Amen, Amen I say to you, 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. (John 12: 24)
This scripture is from today’s gospel and speaks of death. What comes to mind when you think about your death? For the believer, death is a passing from this earthly world to our eternal life with God. However, this scripture passage talks about death in another manner. The grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies and begets much fruit. We are the grain of wheat and by dying to oneself we produce an abundance of fruit.
An important and hurried and stressed businessman visits a Zen master, seeking guidance. The Zen master sits down, invites the businessman to sit, and pours the visitor a cup of tea. But even after the tea fills the cup, the Zen master continues to pour, allowing the tea to spill. The businessman is taken aback, “Stop pouring the tea! The cup is full and can’t hold any more.” The Zen master replies: “Yes. So, it is with you. You will not be able to receive my guidance, unless you empty some space first.” (Adapted from Terry Hershey’s Sabbath Moment Reflection for 3/18/2019)
I can relate to the businessman. There is something alluring about filling space. And something very unnerving about being asked to empty (or let go of) whatever I’ve stockpiled to fill that space. But I do know this. When there is no empty space, I pay the price. One of my goals for Lent was to spend more time in prayer and reflection. I fell short of this goal. My space for prayer filled up with la ist of to-do’s.
First, reflect today on your death. What epitaph do you want on your tombstone?
Second, reflect upon that ways you can die to yourself. What are practical and concrete ways to let go and let God so as to become new life.
Carl Middleton is a theologian/ethicist and a member of the Passionist Family.