Gospel Reflection for Sunday March 21st 2021 The Fifth Sunday of Lent
Unless a grain of wheat dies
My father was a gardener all his life. We were lucky enough to have a very large garden at home. All through the year it was filled with a huge variety of vegetables, plants and flowers. In spring he would sow seeds. They would grow slowly and silently and by autumn produce all sorts of fruits and vegetables. In autumn dad would prepare the ground and sow seeds that would grow though the winter and produce a wonderful array of crops in the spring.
We recall from the many stories and parables that Jesus told that he was a master story teller. He knew his audience well. He spoke to largely farming and fishing communities about fish, gardening, baking bread, farming, seeds, vines, sheep and shepherds. He spoke their language using images that they appreciated and understood.
When speaking about himself he says; ‘unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’ Farming and gardening are processes of transformation. Seeds are sown in the earth. The ground is tended to and cared for; weeds are removed and the seeds are watered. Then the waiting starts until what was sown slowly and somehow mysteriously transforms from a single seed into something altogether new different; a plant bursting with new life. The old gives way to the new. There is in this a sense of sacrifice and dying; the seeds let go, yield and are transformed. One can imagine that this is a painful process of the seed seemingly losing itself. But new life does come from this painful transformation; new life comes from this loss and death.
Holy Week and Easter are in sight, but we are not there yet. This gospel leads and points towards the great event of the passion of Jesus. He is the seed that will be ‘sown’ in the earth. He will let go, yield, offer his life for us and be transformed. From his death will come new life. Through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus offers us the fruit of eternal life. From this apparent loss will come the ultimate good. Only with death is there resurrection; what seems like Jesus’ loss is our gain.
Next week we begin Holy Week with Palm Sunday. We are being called and invited by Jesus to stay with him so we can experience Good Friday and the stark reality of the cross. These are only steps on the way. The story does not end there; but we are called to stand at the cross before we can stand at empty tomb at Easter.
The cross is central not only to Lent, but to the whole message of Christianity. In the gospel today Jesus clearly says, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’ This glory will not come through power or prestige but through his dying and rising. He is the seed that will be ‘sown’ in the earth. He will let go, yield, offer his life for us and be transformed. From his death will come our new life.
If we have the courage and strength to stay will Jesus as he dies, then we will also share in the fruit of this; his resurrection, because we are heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; we share in his suffering, so as to share his glory. (Rmns: 8.17)
If a grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies, it yields a rich harvest
Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. These approached Philip, who came from Bethsaida in Galilee, and put this request to him, ‘Sir, we should like to see Jesus.’ Philip went to tell Andrew, and Andrew and Philip together went to tell Jesus. Jesus replied to them:
‘Now the hour has come
for the Son of Man to be glorified.
I tell you, most solemnly,
unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies,
it remains only a single grain;
but if it dies,
it yields a rich harvest.
Anyone who loves his life loses it;
anyone who hates his life in this world
will keep it for the eternal life.
If a man serves me, he must follow me,
wherever I am, my servant will be there too.
If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.
Now my soul is troubled.
What shall I say:
Father, save me from this hour?
But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour.
Father, glorify your name!’
A voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ People standing by, who heard this, said it was a clap of thunder; others said, ‘It was an angel speaking to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not for my sake that this voice came, but for yours.
‘Now sentence is being passed on this world;
now the prince of this world is to be overthrown.
And when I am lifted up from the earth,
I shall draw all men to myself.’
By these words he indicated the kind of death he would die.
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