Aleteia

Ready to throw your life away?

No-Te Eksarunchai | Shutterstock
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Christian service, without ambition or regret, is our calling.

How many times have you heard this — “Don’t throw your life away!”?

We’ve all heard it many times, but what does it mean? Most often, we hear it when people who care for us see that we’re about to do something especially foolish—something negatively life-altering, from which we won’t be able to recover. But what does Christ say about “throwing your life away”?

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. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:34-25)

According to our Lord, “throwing your life” away—for his sake—is the path to saving one’s life for eternity.

I think of these things for two reasons. First, I’m coming up on my 30th anniversary as a Jesuit; second, a bishop I know is about to ordain a group of men as deacons. Regarding the first, when I told my mother that I was becoming a Jesuit, she replied: “I knew something like this would happen to you.” I was astounded: “Mom, you make it sound like I’m in a James Dean movie and the law has finally caught up with me!” She explained: “You were never satisfied; you never wanted what everybody else wanted.” I thought that was a good thing, as I recalled Thoreau’s observation: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

According to our Lord, “throwing your life” away—for his sake—is the path to saving one’s life for eternity.

The second point: The bishop is going to help a group of men to “throw their lives away” for the sake of Christ by ordaining them for service as deacons. It is a commitment they can never take back, a commitment by which God will judge them at the end of their days.

In discussing the upcoming ordination with him, I found a letter I wrote to seminarians I had taught, and who were looking forward to their own ordination as deacons:

Dear *****,

Thanks so much for the notice of your impending ordination to the diaconate. Please tell your classmates that I will offer Mass for you all on that morning.

You are about to begin the adventure of a lifetime. You will let yourself be sealed forever with the character of a servant and of a witness. You have so much joy to look forward to! And priesthood will only increase that joy.

You too have found the treasure buried in the field, the pearl of great price. In seeking a deeper union and identification with Christ, you have come to love the people whom Christ loves, and to love them as He loves them—poor, chaste, obedient, and with sacrifice. You are embarking on a deeply satisfying life.

Contrary to the popular image of the deacon as a glorified altar boy, the deacon is very much a minister of charity. Be especially solicitous of the needs of the People of God. No service is beneath you.

Most significantly, you will receive the mission of preaching the Gospel with authority. It is a most beloved blessing and burden. To preach with integrity, you must let the Word of God be the measure of your life. Resolve that you will not deserve to sleep and eat indoors that day if you preach a careless homily. People are more hungry for the Word of God than they realize. If you consistently preach even an adequate homily, people will love you. Let preaching become a driving passion in your life. Beg daily for the grace of anointed preaching. I believe that you have the makings of a good preacher; the Holy Spirit will bring to bright flame the fire already burning in you.

My prayer for you is that you take as your own, the words of Saint Paul: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24)

Please do keep me informed of your progress and adventures in the coming year. I look forward to welcoming you as a brother priest.

Peace in Christ,

What’s the moral of the story here? Simply this—by virtue of our baptism, we are all committed to a life of service, witness and sacrifice, in imitation of Christ, and for love of him and the people he loves. According to the world, the flesh and the devil, we Christians are “throwing our lives away.” Following the example of the saints, Christians smile, because we know better.

When I write next, I will speak of how to keep contact with what’s really real. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.

 

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