The Gospel according to John (12:24-26)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“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.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me.”
Opening Prayer: Dear Lord, I ask You to help me today to surrender my will to Yours, and to be Your instrument in whatever way I can. Help me to know that You are always with me and will prosper whatever I do in Your Name. Amen.
Today’s Gospel is all about two important characteristics of the Christian life: priorities and action. It’s a very short passage today, but if we can take to heart those two characteristics, God can truly work through us.
In speaking about priorities, I am referring to the middle of this passage, where Jesus says that “whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” Now, Jesus often used what we would see as extreme examples and images to get His point across (remember something about Him saying that if your eye causes you to sin that you were to gouge it out?). That’s what is going on in this statement as well. Jesus is not saying that we should hate our lives. He doesn’t want us to live a life of drudgery. He wants us to live a life of joy. But, while He doesn’t say literally to hate our lives, He *is* saying that we should not prioritize our earthly good or advancement ahead of the work we do as His follower.
He means that we are to prioritize love and care and forgiveness and mercy above just getting ahead and accumulating more earthly “stuff”. Our secular world tells us the exact opposite. That’s why the life of a Christian is so hard for those without faith to understand. We prioritize those good traits and actions, because we know that our ultimate destination is our home in heaven. Jesus, in His typical way, is gently reminding His listeners (and us) that all we do should focus first on that eventual place we want to be with Him forever.
And, a bit more about actions – the first statement Jesus makes in today’s Gospel is about the grain of wheat. His intentions are clear – if nothing happens to the grain of wheat – if the farmer doesn’t plant it in the ground – then it will never yield fruit and will never achieve its purpose. Jesus knew that He – quite literally – was going to be planted in the earth, due to His suffering and death. Each of us may not have to face that reality and lay down our lives for the faith. But, we are called to do something to share the kingdom of heaven with those whom we meet and those with whom we live. Put most simply, the world should be a better and more peaceful and more kind and more merciful one, simply because we acted in a way to share those qualities. Every time we do one of those kind actions, the world does change for the better.
Today, we also remember St Lawrence, deacon and martyr. A deacon’s role is that of service. We are to be the “icon of Christ” and to be His hands, His feet, His voice in our communities. We promise at ordination to be the “herald” of Christ, and to make Him present and known by our actions. St Lawrence did so, and did lay down His life for the faith he loved.
May each of us each be willing to lay down our own desires and priorities so that Jesus and His Gospel may be more known. May we prioritize acts of kindness and charity and may we put into action the faith we profess. And, may God bless all the good that we do, so that we truly do change the world for the better!
Closing Prayer: Father God, be my guide through this day and may I do acts of kindness, not because they may be seen, but so that You see them and bless everyone in my life today. Amen.
Action for the Day: Do an act of kindness for someone without that person knowing about it. Then, thank God for that opportunity to share His love today.