Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Promises - April Diocesan Article

My grandfather passed away when I was nine. He was an Iowa farmer, and on one December afternoon, he climbed to the top of a grain bin on the family farm. It was something he always did when the temperature was below freezing. He’d take a wrench and break the crust that formed on the top of the corn so that the drier could work more efficiently. Something went wrong that day. Whether he had a stroke and fell in or simply lost his balance, we never knew. He suffocated in the grain bin, surrounded by the year’s harvest.

I remember standing with my family at the funeral home a day or two later and seeing his body. All I could think about were the stories of Jesus raising people from the dead. I prayed, Even now, you can bring him back to us, Jesus. And I watched his lifeless body for any sign of a miracle. I really believed God could do it, too. That’s how it is when you are nine and you experience death for the first time. You expect things to be reversible. And you know nothing is impossible for the God who made everything. He could do it. He could bring Grandpa back.

But the miracle didn’t happen.

I still remember my childlike faith when a loved one passes into eternity. I still pray, You could do it, Lord. You could raise this one I love. But this prayer means something even more profound. It isn’t merely a prayer for the restoration of a physical body. It is a prayer for the eternal soul. In your mercy, I trust that you will raise this one I love.

I don’t expect my loved one to sit up and start talking to me (like I did as a child). Instead, I think of Easter promises.

It is odd – and fitting at the same time – that my grandfather died in a grain bin full of harvested corn. Our Lord told his disciples, unless a grain falls to the earth and dies, it cannot bear fruit.

If we are honest, we know that some of the greatest spiritual growth has come after the death of one we love. We understand Easter more fully when we encounter loss.

We realize more deeply that fruit comes from death. A crop is harvested so that the next one can be planted. Not just a replacement, not just having something new to take our mind off the old. No, it is life coming out of death.

We see it all around us as winter gives way to spring. We see it when we consider the Saints, and we witness their powerful intercession.

I’ve lost many family members since that December of 1973. But I think the death that revealed this reality the most was the death of our beloved John Paul II.

We forget, sometimes, that there is a promise with the death of a holy one. We sort through the harvested crop and find the good seed. With God’s help, we plant that seed, tend it, and watch it grow.

Death is swallowed up in victory.

How long has it been since you asked a loved one to intercede for you? How long has it been since you implored our beloved John Paul II to help with the new harvest? How long has it been since you knelt and said the words, even now you can raise him, Jesus. And then you went into the fields and got busy rather than sit down and dwell on the loss?

We are not meant to hold the seed in our hands and grieve forever. We are meant to get on with planting.

There are souls in need of intercession. There are saints ready to intercede. And Our Lord has promised us a great harvest.

Blessed Easter! Alleluia, Amen!

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