By dying to ourselves, we discover what true love is

“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn 12:24).
You plant the seed. It seems so lifeless as we bury it in the earth! But after a time, a green sprout appears, announcing life where once there seemed to be only death. The grain of wheat provides a wonderful image of real love: the love of God for us in Jesus Christ who, as an obedient Son suffered, died and was buried to become the source of our life and salvation. 
Far beyond the images of warm, fuzzy feelings and romance that so often characterize our understanding of love, real love involves a kind of dying. It means taking the risk of being hurt, of being broken, of losing some part of ourselves. There is a price involved in loving. Sometimes it’s a heavy one. But in our love for one another, in our faithfulness to spouse and family and friends, we find within ourselves the potential bounty of Gospel wheat. In our willingness to “die” to our fears, to put aside our own needs and wants, to let our lives be pulled apart, we discover the love that can only be of God.
It’s not very dramatic or extraordinary. The invitations to love each day usually involve few serious risks, small acts of “dying,” and seemingly insignificant amounts of selfless giving. It may involve extra sensitivity to one of your family members, an unsolicited hug, an expression of gratitude. Daily love may mean letting go of sulking silences, small temper tantrums, or those small doses of self-pity that we seem to enjoy so much! It may demand some truthful honesty, compassionate listening, withholding harsh judgments or forgiving another’s hurtful words.
Whatever ups and downs we face each day, we know at the deepest part of ourselves, the absolute and unconditional love of God in Jesus Christ. Our response to that awesome gift is called real love – the daily dying to self and rising to new life. It’s our own participation with Christ in bringing salvation and reconciliation to our world.
Father Dennis Hanneman is a retired priest of the archdiocese. Contact him at
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