Jesus must have been a very visual person: sensitive to contrasts, colors, shapes, proportions, light and shade. He’d have made a fine artist. And he certainly was a brilliant teacher. His parables are full of stunning visuals which capture the spiritual meaning just by picturing them in your mind.
John 12:23 contains such a picture – the grain of wheat. (Take your bible and read it!) What is a seed, but a little package of life? In it is contained all that is needed for a new plant, or tree, or wild flower. But, something has to happen for it to become what it was made to be. It has to die. Unless it dies, Jesus says rather plaintively, “It remains just a grain of wheat.” As if to say, “what good is that? A seed that won’t die”.
We are like a seed, a package of Christ’s life given to us at birth and baptism. And like Christ, we must die to ourselves like a seed in the ground so that we be-come fully grown in Christ. Parents, you know all about this! I’d like to share a moment when God made this crystal clear for me in a very personal way.
It was late August of my 26th year. I was renting the upper half of a house owned by a nice widowed woman. I had been teaching high school the past two years, and after much struggle, I had been accepted into the seminary for studies for the priest-hood. I was having serious second thoughts as start up was a week away. “What were you thinking? Do you really want to do this?” I was all knotted up.
To help clear my head, I offered to clean the gutters of leaves up off the second floor roof. Climbing out my window onto the roof, I had a lovely view of the street and garden just below. Looking down I saw all these little green oak tree sprouts growing just under the gutter. The acorns had rolled off the roof and onto the ground, and there they grew little sprouts all in a straight line like school children.
All but one acorn . . . it had fallen into the gutter and sat for who knows how long. It was big and round and still had its little acorn hat. “What a smart little acorn you are,” I thought, “staying nice and safe in this gutter. You didn’t die like your little brother and sisters down below.”
So, with my thumb I pried the little cap off the acorn to look inside. And there it was, filling the entire acorn with its bright orange body . . . a giant maggot. It had eaten the entire inside of the acorn. No green little oak leaves sprouting up from the ground, this acorn was now home to a giant worm.
I threw the acorn to the ground, and not a minute lat-er the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart “. . . but, if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Unlike that hesitant acorn, I came down off that roof and planted myself in the seminary . . . where I had to die about ten more times before becoming a priest!! Those little oak trees would be 40 years old by now.
God bless you, you little seed you.