Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
The image of the grain of wheat, its death, and its fruitfulness is often compared with bodily death and the resurrection — especially considering the passage that immediately follows it:
Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.
There is a key point to understand. The choice to deny oneself in this life is a death of sorts but the fruit that is produced by that death is a beautiful thing to behold. We need to think of losing our life as the sacrifices that we may for others. And each of us sacrifices a part of our life every day.
How often do we think like that? How often do we ask ourselves: How do I feed others with the fruit that is produced through my choices to deny myself and love others? How do my sacrifices produce lasting fruit in this world? Do I see my NOs producing YESs in the lives of others? Do I understand that a grain of wheat dies and grows not so it can go through a miserable, painful change; but rather so that it produces fruit — fruit to be enjoyed, shared, and given to nourish others.
We all know this trade-off in our own lives. It is no mystery. We have all traded-off immediate; but fleeting rewards for lasting and long term fruitfulness.
This is observed in parenthood all of the time — where parents do without so that their children have a better life than they had — or more opportunities. Or you may have denied yourself and have done the will of God by caring for an elderly parent who in their old age need the constant care you once needed as a baby.
Or you have endured the hardships of supporting that family member or friend in his or her struggle with an addiction. You have put up with the cycle of victory and defeats, ups and downs because of the command of Jesus to love.
Or your dealing with that addiction yourself and digging in and trying to walk the straight line.
Or you have lost a child or your spouse and not a day goes by that you do not think of that person you have lost, but you find the strength to stand up and carry on and continue being a giving person when you feel that so much in your life has been taken from you. And in that giving of yourself you are paying a tribute to the person who has passed.
Or you have carried around a hurt so deep and so stinging for years and even decades and you have never spoken about it to another soul and there have been times that you have wanted to act out in anger and revenge and rage, but you have resisted and turned the other cheek and responded with love.
Think of the ways that we have died to self so that we might produce fruit and feed one another. We need to keep challenging ourselves to continue this process in our lives to nourish one another to the best of our ability — with the help of God.
During his public ministry, Jesus had made it clear that one condition for being his follower was bearing the cross.
“If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
As his passion draws near, he energetically reiterates this same condition:
“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”
We must understand and internalize that to be a Christian is to be where Christ is: “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.”
And where is Christ? He is always pouring out his life for others on the cross, giving himself for the good of others through self-forgetful love. This is the lesson of the Gospels, and of the Eucharist – the extension throughout history of Christ’s self-sacrifice on Calvary.
And so, that’s also where we should be: giving our lives for God and our neighbors. Christ’s great commandment was to love others as he has loved us. He taught this lesson by His death on the cross, and with His words during the Last Supper: “A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). St Paul learned this lesson well; he was always talking about the cross. He wrote to the Corinthians: “…the only knowledge I claimed to have was about Jesus, and only about him as the crucified Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
As followers of Christ, we should expect crosses, difficulties, and even, at times, persecution.
To be a true Christian involves not just wearing a crucifix or hanging one on the wall, but bearing the sign of the cross in the very marrow of our soul. As if it was branded onto our soull.
Pray that each of us seals our souls with the sign of the cross. It is our life and our resurrection.