Fertile Loss


Loss is tough. It always hurts. We can spend a good deal of time moping around because of the things we’ve either lost or can’t have. Such sorrow is not from God. Rather, such sorrow is often a sign that we are resisting God. Mother Teresa noted that whenever she saw one of her sisters troubled or disturbed, she knew it was because Jesus was asking for something but the sister was saying “no.” Mother Teresa herself often felt the weight of the Lord’s demands. Occasionally, she could be heard saying, “now, he is asking too much.” Of course, she gave anyway, confident that when the Lord prunes it is for the sake of greater growth. The Lord asked much from Mother Teresa and her sisters, but look at all the fruit. Countless souls inspired by their example. Countless others prepared for heaven by their hands.

The mystery of fruitful loss lies at the heart of the Gospel. In the Letter to the Hebrews we hear that it was precisely through his suffering, through his passion and the loss of his life, that Jesus “became the source of eternal life for all who obey him.” Jesus phrases it this way: “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.” Jesus appears to lose everything. Beaten and scourged, his appearance is disfigured. Stripped naked, he is robbed of dignity. Nailed to the Cross, he is effectively paralyzed, powerless. But it is precisely all that loss that proves to be so fruitful. It is through that loss that he saves the world. When we next see him, his appearance is beyond that of any mortal, his dignity and riches surpass every earthly king, his power extends throughout heaven and earth.

As Christians, fruitful loss is at the center of our faith. It is the mystery of the Cross. At times we are called not just to believe this mystery, but to experience it personally. When the Lord takes someone or something dear from our lives, we experience the pain of loss. But we must find the courage to let it go, for “whoever loves his life loses it.” When that loss is endured in faith, believing that God will bring greater good from it (though it’s not always clear how), it’s not too long before we begin to see fruit. Usually, it takes shape as a greater love for God and neighbor. The loss of a person is the deepest. But even there we find fruit. Our love is purified of its possessiveness and we learn to long more ardently for the joys of heaven.