"The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
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.
This spring has come early, and even though our Association has redone the landscaping, I am determined to grow Sunflowers this year. In spite of the un-neighborly ducks and deer and bunnies, I am going to have Sunflowers following the sunshine and eventually providing a wonderful feeding roost for finches and any other birds that happen along.
This year, because I can't beat the Association, (and plant stuff in the actual ground), I was THRILLED to find a "Sunflower kit" from a local store. It was a bucket filled with dirt, a pack of sunflower seeds, and a plastic "greenhouse" lid. Although it's been very warm here, the moment my sunflowers germinated, a cool front was ushered in, such that I cannot transplant them into a far larger pot to be placed outside quite yet. And I am further concerned because it's now been so cloudy and my house has so little direct sunlight that, well...my sunflowers are wilting.
But it doesn't matter. Not really.
The fact that I can't yet take them outside brings the Gospel message home to me ever more deeply, for because life takes place before my eyes, I have been able to witness exactly what Our Lord is trying to convey. As my seeds germinated, I saw what had attracted the ducks a few years ago: the shells of the sunflower seeds. In fact, they are still hanging on even though now they are nearly 6 inches high or more. I see how new life does violence to the "grain" that was planted, and that the incredible beauty that is to come must first be broken into pieces. No matter how hard those pieces try to hang on, they will be forced away so that the leaves can unfurl to receive the life-giving rays of sunshine and both give shade to and allow the roots below to send water to make them grow.
Growth of any kind is violent; there is nothing delicate about it. I watch my little plant orient itself towards the sun, and I watch it wilt when the sun is not forthcoming. I am watching my little plant struggle to survive and because I know it must thrust away, for itself, the seed casings that were once it's own womb, I do not intervene other than to try to provide as much light and heat as possible in our erratic spring, but also the right amount of water And I am always getting it wrong.
Still, this flower is a living metaphor and I cannot help but look upon it while pondering the Gospel of John and why we must all be willing to fall to the ground like the "grain" and be broken apart for the sake of eternal life. That is what holiness is all about. It is what it means to embrace the Cross, and in fact, it is what we must suffer, all of us, in the end, to enter eternal life. We are all that little seed and in spiritually dying or physically dying, it is all the same; it is what allows us to enter into holiness and eternity.