Reflection on John 12.20-36 (Tuesday of Holy Week)

Jesus said: unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies it bears much fruit.

It does not take a particularly scientific mind to grasp the imagery Jesus uses in today’s reading. In order that we might see a plant in all its beauty, or in all its God-given usefulness, the original seed must cease to exist, it must assume a whole new life. Then, in the fullness of time, each crop will produce more seeds, and the cycle will begin all over again.

Jesus is, of course, talking about himself. In just a few days we will see the human Jesus die on a cross. Then we will witness his resurrection and the beginning of a new and exciting story that will touch every corner of the world. The single grain, Jesus, will die, but he will then take on a new life which will bring humanity into a renewed relationship with its heavenly and loving Father. The death of Jesus will provide us with the ultimate summary of his earthly mission of generous love and selfless service.

However, Jesus’ words are not only about himself, they are also a challenge to each of us. We value our individuality, our independence, our right to choose. We hold dear those things which stand in direct opposition to Jesus’ message for us today. The thought of sacrificing the luxuries that we identify as being essential, or the ways in which we choose to conduct our daily lives are anathema to most of us. We are happy to express our concerns for others less fortunate than ourselves, but we are very reluctant to put the needs of the poor and needy before our own or those of our family and friends. We can become quite ruthless as we strive to preserve, rather than sacrifice, self.

During Holy Week we ponder much that flies in the face of our instincts for self-preservation and self-glorification. Jesus’ new commandment of love, his washing of his disciples’ feet, his willingness to die on a cross can easily be transformed into fairy tales of an ideal which is beyond our grasp. But … all that is associated with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is anything but a fairy tale. Rather, it is an account of God’s desire for us to be Christ-like in order that all who have been created in His own image might enjoy the new covenant which opens up the path to eternal life.

Today we are called to pray that we might set self aside, allowing the single grain to die, in order that we and others might flourish and grow. We are called to pray for the strength to fully engage with the reality of the gospel message as we journey to Calvary … and beyond.