…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. John 12:24.
Sunday 18 March 2018
I’m no biologist (and, as it seems, neither was Jesus), but I know a grain of wheat doesn’t “die” when it germinates. Au contraire, it bursts into greater life, reproducing much more than it itself is. I think that might be at the bottom of Jesus’ thought, that one little grain can produce something like you can see above. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy if you like: it was destined for such a fate. It became greater than it was before. And Jesus adapts this natural truth to human life. We, unlike the grain, have free will, and can willfully avoid the fate of the grain of wheat, and thereby not fulfill our destiny. That is, of course, to serve God, neighbor and (finally) self. And Jesus was explaining in today’s gospel that that is what exactly will happen to him. In standing by his identity as Son of God and refusing to betray his teachings as the Messiah, he will be condemned for telling this truth. But it was for this, as he says elsewhere, that he came among us in the first place.
But Jesus also says if this does not happen to the grain, it cannot fulfill its destiny, and simply remains one tiny, simple object. You don’t need to be a biologist to agree with that one. The second half of today’s gospel begins to spell out for Jesus what exactly this fulfillment will be like for him. To be loyal to his calling, to be obedient to the God who gave him his vocation to be Messiah to the world, will mean his being “lifted up”, an expression which was examined last week. It means his brutal execution. It is here that biology has to back out of the picture. Jesus did, indeed, die as a result of that unjust, agonizing sentence. But, as we now know, he conquered it, and came back to give us life in abundance. Truly, this “grain” did die, yet produced, and produces, much fruit, namely all of us seeking to do God’s will for each of us. Jesus emphasizes this in today’s gospel:
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me….. John 12:25
Each Christian man and woman has been called by God, has been given a vocation, based on the gifts each of us has been given, and with these, have become Christ to the world, serving our brothers and sisters to the best of our abilities. All this in obedience to God’s wishes, as we are God’s children. In doing this there will be trials, temptations and pain, but in overcoming them there is a profound joy, happiness, blessedness, in knowing that we are doing the right thing. There is also confidence, because we know that if we stumble, we will not be rejected by our loving God: for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more as the last line of today’s first reading states. We are always welcome back into the fold through the mercy of God. Remember that mercy can be defined as “compassion towards someone who does not deserve it.” Asking for forgiveness will always find it. Christians will never give up. In this way the “ruler of this world”, the devil, will always be defeated because we will always have almighty God as our source of power and strength. So the mysterious Greeks at the beginning of the gospel could reasonably be identified as ourselves. And having witnessed Jesus’ actions, events and results, can believe the statement: I will be their God, and they shall be my people (Jeremiah 32:38).
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