In his autobiography, ”Report to Greco,” Milos Kazantzakis describes three approaches to God: 1. “I am a bow in your hands, Lord. Draw me, lest I rot.” 2. “Do not overdraw me, I shall break.” 3. “Overdraw me. Who cares if I break?”
The third reply reminds me of the conversation Jesus had with the visiting Greeks reported in today’s Gospel. We don’t know their questions. We do know his reply that used the image of a grain of wheat.
So long as the seed rests in a jar, separated from its natural relationship with the earth, nothing happens. It’s just a seed. It can stay that way for centuries. Packets of wheat seeds were found in the tombs of the pharaohs. These seeds are still alive. Jesus says the grain of wheat must become vulnerable to the soil and relate to the forces that will kill its seed quality to release a new life – a sheaf of wheat. Jesus declares he must be just such a grain of wheat. And so must you and I.
We must be motivated to love as he does. His love opens us to being wounded and disappointed. His love liberates us from our self-protective seed shell. He invites us to move out of isolation into contact with others who are different from ourselves.
It’s our journey of the Cross where we enter a world that makes demands on us – unreasonable demands, challenges that cause us pain. Jesus wants us to move away from the static situation of the isolated seed. He wants us to commit ourselves to the creative death that leads to dynamic living. Jesus said it clearly. “Whoever wishes to come after me, must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (John 16:24).
Like Jesus, we may find ourselves rejected by inhuman persons. We will find company with those they have dehumanized: the sinners, the unwashed, the lonely and the hungry. We will find that the pain in suffering and dying is not physical distress. It will be the betrayal, the stiff resistance to love, the being let down by those you trusted, the refusal to receive the love and forgiveness we offer. It is in this hour that we must act with courage and hope. We must reject the temptation to give up the mission with an “I couldn’t care less.” This is when we must care most. For it is at this moment of dying that the sheaf of wheat is born. It is now we become an agent of God’s love that can save and heal.
Jesus broke bread at the Last Supper and said that it will be his body that will be broken for our sakes. No Christian can escape this call to a cross.
Prayer: “Jesus, spark in us the courage to be humble so our seed may be grounded to become a sheave of wheat.”
Norbertine Fr. McBride is a popular lecturer and author of more than 40 books.