UNLESS THE GRAIN OF WHEAT FALLS INTO THE GROUND AND DIES, IT REMAINS ALONE; BUT IF IT DIES, IT BEARS MUCH FRUIT. St. John presents our Lord as speaking these words shortly before he put them into effect by entering upon his passion. Certainly he knew when he gave out this teaching that it would apply to him more than to any one else. His death was to prove the most fruitful event in all human history. In fact, it even transposed that history which unfolds in time onto a higher plane, giving it a significance that is more than human, more than temporal. The death that Jesus suffered opened up human history to the divine and eternal reali ties of the kingdom of God.
The death of our Brother Michael last night recalls this teaching of our Lord. His dying bring home to us the force and profound meaning Jesus' words have for each of us who seek to be his followers, whether as monks or a lay persons. There is no way we can be faithful disciples of his without putting our faith in his teaching that true life is the fruit of suffering and of death that is accepted, willingly united with his own passion and with trust in his promises. How much suf fering must any one of us undergo and what kind of death is to be our allotted portion remains hidden to each of us until we are actually accosted with the reality in life. We have much to reflect on in the experience of our brother Michael. He was one of the most healthy and dedi cated of workers when he began to have difficulty in controlling his movements. Before long he was diagnosed as having Parkinson's Disease.
That was fifteen years ago. Since Parkinson's is a progressive malady without cure it entails facing from the beginning the prospect of increasing limitations on one's activities and the en durance of numerous constraints on movement. The immediate burden placed upon him was to have to give up his trade without the possibility of taking on another. This proved to be only the first of successive renunciations forced upon him. Each further restriction cost him a good deal of patience and tested his trust. He gradually had to forego active participation in community exercises, though he continued to be present as much as possible. In the end his memory and mind were impaired markedly until he could do little more than actively accept to endure and humbly receive the many services the brothers rendered him. In the early years his fiery temper ament would made life interesting for some of us, but in more recent times the depth of his faith, always present, became more evident and he became remarkably humble and patient. He was not one given to displays of piety nor to mincing words. When asked last evening, shortly before he went into the coma that ended in his death, how he felt he muttered "lousy"!
The dying that he accepted with increasing submission and faith required all the inner re sources he possessed, and at times more than he seemed able to bring to bear on his trials. But he kept the faith and his trust in the Lord was unwavering if often hidden from others. He discovered by experience the inner demands that faChristithfulness to one's vows and commitments cost all he had, and gave in return all he desired. For his desire was to be with the Lord, to know him in the weakness of his sufferings and death, and to join him in the glory of his resurrection. May he even now attain to that promised happiness of seeing the Lord who redeemed him and of finding the one he sought so perseveringly until the end. And may Christ's prayer for us obtain that same grace of perseverance in seeking him who seeks us in life and in death.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
© Abbey of the Genesee
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