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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.”

REFLECTION: A grain of wheat

In view of the mystery of his coming death, Jesus sketches out the paradox of life through death using the image of a grain of wheat. When the farmer sows, the grain is “buried” in the ground; it “dies” and then bears much fruit.

The parable illustrates Jesus’ own life. Before his passion and death, Jesus is limited to his earthly ministry. But after the resurrection, his life gains a cosmic dimension. The Holy Spirit is sent, and the disciples are given a deeper knowledge of Jesus. They are also inspired to spread and give witness to the Gospel to all peoples: Jews and pagans alike. The grain of wheat – Jesus – that was sown in Israel produces an abundant harvest among the Samaritans and the Gentiles.

The imagery of the grain of wheat also illustrates the life of Lawrence. Tertullian writes that the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christianity. The Church of the first millennium was born of the blood of martyrs and of the heroic virtues of believers.

Ordained deacon by Pope Sixtus II, Lawrence was later appointed “archdeacon of Rome,” a position of great trust that included the care of the treasury and riches of the Church and the distribution of alms among the poor.

In 258 AD, under Emperor Valerian, the prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. Lawrence asked for three days to gather together this wealth. He worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the poor as possible. When he appeared before the prefect, and when ordered to give up the treasures of the Church, he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the suffering, and he declared that these were the true treasures of the Church. This act led directly to his martyrdom.

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SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.

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