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The paradox of the grain of wheat

Gospel Reading: Jn 12:24-26
Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, 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. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.”

The coming of Jesus into the world overturns all its cherished values. If the “Amen, amen” saying were merely an agricultural truism or only a parable, the statement that follows it transmutes it into a law of life for the Christian. It is, of course, not exclusive to John. Jesus’ saying, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life” (v 25), is recorded by both Matthew (cf 10:39; 16:25) and Luke (cf 17:33). True, the saying itself does proclaim a truth, which is difficult for the believer to accept.

Yet, in a Gospel that insists so much on the gift brought by the Son of God into the world, what other proof could anyone have that the believers in him possess eternal life than the prodigality with which they expend their own lives in the loving service of others? It is in squandering their lives for others – “whoever hates his life in this world” (v 25) – that they provide irrefutable proof of their possession of the eternal life he has brought them. The saying, moreover, is a fitting preface to the Revealer’s “He loved his own… he loved them to the end” (13:1). The death he will die for his own is both the revelation and the proof of this love, and therefore can be spoken of as Jesus’ glorification.

“Whoever serves me must follow me” ( Jn 12:26).

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