about one of my favorite Saints, Saint Augustine. Augustine lived in the 5th century when Christianity really began to spread rapidly throughout the Roman Empire. He was born into a family that was rather well-to-do in the region of Africa called “Hippo” which is modern day Algeria. While his mother was a faithful Christian, his father belonged to a pagan religion called Manicheanism.
Throughout most of Augustine’s childhood, he identified most with his father. He enjoyed the things that money could buy. He didn't have much regard for other people.
He always looked for ways to move “up” in the world. Meanwhile, his mother would always be in the background praying for Augustine. She saw that while Augustine thought he was happy, he wore a mask of happiness. He would continuously move onto the next thing until he’d eventually get bored. He did this until he was about 30 years old when he eventually converted to Christianity. There were a variety of reasons for his conversion. For starters, Augustine was an intellectual. So when he encounters a man named Ambrose who answers many of his deep questions, he begins to think about the faith quite a bit. He also knew that his mom was very much so a rock for him when he needed her. She was an inspiration for him. In one of his books, The Confessions (which is a personal autobiography) he reflects, “you have made us for you, o God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you” He knew that in order to strive to be a Saint, he needed to die to his former ways of life.

On this 5th Sunday of Lent, we find ourselves coming very close to Palm Sunday and
our readings reflect this reality. In our reading from Jeremiah, he gives word to God’s design of each of us, “I will place my law in them, and write it upon their hearts.” God made us for him, but we wander aimlessly in this world if we continue to resist it and life feels a bit incomplete. And this is where we find our Gospel take off, Jesus is not only preparing His disciples for His impending death, He’s also giving Himself sort of a pep-talk. In a way, He’s thinking out loud as so many of us do from time to time. In order to help people understand He uses a short parable, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” He tries to explain that only through His death can He bear the fruit that He came to bear.

My friends, we find that this Gospel is very much so about us as well. Just as St Augustine had to die to his former ways to become something much greater, so too must we. Husbands and Wives may remember when they first got married. There had to be compromises and deaths to former ways in order for the family to flourish. They couldn't live life the same way they did before, especially when the gift of children started to arrive.There had to be a death for something greater to come about.
Older siblings recall when their younger brothers or sisters were born. They had to die to some former ways in order to help the family and to bring about a greater good. Athletes find that they have to give up bad habits in order to flourish as do musicians. In all that we do, when we want to improve ourselves there is a sort of death. We die to our former ways of doing things so that there may be growth.

Brothers and sisters, this imagery is very much so part of Baptism. When we were baptized, we died to sin and rose as a new creation in Christ. We received the light of Christ and the white garment. God called us His sons and daughters by name.
And we realize that the path to sanctity… the path to Sainthood is not in remaining  a single grain, but in flourishing as a living plant. Seeds and grains are simply the beginning, but inside of them lies so much great potential to make the world around them a better place.

Today, may we take after one of the greatest Saints of the Church, Saint Augustine.
May we reflect on what is holding us back from a better relationship with Christ and others. What are we afraid to die to in our lives… what hill must we go over?
It is in answering these questions daily that we can become more of who God made us to be.