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5th Sunday of Lent (Ages 6-9): Possibility of More

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


John 12.20-33


For many weeks of Lent we have been preparing for the feast of Easter. Easter is a whole season to remember and celebrate the gift Jesus makes of his whole life both at the Last Supper and on the cross--the gift that leads to the resurrection, life everlasting, never to die again. In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus is preparing for this gift of his whole self.


Jesus tells this 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.

This seems to be a strange thing to say. Why is he saying this? Jesus is thinking about his death to come and says,

my soul is troubled.

Even for Jesus, death is not easy. But Jesus understands what is going to happen; he knows the gift of his whole self is very important. Jesus understands this, but his disciples do not. His disciples worry. When his disciples worry about death, Jesus tells this parable about a grain of wheat. What can he mean?

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.

Here is a grain of wheat. It is just one seed. We know that seeds produce plants, and this seed can produce wheat. The grain of wheat is hard and brown. When I close my eyes, I can still feel the hard surface of the seed in my hand.

Jesus says that, if the seed dies, "it bears much fruit." We don't usually think about seeds dying, do we? It is just a seed. But it has a life; its life is being a hard brown seed. That is what it is.

We might wonder what the fruit of a wheat plant is. This is a dried "ear" of wheat. It is the "fruit" of the wheat plant. Inside the ear are many more wheat seeds. Wheat seeds can be ground into flour, and the flour can be baked into bread. It must take so many wheat seeds to make flour though. I wonder how many wheat seeds are needed to make enough flour for one loaf of bread?!


If I leave that one hard seed in my hand, I can imagine all the seeds that could one day grow, and the flour that could be made, and the bread that could be eaten, but...

can that ever happen if I leave the seed in my hand?

If I leave the seed in my hand, does the story continue for that grain of wheat?

There is no possibility of anything more.

unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain

How can the grain of wheat ever change? Before it can produce all those seeds, what must happen first? Jesus tells us: first, it must fall into the earth and die.

Then there is more to the story of that grain of wheat.

Then there is all that possibility. Possibility of...what?

but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

This growth takes weeks and months. Beneath the earth, the seed can no longer be found. It has died. When we look at the wheat plant that has grown, it is hard to believe that all that came from one little hard brown seed.


What if we just cut open the seed? Could this help speed up the process?

We know this will not work; the ears of wheat are not just curled up inside the seed. A transformation occurs when the seed falls to earth. Transformation is not our work to do.


We have to remember that this is a parable that Jesus tells to his disciples. Is Jesus only talking about wheat? We have to wonder what more he could mean.

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.

It is important for us to remember that Jesus tells his disciples this parable before he dies, before he gives them his whole self in the bread and the wine, before he gives his whole life on the cross. He tells them this before he dies, before the gift of his life.


When he dies, everyone will think that his story has ended. They will think that there is no possibility of anything more. What does Jesus need his disciples to know? Is his death the end?


Jesus tells us: first, the seed must fall into the earth and die.

First, death.

Then there is more to the story.

Then there is all that possibility.

Possibility of...

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