Readings: Jeremiah 31:31-34Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15Hebrews 5:7-9John 12:20-33

The following reflection is from The Sunday Website at Saint Louis University:

Coming to Pieces

A tiny grain plants itself deep within the soil. It tucks its self into complete darkness. It is fearless, comforted by the tough, safe shell that is its home. It belongs there, and knows it. In quiet. In growth. Home.

Then calamity. 

The shell-shelter turns tight and invading and painful. The growing seed finds its peace replaced by shock. Its formerly great protector is now opposing it, holding it back. Crushing it. Then, suddenly, as if planned from all eternity, the protecting shell cracks right open. “Wait, wait, I need you,” shouts the seed. Nothing doing. The shelter goes to pieces! Moisture trickles in, and bits of dank, cold soil. Anything and everything can now wriggle right into the heart of what was a quiet, pure place.

The seed goes crazy. What is left of it copes somehow, wildly extending a new, thin arm outward, then slithering out its whole self. “Steady by jerks” through the cracks in its shell. It had to get out of there, so it dares its way into the rough, cold mud. How foolish and how shaming. Stay where safety is, you fool!*

But the slowly transforming tiny self seems to take on a new life. Is this its new home now, in the slippery soil? It moves with caution. It is going upwards.

Too much is in its path, including a huge, unyielding rock. A jagged, rough, uncaring rock, heedless of tiny green shoots.

And so the story ends.

Except that the former seed appears to have will power. It is seeking something—urging itself toward some pressing objective, rooting its way with intuitive ambition.

Along the under-edge of the rock, brutally, fearfully and with rending pain. After what seems like years it achieves the far under-edge of the gnarly rock and, guess what. It starts upward again.

Now there are hard clods to press through and plenty of pebbles. The higher it goes the more dry the surrounding soil becomes. Then the top crust. It forbids any penetration. It is an ultimate, intractable, stupefying barrier.

And so the story ends.

Except for one voice from deep within. Push. Push, it murmurs. I am with you.

Now just a thinnest lesion in the tough skin. With a certainty that might have been written on its heart, this vine-to-be gets to the place it was meant to be. In a heaven of light and warmth, bathed in the sun’s astonishing rays, it is now a plant and it stretches and yawns in the wafting breezes of Spring.

This is just like our own journey, isn’t it? Dark mud can take a chokehold on our life.

But Jesus says, do not worry, child, trust me. “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” (Gospel)

– Fr. John Foley, SJ

 * For an example of an opposite approach, try this:

Oh I am a chickie who lives in an egg,
But I will not hatch, I will not hatch.
The hens they all cackle, the roosters all beg,
But I will not hatch, I will not hatch.
For I hear all the talk of pollution and war
As the people all shout and the airplanes roar,
So I’m staying in here where it’s safe and it’s warm,

– Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends (New York: Harper & Row, 1974) p. 127.