I love O’Donohue’s writing—being of Irish descent myself (don’t be fooled by the “Dyc” in my name as my husband is Ukranian). O’Donohue’s work appeals to me in many and varied ways. The Irish have always had a close relationship with “death and heaven” (having lived through “the troubles”), weaving together opposites in life. They even have a saying about singing their sorrows and crying their joys. I think that is why most people love their music. As I write this St. Patrick’s Day is in the future—although as you read this, it has passed. The Irish would have appreciated the juxtaposition of yet to come and already gone… So, what does this have to do with the two Gospels (A and B) for the Fifth Sunday of Lent?
In today's Gospel from St. John (Cycle B Readings), Jesus reminds us that the wheat grain must die to produce fruit. Jesus himself, is the grain of wheat that falls to the ground. He surrenders to death in order to bring us new life. His surrender produces fruit: salvation for us! We receive new life after death! And when in our own daily lives we imitate this grain of wheat, God is also glorified. This is a parable for all of us—Irish or not—death and life intertwined in our every day. Think of the deaths we face: dying to ourselves to serve others, the always ending of one thing and the start of another. This is the fruit of which the Gospels speak. And in time the knowledge of impending death will come upon those we love and upon us all—just look at the story of Lazarus in the Gospel A readings! Whichever Mass you attend this weekend you have the opportunity to be drawn into the Paschal Mystery and life after death—this is why we gather in praise and thanksgiving—to try and live holy lives in the midst of this mystery and be comforted by the salvation we have been offered. By our Baptism we are called to imitate the grain of wheat: to die to self and produce fruit for the Kingdom. The Mass this Fifth Sunday of Lent brings us directly into the Paschal Mystery: Jesus must suffer and die in order to draw all people to Himself (Year B), and He raises Lazarus from the dead (Year A).
John O’Donohue in “Benedictus” (A Book of Blessings) writes that from the moment we are born our death walks beside us; that the silent presence of our deaths call our lives to attention—to wake us up to how scarce our time is and that we should gather ourselves and decide carefully whether we are now living lives we would love from our deathbeds. So Irish, this Celtic Spirituality, and such good life (beyond Lent) advice: to live daily with the knowledge of our deaths in order to live in holiness and in productive spiritually ways. We are all called to be “Irish”—and not just on St. Patrick’s Day.
Keep singing in your hearts!
Just a Note: Here is a lovely piece of music that sings of being called home at the end of our lives, “The Road Home” by Stephen Paulus—a very Celtic sound, enjoy. Also: a contemporary piece by the Getty’s and Matt Papa (from Ireland).