This Sunday’s gospel passage begins with a request to Philip by some Greeks, who would like to see Jesus. They wanted to know more about Jesus and wanted to come to believe in Him. In his own lifetime Jesus’ ministry was almost exclusively confined to his own people. (Romans 15:8). The Greeks who came asking to see Jesus represented the Gentile world. How would they come to believe in Jesus? Jesus said, “And when I am lifted up, I will draw everyone to myself.” Jesus is no longer in the world in the flesh; but we are. Through the ministry, the words and works of the Christian community, back then and right now, people will come to “see” Jesus.
“Jesus said, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies it bears much fruit.” Jesus then explained what he meant. He said, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it.” To get anything out of life we should be willing to sacrifice and ready to take risks to bring out the best of our lives. The grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying gives up everything that it is in order that new life and fruitfulness may come forth. If we are to be disciples, then we must let go of the old self. We must open and empty ourselves of all that is selfish, self-centered, all that we cling to. Jesus did not cling to all that went with being God, as Paul tells us. We should not cling to all that goes with being whomever we are. But, rather we empty ourselves. And in that surrender, that dying to self, we grow more and more.
Only when a man and woman share their love and woman who is ready and willing to go through the pain can bear and give birth to a child. To raise a child all the more requires giving up. The most important gift a person can give to the other is not money or material things but the most precious possession he or she has, his or her: own life to the other. This does not mean sacrificing one’s life like Jesus did, instead giving others what is alive in him or her, joy, knowledge, interest, understanding, humor, sadness, and all expressions and manifestations of that which is alive in him or her. Thus giving what is alive in one person, he or she enriches the other and enhances the sense of aliveness by enhancing his or her own sense of aliveness. Giving implies the receiver also to become a giver. In giving, something new is born, this is true especially with regard to love: love is a power which produces love. Through the parable of the wheat falling into the ground and dying to give new life, Jesus calls us to follow his example, to give life to others, to be aware of the most precious possession we own and thus to bear fruit in our lives.
People may dare to make sacrifices in view of the gain they can have. In baseball a sacrifice hit may be made by the batsman in view of the advantage of the base runner to advance. A sacrifice is made to lose a positional advantage in ‘chess’ with a greater gain in mind. Animals and human sacrifices were made for someone else’s advantage. Customary sacrifices are made for the personal benefit. But Jesus explains the real meaning of sacrifice with the paradigm of the wheat that dies itself to produce much fruit. To “sacrifice’ something means to give a gift without expecting something in return. It is also called a vicarious sacrifice. It was not because of necessity that Jesus humbled himself to be born of a woman and lived among us and died for us, but because of the sacrifice he made on our behalf.
Before a seed can germinate, it has to shed its hard shell. The protective shell that keeps the seed intact is to be decomposed in the earth by letting the water penetrate its kernel. Jesus used the comparison of the wheat to his own life. By his dying and being buried under the earth for three days, He rises again to give life to all those who were dead to sin. The Lord’s divinity and divine life were confined to the shell of His humanity. By his sacrifice on the cross this shell was broken and the glorified life emerged. For us human beings too, unless and until we let the Spirit to be active in our lives the new possibilities of life remains hindered by the desire to protect itself always. St. Paul understood well the need for this sacrifice, therefore he exhorted: “I urge you, then, brothers, remembering the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, dedicated and acceptable to God; that is the kind of worship for you, as sensible people”( Romans 12:1).
“Plant in your heart the image of Christ crucified and all the crosses of this world will appear like roses in comparison.” ~St. Francis de Sales.