Theme: Unless a Grain of Wheat Dies
READINGS: Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 5:7-9, John 12:20-33
5th Sunday of Lent
In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah announced God’s promise of a new covenant to his people (Jer. 31:31-34). Whereas the old covenant was sealed with the blood of animals, the new covenant was to be sealed by the most precious blood of the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.
As the day on which our Lord would shed his blood on the cross approached, he used the imagery of a grain of wheat dying to produce much grain to speak about his own sacrificial death and its fruit of salvation for all mankind. Thus, according to the Gospel of John, our Lord said: ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest’ (John 12:24).
Yes, our Lord has died for us; but then, he expects each of us to die to the evil of this world, in order to enjoy the glory of heaven. Hence, right after speaking about his sacrificial death, he added: ‘anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life’ (John 12:25). In other words, each of us is supposed to be a grain that falls to the ground, dies and produces much grain. Let us, therefore, use the process of sowing a seed and its growth and fruition to learn how we can also die to this world and produce a rich harvest for life in heaven.
Digging of the ground: As we usually dig the ground to sow a seed, so the meaning of life (Why are we here on earth? Where are we going?) is deeper than is obvious. There is more to life than we experience on earth.
Placement of seed and covering with soil: As the seed, covered with some soil, is surrounded by darkness, so the seed of our faith is surrounded by ‘darkness’. As one cannot see far into the distance in darkness, so the ‘darkness’ surrounding our faith does not allow us to fully see the future glory God has promised us. In other words, even by our faith, we cannot fully comprehend, in this life, the mysteries and blessings of God. St. Paul puts it this way: ‘for now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face; now I know partially, but then I shall know just as I am known’ (1 Cor. 13:12). St. John, in turn, says: ‘beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know when he is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is’ (1 Jn. 3:2).
Watering of the seed: As a seed requires some water to germinate, so the seed of our faith sown in this life requires the grace of the Living Water, the Holy Spirit, to germinate. Let’s, therefore, pray daily to the Lord to grant us the abundance of the Living Water.
Rotting process: Beloved, as the seed has to rot or die, so we are to die to sin. St. Paul explains: ‘We know that our old self was crucified with Christ; the part of our being that had been enslaved by sin has to die, so that we may no longer be slaves to sin – if we are dead, we are no longer in debt to sin’ (Rom. 6:6-7; NCB).
Germination: Germination is an observable sign of a new life of the seed that was sown. Similarly, when the seed of our faith continues to receive the watering of the Holy Spirit and we die to sin, the freshness of our new life in Christ may become obvious: in place of our old way of life, there will be the new life of greater love for the Lord and our neighbor, more regular prayers, active participation in Church, etc.
Caring for the seedling and plant: The germination is just the beginning. As the farmer has to continue to take care of the seedling and the plant, by weeding, tilling the soil, watering, clearing the rubbish, etc. so we need to weed with the Word of God, till the soil of our love of God with prayer, water with the Sacraments of Grace, clear the rubbish of bad deeds with good deeds, etc.
Fruition: With the continuous reception of the Living Water and our constant cultivation of the plant of our faith, we may produce much grain or fruit. St. Paul mentions the fruit of the Holy Spirit, the Living Water: ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’ (Gal. 5:22). May we always aspire to exhibit these virtues in our daily lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Conclusion – Harvesting: The virtues mentioned above are some of the fruits God enjoys! And so, when we produce them his angels would harvest them for the banquet of heaven. In Ghana, only the best of some of our fruits (e.g. pineapples, bananas and mangoes) can be exported to Europe, because that market demands high quality fruits. Beloved, the market of heaven demands a higher quality, indeed, the highest quality of the fruits of our faith. So, I pray that we would produce fruits of faith whose quality meets the market standards of heaven, and may they be so delightful to the Lord God that he would ‘desire’ them for his banquet! Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis