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 (cf. Heb. 9:16-28).
As the day on which our Lord would shed His blood on the cross approached, He used the imagery of a grain of wheat which dies 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).
By His suffering, death and resurrection, our Lord Jesus Christ has become the source of eternal salvation for all mankind (cf. Heb. 5:7-9; second reading). There are several senses in which our Lord is the source of our eternal salvation. Here, I wish to mention two key senses. Firstly, just as fruits come from a grain which dies, so our salvation comes from Christ who died for all. On the other hand, just as if the grain does not die, no fruits will come from it, so without Christ crucified, no one can be saved. St. Peter affirmed this before the Sanhedrin: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). In other words, Christ is the only begotten Son of God, but with His death and resurrection, there are now countless adopted sons and daughters of God.
The second sense in which Christ is the source of eternal salvation is that He is the unique model for our salvation. That is, as He suffered, died and arose, so we must embrace suffering and death with the sure hope of enjoying the resurrection. Thus, right after speaking about His sacrificial death, Christ 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). Hence, Scripture encourages us: “let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:1-2).
Beloved, let us now use the process of sowing a seed, its growth and fruition to learn how we can also die to this world and produce a rich harvest for life in heaven.
Placement of seed and covering with soil: As the seed, covered with some soil, is surrounded by darkness, so our seed (life) is surrounded by “darkness”. As one cannot see far into the distance in darkness, so the “darkness” surrounding our earthly life 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 John 3:2).
Watering of the seed: As a seed requires some water to germinate, so our life requires the grace of the Living Water, the Holy Spirit (John 4:10, 14; 7:37-39), to germinate. Let’s, therefore, pray daily to the Lord to grant us the abundance of the Living Water.
Dying 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).
Germination: Germination is an observable sign of a new life of the seed that was sown. Similarly, when the seed of our life 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 our life 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 life, 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