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What part of you needs to die?

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Brother Silas Henderson, SDS - published on 04/01/17

To be the best version of yourself, you need to let some things go.

“I am the resurrection. Anyone who believes in me, even though that person dies, will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

—John 11:25

What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you fulfill that childhood dream or did you ultimately settle on a different path or vocation in life?

I expect that most of us are not what we imagined we would or could be all those years ago.

Maybe your education or work experience revealed new possibilities for you. Perhaps marital and family obligations necessitated certain changes and sacrifices or brought forth new opportunities for you. For some, childhood hopes and dreams were derailed by tragedy and loss.

There are some of us, however, who did realize our dreams of being a firefighter, an astronaut, a ballerina, a teacher, or a professional musician. The hope is that, whatever our state of life, occupation, or vocation, we have a sense of peace and fulfillment and that we are continuing to grow into the person God made us to be.

Reflecting on his own vocational journey in his book, Jesus: A Pilgrimage, Father James Martin, S.J., writes:

Early in my Jesuit life, I often thought about the person I wanted to become, the person I hoped to be one day. Most of us have an image, even if it is an unconscious one, of the person we are meant to be: our true self, our best self. For some time I had thought about that person: independent, confident, loving, charitable, and not concerned about people’s approval—in a word, free.

Father Martin goes on to consider what it would mean for him to become this best version of himself, but he also acknowledges the painful reality of letting go that would have to take place if his hopes were to be fulfilled.

“But, I was afraid,” he recalls, “of letting things go—a need to be liked, a propensity to focus on the negative, a desire to control things. It is precisely those kinds of unhealthy patterns, unendurable yet seemingly ineradicable, that need to die, that need to be left in the tomb.”

This sense of “letting go” describes a kind of death that we all experience at different times in our lives. The cause might be a change in life—moving to a new city and saying goodbye to friends and loved ones, a new job, marriage, children, or divorce—but this can also mean setting aside attitudes or relationships that are preventing us from living life fully.

Read more:
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These “deaths” always hurt and we can experience a great sense of grief and loss when we have to say “goodbye” to people, places, things, and even attitudes and preferences.

And yet, as we hear the story of the raising of Lazarus proclaimed in this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus is making a promise to us: God has the power to bring life where there was once death.

As Henri Nouwen reflected, “Jesus said, ‘Live ecstatically. Move out of that place of death and toward life because I am the God who is living. Wherever I am, there is life, there is change, there is growth, there is increase and blossoming and something new. I am going to make everything new.’”

This is the promise of the Cross and of the Empty Tomb. This is the truth that we will celebrate at Easter.

  • How are you being asked to embrace the Cross in the final weeks of Lent? In what way is the Lord asking you to die and rise with him?
  • Take time this week to reflect upon and pray over the “deaths”—the changes, transitions, and sacrifices—that have been part of your life and spiritual journey. How have you experienced the power of God at work in these experiences?

Words of Wisdom: “Let us think: What part of the heart can be corrupted because of my attachment to sin, one sin or another? And to remove the stone, to take away the stone of shame and allow the Lord to say to us, as he said to Lazarus: ‘Come out!’ That all our soul might be healed, might be raised by the love of Jesus, by the power of Jesus. He is capable of forgiving us… Let us hear that voice of Jesus who, by the power of God, says to us: ‘Come out! Leave that tomb you have within you. Come out. I give you life, I give you happiness, I bless you, I want you for myself.’”—Pope Francis

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