Or these deaths may come in the form of being required to relinquish treasured tasks, possessions, routines and identities. Thus we can understand that the prophecy of the risen Jesus to St. Peter is in fact a promise to us: “‘Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he said this he said to him, ‘Follow me’” (John 21:18-19).
Again and again we try to convince ourselves that we can keep ourselves safe and make ourselves fruitful. These appealing fantasies run the risk of becoming idols. They encourage us to settle for less than the fullness the Lord offers us.
If we allow the Lord to redeem our limitations by stretching us to the breaking point and beyond (“Stretched for greater glory,” as Father George Aschenbrenner, SJ, would say), then he can makes us fruitful, giving us to our neighbor in service and offering us to our heavenly Father in praise and adoration.
Taking, blessing, breaking and giving. This is the work of the Lord, a work he calls us to share with him, so that together, we might die and rise with him for the life of the world.
Let’s end here asking the question we began with: “What is most important to you?” The Christian answer must be, “Death and resurrection.”
When I write next, I will speak of the role of darkness in Lent. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.
Father Robert McTeigue, SJ, is a member of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus. A professor of philosophy and theology, he has long experience in spiritual direction, retreat ministry and religious formation. He teaches philosophy at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, FL, and is known for his classes in both rhetoric and medical ethics.