Die and Live, Like a Grain of Wheat

Mar 13, 2018

Gospel Reflection, Fifth Sunday of Lent Year B
Jeremiah 31: 31-34; Hebrews 5: 7-9; John 12: 20-33

Die and Live, Like a Grain of Wheat

Spring is in the air and Easter is coming, and we can tell by our gospel reading as well.  The pilgrims are already going up to Jerusalem for the Jewish feast of the Passover.  This year, many people were wondering whether the controversial Jesus of Nazareth might not after all be the Messiah.

Jesus did not reject this eager expectation, but he did turn it completely inside out.  Yes, the hour had come, he was going to show that he was the Messiah, the Savior – but in a quite different way from what people expected.  It was not brilliant success that lay before him, but the hour of his death.  Yet his downfall and apparent failure would be the real victory he would win. 

A simple image from nature shows how fruitfulness can be attained only through total loss: the grain of wheat remains solitary unless it “dies” in the earth so as to bring forth a stalk loaded with ears.  Therefore, anyone who is anxiously clinging to and looking after himself will be left on his own and will remain dry and unfruitful.  If anyone is willing to risk his life, then that life will be full and blessed. 

Yet this approach to life arouses fear in us.  Letting go is terrifying, and if commitment may require even our lives, then panic sets in.  Jesus went through all that in his own life.  But Jesus knew that God, his Father, had allotted him the task not of fleeing, but of giving his life.  Jesus had to die exactly like the little grain of wheat, so as to bring forth many, many grains.

Why should there be suffering, the Cross, and death?  Yet why should things be completely different for us from the way they are in nature, where there is no new life without death?  And that would certainly be the case for Jesus.  His dying on the Cross was going to bring life to many people.  Now, we look at the Cross and we too will be able to agree to let go and finally, indeed, to assent to our own death, for it is the gate to new life.  God bless you all!

Father Tony