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5th Sunday of Lent (Ages 3-6): A Grain of Wheat

(If your parish is using the readings from year A, please click here for reflection.)


John 12.20-33

(for the 3-6 yr old, simply verse 24)


We have been preparing for many weeks now for the feast of Easter. At Easter we will celebrate in a special way Jesus dying on the cross and rising to new life, never to die again. In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus is preparing for his death and rising. He understands what is going to happen, but his disciples do not. His disciples worry about death. When his disciples are worried about death, Jesus tells them a parable:

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

We remember that a parable is like a little mystery. Jesus knows something, and he wants us to think about the parable so we can know it too.


When Jesus says,

unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,

what does he mean? This is a grain of wheat on my shelf:

It is a seed. It is hard and brown. If I tap it on the counter, it makes a tap, tap, tapping sound. If I put that seed on a shelf and leave it there, what will happen to it? What will it look like after many sleeps? Will it have changed at all?


But Jesus is not talking about putting the grain of wheat on a shelf. He says the grain of wheat,

falls into the earth and dies

What can that mean?


What will happen if I put a seed into the earth, into soil?

If I go looking for the seed after a few sleeps, what do I find? It is covered in dirt, and there is something sticking out of it. When I tap it against the counter, it doesn't make the tapping sound anymore. The seed is dying.

Grain of wheat with a tiny root.

If I go looking for it again, after many sleeps, now I can see something green poking out of the soil. When I dig, I find more things rooting deep into the soil. At first I cannot find the seed, but then I see it. It seems to have broken apart.


If I wait until the season changes, there are more green spouts and they are very tall. They look very healthy. When I dig under the soil, I cannot find the seed. The seed has died.

If I wait until the season changes again, now there are heads on the wheat. Each head is filled with more seeds. Who can count that many seeds?

The one seed on my shelf is still there. It is still one seed, hard and brown. It has not changed at all.

The seed that fell into the earth has died, and now there are many, many other seeds. Where there was a little life, now who can count how much life there is?

Each head is filled with seeds.

Jesus tells his disciples this parable when they are worried about death. Jesus knows something about death. The little seed that died knows something about death, too.

What do they know?

What does death do?

What can we say?

Here is a picture of wheat that grew from the death of just a few seeds planted by some children I know.

You could plant a seed in soil and see what happens, too. It doesn't have to be a wheat seed. You could think about this little mystery about death and life.

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