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. (Jn:12:24).
In reading this verse, I was transported back to Middle School. Our sixth-grade class was dismissed to head to the cafeteria for the Science Fair. As I drew closer I could hear some unintelligible chanting going on. Of course, I was curious and craned my neck to see over the other students filing in as we entered our destination. I drew closer to see a circle of kids chanting and circling. I stopped as I heard muffled groans and then saw one of my friends standing in the center of the circle, his forearms pulled up to cover his face. No one was laying a hand on him, but the heckling and chanting was inflicting its damage. I froze not knowing what to do or how to act.
I don’t remember how the situation was resolved, but I remember how bad I felt that day, and still do for not doing anything. I also withdrew from my friend when I saw him later that because I felt so bad for not speaking up or stepping in. I wasn’t there for him, I didn’t provide any comfort, because I was still only thinking of myself and not his feelings.That day, I remained just a grain of wheat. I was unwilling, unable to die to myself, unwilling to stand up for my friend or provide any comfort.
When we find ourselves in such situations, when another human being’s dignity is being diminished, Jesus reminds us that we are not to love our life, assess our own self-interest first, or we will lose it. Instead we are to love, to will the good of the other, to hate our life in this world so as to preserve it for eternal life (cf. Jn 12:25) By building a foundation of thinking of the other first instead of ourselves we will be in a better position to serve as Jesus did.
May we pray for each other today, asking Jesus to give us the eyes to see and the ears to hear those who are demeaned, belittled, or dehumanized. May we draw on the strength of the Holy Spirit, so to act with courage, to be that grain of wheat that dies to our own self-centered and fallen self, such that we are not just silent bystanders. May we who have been blessed by God the Father, stand up and speak up for the dignity of those who are vulnerable, who do not have access, or the avenue to speak up for themselves.
May we grow and mature as stalks of wheat to bear the fruit as God’s mouthpiece, speaking truth to power, working to change systems in our culture and society that oppress and devalue others, and preventing further attacks on the dignity of the person. As we strive for change within ourselves, others, and society, may we at the same time accompany and provide support, person to person, for those who have been ignored, disrespected, devalued, objectified, or abused in any way within our realm of influence.
Photo: agriculture-cereal-clouds-39015 from pixabay.com
Link for the Mass readings for Friday, August 10, 2018: