For a full copy of the Newsletter of the Fifth Sunday of Lent please click on the link; Lent 5th Sunday 180318
“Unless the grain of wheat dies…”
Few sights are as beautiful as a field with young stalks of wheat. To watch them swaying in the wind and dancing in the sun brings joy to the heart, at least to the hardworking farmer. But how strange is the process by which these stalks come into being? The grain of wheat has to be buried in the cold damp earth as in a tomb. Then it has to die. If it didn’t die, no new life would come forth. But when it dies, from the grave of the old grain, a shoot of new wheat miraculously springs forth. Indeed, this is an awesome paradox – life coming forth from death, freedom coming forth from suffering. Jesus used the illustration of the “grain of wheat” to show how God brings life from death, and good fruit through patience and suffering.
What is the analogy which Jesus alludes to in this beautiful image? Is this simply a veiled reference to his own imminent death on the cross and to his resurrection? Or does Jesus have another kind of “death and rebirth” in mind for his disciples as well? Jesus, no doubt, had both meanings in mind. His obedience and death on the cross obtain for us freedom and new life in the Holy Spirit. His cross frees us from the tyranny of sin and death and shows us the way of perfect love and readiness to lay down our lives in sacrificial service for the good of others.
If we want to receive the abundant new life and the fruit of the Spirit which Jesus freely offers us, then the “outer shell” of our fallen sinful nature must first be broken and be put to death. In baptism our “old nature” which was enslaved by sin is buried with Christ so we may rise to new life with Christ through the cleansing waters of baptism. St. Paul describes this death and rebirth in Christ as a “new creation” which Christ accomplishes in us through the power of his saving death and resurrection (2 Cor. 5:17).
This process of death to the “old fallen self” is both a one-time event which occurs in our baptism, and it is also a daily, on-going cycle of growth in which the Holy Spirit buries us more deeply into Jesus’ death so we might rise anew in the power of God’s love, righteousness and holiness. There is a great paradox here. Death leads to life. When we “die” to ourselves – to our rebellious sinful nature and wilful rejection of God’s commandments – we receive God’s forgiveness and the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit which frees us to love and serve others, and follow God faithfully. It is God’s free gift of grace, his blessing and favour towards us and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to live and serve joyfully as sons and daughters of God.
Fr Odinaka Nwadike