Fifth Sunday in Lent | Year B
Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. These approached Philip, who came from Bethsaida in Galilee, and put this request to him, ‘Sir, we should like to see Jesus.’ Philip went to tell Andrew, and Andrew and Philip together went to tell Jesus. Jesus replied to them:
‘Now the hour has come
for the Son of Man to be glorified.
I tell you, most solemnly,
unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies,
it remains only a single grain;
but if it dies,
it yields a rich harvest.
Anyone who loves his life loses it;
anyone who hates his life in this world
will keep it for the eternal life.
If a man serves me, he must follow me,
wherever I am, my servant will be there too.
If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.
Now my soul is troubled.
What shall I say:
Father, save me from this hour?
But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour.
Father, glorify your name!’
A voice came down from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ People standing by, who heard this, said it was a clap of thunder, others said, ‘It was an angel speaking to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not for my sake that this came, but for yours.
‘Now sentence is being passed on this world;
now the prince of this world is to be overthrown.
And when I am lifted up from the earth,
I shall draw all men to myself.’
By these words he indicated the kind of death he would die.
A wheat grain has two main components, a food store and an embryo. When it falls on the ground it will only germinate if the soil has air in it and there is water available. The grain absorbs water making it swell and triggering the growth of the embryo. The foodstore supports the embryo as it grows first a root and then a shoot. To an observer the grain would appear to die as the foodstore which forms the bulk of the grain disappears and the new plant becomes visible.
Jesus makes the point that the grain does not start to become the new plant until it falls to the ground. The grain does not germinate until it is in an environment which provides water. A wheat grain may go for a long time in an unchanged state, but when it encounters water, its full potential begins to emerge.
Like the wheatgrain before it falls to the ground, we can live in an environment which does not trigger change or growth. Routine is helpful in reducing life’s stresses and the time spent in making minor decisions. But it can also imprison us and prevent us realizing our full potential. Sometimes it takes a change in environment, a step outside routine, to bring us into contact with something which will trigger new spiritual growth and personal development.
We may be aware that a change is needed but we put it off because we mistakenly believe it has to be major. In fact the “step outside routine” needed may be very achievable, for example, changing our attitude to our job or the hours we work rather than changing the job, or doing some cleaning or renovating rather than shifting house.
We can put ourselves in a new environment by doing some voluntary work, having a holiday or making a retreat, taking part in community events, deliberately setting out to meet new people, or starting an exercise programme. We can do it by putting aside some time (even if only 10-15 minutes) to pray, joining a prayer group or choir, or participating in parish activities.
Unlike the wheat grain, we can actually change our environment. We can do this by affirming and supporting others, managing stress, and reversing negativity in family, company or community.
The other lesson of the wheat grain sprouting when it falls into the right environment is expressed in John 10:10: “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full”. If we are in an environment which is truly toxic in its effect on us, draining and disempowering us in ways which undermine our spiritual, mental or even physical well-being, then we need to change it or even leave it.
Our environment needs to be life-giving if we are to become the person Jesus desires us to be.