Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies it,
it remains only a single grain.
If it dies, it brings forth much fruit.
John 12: 24
The night he was martyred, the blessed martyr Monseñor Oscar Romero chose John 12: 23-26 as the Gospel for the Mass he was celebrating on the anniversary of the death of the mother of a journalist friend.
In his short homily, he noted the significance of this text:
…you have just heard in Christ’s Gospel that one must not love oneself so much as to avoid getting involved in the risks of life that history demands of us, and that those who try to fend off the danger will lose their lives, while those who out of love for Christ give themselves to the service of others will live, like the grain of wheat that dies, but only apparently. If it did not die, it would remain alone. The harvest comes about only because it dies, allowing itself to be sacrificed in the earth and destroyed, Only by undoing itself does it produce the harvest.
The mystery of emptying oneself is central to our faith. Some, like Monseñor Romero, show this by giving their life as martyrs, after living a life of witness to Jesus. All of us are called to give of ourselves each day, in all that we do. We are all called to empty ourselves in love and service of God and others, so that we may be filled with the love and mercy of God.
At the end of his homily that night in the cancer hospital chapel, just moments before he was martyred, Romero noted the Eucharistic meaning of this emptying, indeed of his martyrdom:
May this Body immolated and this Blood sacrificed for humans nourish us also, so that we may give our body and our blood to suffering and to pain —like Christ, not for self, but to bring about justice and peace for our people.
May this Holy Thursday, a day we recall Christ’s handing himself over for us in his passion, but also in the Eucharist, also remind us of the call to empty ourselves, bending down to wash the feet of the poor.
Quotations taken from Archbishop Oscar Romero, Voice of the Voiceless. Orbis Books, 1985