"Unless a wheat grain" - Fifth Sunday of Lent (B)

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > "Unless a wheat grain" - Fifth Sunday of Lent (B)

The Gospel today begins dramatically with the Lord declaring: “Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”  Jesus knew that the time had come. He was to fulfil the will of his Father. His impending cruel death was to complete the meaning of his life.

Note that the Lord uses the word “glorified” to depict his death. Yes, this is a moment of glory. He would later say that in his death God would be glorified. The death of God’s only Son was the ultimate expression of the depth of God’s love for humanity. We see in Calvary who our God is. He is the God who so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, and he offered his Son as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins and the reconciliation of the human race with God.

Such is our God. We cannot but praise and thank him for an act that defies imagination.

Glory to God who has saved us by such an extraordinary act of love.

In the words that follow we are taken into the mind of Jesus. The mind of Jesus is focused on the meaning of what is to happen. He knows that his death is not just the tragic outcome of his life. He knows that his death is not the result of political manoeuvrings, or the envy and jealousy of the Jewish religious authorities.

He knows it has meaning. And he affirms it in the use of a simple image: “Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies it remains only a single grain. But if it dies it produces a rich harvest.”

Consider this image. A seed. A simple seed. It can look like a little stone. It seems to have no potential life within it. Yet planted in the ground it is wonderfully transformed. We have all seen the first shoots of a seed emerge through the soil. Notice the fresh beauty of the shoot has it comes forth. It is delicate and beautiful. We marvel at this new life bursting forth. And it will grow. A thousand, thousand times greater that its origin in the seed.

We marvel at nature. The potential for life and fruitfulness locked in such a small seed.

My brothers and sisters, this is true for us. We in our humanity are like a small seed. We have a capacity for life far, far greater than we experience now. We have been endowed with a soul. That soul will be transformed at our death into abundant life, far beyond our imagining. This new life will be beautiful.

But first this seed that is us must die, must go into the earth.

Note that the Lord speaks of not just any seed but speaks of a wheat grain. This is significant. Remember that he described himself as the bread of life.

Through his resurrected glory, Christ - the grain of wheat - becomes the Bread of Life for us in the Eucharist. The bread brought to the altar becomes Body of Christ. We are brought into communion with the risen Lord every time we receive Holy Communion.

In his resurrection Christ makes himself available to us. The food for the body becomes food for the soul.

My brothers and sisters, the central mystery of Christianity is to be found in the mystery of dying and rising. It is not just what Christ himself endured, but it is to become the mystery for each of our lives.

Firstly, for the Christ, death is not the end. It is never the end. Death is a pathway to life. Death is a means for transformation to something greater, more wonderful.

Thus the Lord now teaches, “Anyone who loves his life will lose it, but anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” These are strong words, challenging words. We are to live not for this world alone, we are to live for eternal life. Choose eternal life, the Lord urges us. Live in this world with your heart set on heaven. Have an eternal perspective to your life. Do not settle for the pleasures of this world alone.

For the Christian life is about discovering this eternal perspective. And in understanding this, the Christian understands that we are to give of ourselves. We are oriented beyond ourselves. We are not tied to this earth. We do not try to cling desperately to this life and what is may offer us. We are prepared to lose our lives.

And the Christian knows that the key to life now is to be found in the idea of sacrifice. We are called to sacrifice our lives for God, for others. If try to hold on to what we have, we will lose it. This, the Lord teaches, can never be the way to life, eternal life.

The secret of Christian life is a love which is a gift of self. Christian love is found in giving freely of ourselves. We do not live for ourselves. We sacrifice ourselves. We are willing to sacrifice ourselves. Our focus is on God and on others. It is not on the self.

My brothers and sisters we are about to enter into our annual commemoration of the Paschal mystery. Next Sunday on Palm Sunday and from thence we enter Holy Week. The Paschal mystery is not just about what Christ did, but it is the heart of Christian mystery. We will be taken into not only the heart of God but led to realise the heart of our life as believers.

We will be reminded that we must learn to fall into the ground and die. And this is to be a daily reality for us. We are to become sharers in the Paschal mystery. Thus, we learn that our life is to give. We embrace the path of sacrifice. We walk the path of love in the way Jesus loved.

The Paschal mystery is the key to living the Christian life.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, March 18, 2018