Tag Archives: grain of wheat

Romero – the seed that bears fruit

In ten days, Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero will be canonized in Rome. God willing, I will be there with my pastor to celebrate the holiness of a man who was the voice of those without a voice.

romerodeath

As a novena to prepare for this recognition of the church of the poor by the universal church. I will be offering quotations and occasional reflections. Today I offer words from a sermon of Monseñor Romero on the text of John’s Gospel, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains alone, but if it dies it brings forth much fruit” (John 12: 23-26).

Those who, in the biblical phrase, would save their lives —
that is, those who want to get along, who don’t want commitments,
who want to stay outside what demands the involvement of all of us —
they will lose their lives.
What a terrible thing to have lived quite comfortably,
with no suffering, not getting involved in problems, quite tranquil, quite settled,
with good connections — politically, economically, socially —
lacking nothing, having everything.
To what good?
They will lose their lives.
But those who for love of Me uproot themselves
and accompany the poor in their suffering
and become incarnated and feel as their own the pain and the abuse —
they will secure their lives, because my Father will reward them.”
Brothers and sisters, God’s word calls us to this today.
Let me tell you with all the conviction I can muster:
it is worthwhile to be a Christian.
To each of us Christ is saying:
If you want your life and mission to be fruitful like mine, do as I do.
Be converted into a seed that lets itself be buried.
Let yourself be killed. Do not be afraid.
Those who shun suffering will remain alone.
No one is more alone than the selfish.
But if you give your life out of love for others, as I give mine for all,
you will reap a great harvest.
You will have the deepest satisfaction.
Do not fear death threats; the Lord goes with you

This has been a challenge for me since I first read it over thirty years ago. I want it read at my funeral.


Photo of a photo in an exhibition in the Centro Romero of the UCA, the Jesuit university in San Salvador, El Salvador.


Other posts on Francis:
The Upside-Down world of St. Francis
Francis and encountering Jesus in silence

 

The dying grain of wheat

…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,
it remains just a single grain;
but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Those who love their life lose it,
and those who hate their life in this world
will keep it for eternal life.
John 12: 24-25
NRSV translation

Monseñor Romero and Padre Luis Espinal

Monseñor Romero and Padre Luis Espinal

When I die, I’d like John 12: 20-26 read at my funeral.

Years ago, I came across Archbishop Blessed Oscar Romero’s commentary on this passage, in Fr. James Brockman’s collection of quotations, The Violence of Love:

“Those who, in the biblical phrase,
would save their lives —
that is, those who want to get along,
who don’t want commitments,
who want to stay outside
what demands the involvement of all of us —
they will lose their lives.
What a terrible thing to have lived quite comfortably,
with no suffering, not getting involved in problems,
quite tranquil, quite settled,
with good connections
— politically, economically, socially —
lacking nothing, having everything.
To what good?
They will lose their lives.
But those who for love of Me uproot themselves
and accompany the poor in their suffering
and become incarnated and feel as their own
the pain and the abuse —
they will secure their lives,
because my Father will reward them.”

Brothers and sisters, God’s word calls us to this
today.
Let me tell you with all the conviction I can muster:
it is worthwhile to be a Christian.
To each of us Christ is saying:
“If you want your life and mission
to be fruitful like mine, do as I do.
Be converted into a seed that lets itself be buried.
Let yourself be killed. Do not be afraid.
Those who shun suffering will remain alone.
No one is more alone than the selfish.
But if you give your life out of love for others,
as I give mine for all,
you will reap a great harvest.
You will have the deepest satisfaction.”
Do not fear death threats; the Lord goes with you.

I also want this quote read at my funeral, since it has been central to my understanding of God’s call for me – even before I came to Honduras.

I think it was important for Monseñor Romero who used a shortened version of this in his last homily, on March 24, 1980, moments before he was martyred at the altar as he finished his homily.

Today, I came across another quotation that sheds light on today’s reading, from another Latin American martyr. Fr. Luis Espinal, S.J., was abducted on March 21, 1980, and his tortured and bullet-ridden body was found on the afternoon of March 22. The quote, taken from Margaret Hebblethwaite’s Base Communities is found in Jim Manney, An Ignatian Book of Days:

Losing one’s life means working for others, even though they don’t pay us back. It means doing a favor without it being returned. Losing one’s life means jumping in even when failure is the likely outcome— and doing it without being overly prudent. It means burning bridges for the sake of our neighbor. Losing one’s life should not be accompanied by pompous or dramatic gestures. Life is to be given simply, without fanfare— like a waterfall, like a mother nursing her child, like the humble sweat of the sower of seed.

These two quotes express the challenge of Jesus’ call to be like the grain of wheat. Meditating on this Gospel and the two commentaries of martyrs will be a good discipline for me in these last two weeks of Lent.

The quotation from Romero, from The Violence of Love, is reprinted from www.bruderhof.com. Copyright 2003 by The Bruderhof Foundation, Inc. Used with permission.

A grain of wheat and the witness of Romero

Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground
and dies,
it remains alone.
But if it dies, it produces much fruit.
John 12: 24

The evening he was killed at the altar of the Divine Providence cancer hospital in San Salvador, Monseñor Oscar Romero preached on this theme. Here are a few lines from that homily:

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, 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….

This is the hope that inspires us as Christians. We know that every effort to better society, especially when justice and sin are so ingrained, is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God demands of us…. Of course, we must try to purify these ideals, Christianize them, clothe them with the hope of what lies beyond. That makes them stronger, because it gives us the assurance that all that we cultivate on earth, if we nourish it with Christian hope, will never be a failure. We will find it in a purer form in that kingdom where our merit will be found in the labor that we have done here on earth….

Dear brothers and sisters, let us all view these matters at this historic moment with that hope, that spirit of giving and of sacrifice. Let us all do what we can. We can all do something, at least have a sense of understanding and sympathy….

[I]t is worthwhile to labor, because all those longings for justice, peace, and well-being that we experience on earth become realized for us if we enlighten them with Christian hope. We know that no one can go on forever, but those who have put into their work a sense of very great faith, of love of God, of hope among human beings, find it all results in the splendors of a crown that is the sure reward of those who labor thus, cultivating truth, justice, love, and goodness on earth. Such labor does not remain here below but, purified by God’s Spirit, is harvested for our reward.

The holy Mass, now, this Eucharist, is just such an act of faith. To Christian faith at this moment the voice of diatribe appears changed for the body of the Lord, who offered himself for the redemption of the world, and in this chalice the wine is transformed into the blood that was the price of salvation. 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.

Let us join together, then, intimately in faith and hope at this moment of prayer….

As he finished these words, a shot rang out from the back of the chapel and Monseñor Romero, the voice of the voiceless, was killed instantly. But his death has brought life and inspiration to many – from poor shacks in Central America to churches throughout the world.

His message is a challenge for all of us, to live out our mission as the people of God.

——

Thanks to Whispers in the Loggia for reminding us of this powerful quote from a martyr and saint of our time.