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April 2006

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. (John 12:24)

More eloquently than a treatise, these words of Jesus reveal the secret of life.

There is no joy of Jesus without suffering loved. There is no resurrection without death Here Jesus is referring to himself, explaining the meaning of his existence.

His death was just days away. It was going to be painful, humiliating. Why should he die, he who had said he was the Life? Why should he suffer, he who was innocent? Why should he be slandered, slapped, ridiculed, nailed to a cross, put to death in the most shameful way? And above all, why should he, who had lived in constant union with God, come to feel forsaken by his Father? Even he was afraid of death; but it had a meaning: the resurrection.

He had come to gather together the scattered children of God, to break down every barrier between individuals and nations, to make brothers and sisters of divided humankind, to bring peace and to build unity. But there was a price to pay: to draw all to himself he had to be raised up from the earth, on the cross. Hence this parable, the most beautiful in the whole of the Gospel:

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.

Jesus is that grain of wheat.

In this Lenten season, we see him raised to the height of the cross, his martyrdom and his glory, the sign of his greatest love. There he gave everything: forgiveness to his executioners, Paradise to the thief, and to us his mother, his body and blood, his life, to the point of crying out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

In 1944 I wrote, “Do you realize he gave us everything? What more could a God give us, that for love it seems he forgets he is God?”

He made it possible for us to become children of God: he generated a new people, a new creation.

On the day of Pentecost the grain of wheat that had fallen into the earth and died was already yielding an abundant harvest: three thousand people, of every race and nation, became ‘one heart and one soul’. Then there were five thousand, then more and more…

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.

This Word of Life gives meaning to our lives, to our suffering, and one day, to our death too. The universal brotherhood for which we want to live, the peace and unity we want to build around us are a vague dream, an idle fancy, if we are not ready to tread the same path as our Teacher. What did he do to “bear much fruit”?

He shared in every aspect of our lot. He took on our sufferings. He made himself darkness, sadness, tiredness, discord… He experienced betrayal, loneliness, being orphaned… In a word, he made himself ‘one with us’, taking upon himself our burdens.

We can do the same. Falling in love with this God who makes himself our ‘neighbour’, we have a way of telling him we are immensely grateful for his infinite love: by living as he lived. And so we too become ‘neighbours’ to those pass by us in our lives, ready to ‘make ourselves one’ with them, to take on the burden of disunity, to share a suffering, to resolve a problem, with a solid, real love that becomes service.

In being forsaken Jesus gave the whole of himself. In a spirituality centred on him, the risen Jesus should shine out fully and our joy bear witness to him.

Chiara Lubich

 

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The Word of Life is published by the Focolare Movement