Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily March 21.
"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." That is, if the grain of wheat has life within it, it is not sterile. Not all the seeds you plant sprout. It has to be alive and die, not already dead before planting. Dead seeds don't sprout, they just rot.
Today's Gospel is John's equivalent of the Agony in the Garden found in the other three Gospels. In John, it occurs as a discourse out in public in the middle of Holy Week, after Jesus' anointing for burial in Bethany and his entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and prior to the Last Supper, not later that evening as in the other Gospels. Here Jesus is talking about his "hour." The approaching "hour" of his glorification, lifted up from the earth, drawing everyone to himself -- dying lifted up on a cross. How will this gruesome, humiliating death glorify him?
Satan will do his worst but will not prevail. The Roman authorities will assert their political and military power, but their sentence of death is powerless to take Jesus' life because it is just an afterthought: he has already offered it up freely -- and therefore it is no longer theirs to take. The religious leaders will do all in their power to silence a man who proclaimed truths that undermined their authority and unmasked their hypocrisy, but when it came to the word of God, Jesus would not be silenced. He continued to proclaim God's truth undeterred.
Jesus glorified God because he was "all in." He sought to please God above all things, without worrying overmuch about whether this pleased the crowds or the powers-that-be or even his own disciples. He was all in. He was that grain of wheat bursting with life within, which when planted the afternoon of Good Friday sprouted on Easter Sunday and continues to bear unimaginably abundant fruit today. One seed 2,000 years ago, two billion Christians today -- 1.2 billion of which are Catholic. And think of all the other billions of Christians who have preceded us over the course of more than 100 generations of believers the last 20 centuries.
But you know, this abundant growth has occurred in part due to the fact that in each of these 100 generations, the seed has been planted anew in order to produce the next harvest. You and I are that seed today, and we will glorify God if we are "all in" like Jesus was, embracing our own crosses with sacrificial love like Jesus did his.
These crosses are not adversities that we couldn't avoid anyway -- everybody faces adversities and there is nothing especially redemptive about merely enduring the unavoidable troubles of life. No, these crosses are adversities that we could have avoided, but don't because embracing them is what faithfulness to God requires. To do so will mean that like Jesus, we too seek to do God's will in everything, not our own will or giving in to the well-meaning pressure of our family or peer pressure from our friends. God's will for us comes first.
In this way, we will accomplish our God-given mission in life and do our own part to break the power of sin and death in the world we live in today. Satan may do his worst and, as with Jesus, appear to do us great harm, but he cannot prevail if you are fully united to the Lord. If you offer up your life fully and freely to the Lord, no one will be able to take your life from you because you have already given it away.
If you proclaim God's truth undeterred, no one will be able to silence you. Oh, it will lead to a cross, but that's where God's power lies and it is by embracing the cross with sacrificial love that we glorify God.
"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."
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