•Jeremiah 31:31-34 • Hebrews 5:7-9 • John 12:20-33•
Scripture Readings: Fifth Sunday in Lent
One hundred years ago a man was born whose name was Thomas Merton. Eventually he became a monk and one of the greatest Christian writers of the 20th century. He wrote his many books, essays and letters out of a deeply centered life of faith. You probably read some of his work and recognized he had a genuine experience of that hidden ground of love at the very center of our being – that Gracious Mystery we name God. He consciously saw himself as part of God, and God as part of him. This is the Christ Mystery.
There is an episode in the gospel of John in which “some Greeks went up to worship at the Feast.” It was the Jewish Passover. “They came to Philip with a request.” They said, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” We must be careful here that we not make facile or superfluous conclusions.
Perhaps those “Greeks” were simply tourists or perhaps they represent all of us who seek for that hidden ground of love at the very center of our being. Whatever their motive, their request had an effect on Jesus.
John’s Jesus replied to them, “the hour has come.” Earlier in this gospel the author refers to “the hour” in two separate instances. At Cana he said to his mother, and later to the Samaritan woman at the well, “my hour has not yet come.” Apparently the fact that Gentiles — “some Greeks,” want to see him was a crucial moment.
This story of “some Greeks” is not and was not history. Three to four generations after the death/resurrection experience, John created this story of a seed in which Jesus can tell us the meaning of his life. “The hour has come” for the meaning of his life to be made known.
A grain of wheat is buried in the earth. Its external husk is broken open. It gathers moisture and nutrients while dying. Then a shoot sprouts up. The life within comes out. One seed reproduces itself fortyfold in the ear of corn which grows from it. These all are replanted, and so on year after year. In six years, that one seed results in as many seeds as there are human beings on this planet – all from one seed buried in the ground.
Jesus is the seed. He was broken, buried and raised to new life. “I, when I am lifted up from the Earth will draw all people to myself.” Jesus came to help us discover that hidden ground of love at the very center of our being. He came to bring about human wholeness. This wholeness is both communal – the human family, and individual. It is a wholeness rooted in the love of God for all of us calling forth a more humane world and a happier life for all.
John’s Jesus uses the analogy of a grain of wheat dying so that “it produces much fruit” as a means of inviting us to continue his task. “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” In six years one seed of corn results in as many seeds as there are human beings on this planet!
We never know what the future holds. Jesus lived in messy world. We live in a messy world. He had human limitations and was just as human and vulnerable as we are.
To follow him means to continue his task of extending human wholeness rooted in the love of God and to bring forth a more humane and happier world for all. In continuing his task, we re-establish contact with that hidden ground of love at the very center of our being.
Kernels are ground. Grapes are crushed. Here at the Table of Eucharist, like Thomas Merton, we eat the body and drink the blood of Christ. We are part of God. God is part of us. We who eat and drink here are the Living Body of Christ, called to continue his task of bringing forth a more human and happier world for all. Lent is such an important season for Lent calls us back to that hidden ground of love at the very center of our being.