The image of a grain dying in order to yield fruit remains a powerful one today, even if we know from high school biology that the grain is very much alive underground, something Jesus’ listeners probably did not know. A dead grain would never yield anything. The Lord’s challenge through this image is about creating the conditions for the potential already present in the grain to unfold. Burying the grain amounts to exposing it to the soil’s nutrients and to allow for time, so the growth process can take place.
In our current societal environments “the air we breath” does not necessarily provide the nutrients required for the faith seed planted at baptism to achieve its full potential and yield fruit. An intentionality is required on our side to seek and create conditions that are favorable for such an unfolding of our baptismal potential. Faith life will not happen by itself or by being registered in some parish. Living in faith is not a spectator’s sport.
Still, even if the grain does not precisely die, Jesus goes on to talk about “losing our life in this world”. Given the fact that only very few do lose their biological lives on account of their faith, I am inclined to read the injunction as a challenge to let go of our own life choices and preferences, in order to let the Lord’s choices and preferences take hold of the way we live. That would seem to be what Paul conveys in his affirmation: “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” [Gal. 2:20].
We certainly like reading the assurance that “where I am, there also will my servant be”. We like the point of arrival, we do not necessarily like the “dying” path. Focusing on the end without embracing the means is wishful thinking that will not take us “where I am”. As the saying goes, “the wishbone will never replace the backbone” and this brings us back to the required intentionality mentioned above.
Talking to his apostles right before his passion, Jesus told them: “It was not you who chose me. I chose you and appointed you to go forth and bear fruit that will remain” [Jn. 15:16]. Baptism, which commits us to being followers of Christ, is an election and an appointment to bear fruit. And bearing fruit presupposes the active “dying” Jesus attributes to the buried grain.
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook