Chiara Lubich on the Grain of Wheat That Died

Focolare Founder's Meditation on Passion and Death of Christ

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ROME, APRIL 14, 2006 ( Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement, wrote this "Word of Life" for the month of April, on the passion and death of Christ.

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"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" (John 12:24).

More eloquently than any treatise, these words of Jesus reveal the secret of life. A person cannot experience the joy that Jesus gives without having loved suffering. Nor can one experience resurrection without going through death.

In this Word of Life, Jesus refers to himself; he explains the significance of his existence. He said this just a few days before his death. It would be a painful one and full of humiliation. Why did he die, he who proclaimed himself the Life? Why did he suffer, he who was innocent? Why was he slandered, beaten, ridiculed, and nailed to a cross, to die in the most disgraceful way? And, above all, why did he, who lived in constant union with God, feel abandoned by his own Father? Even for him death was fearful, but it had a meaning: the Resurrection.

He had come "to gather into one the dispersed children of God" (John 11:52), to break down every barrier between groups and individuals, to reconcile people who were previously divided, to bring peace, and to build unity. But he had to pay a price: In order "to draw everyone" to himself, he would have to be "lifted up from the earth," on the cross (John 12:32). In this context we find this parable, the most beautiful one in the whole Gospel: "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." Jesus is that grain of wheat.

In this Lenten season, we contemplate him on the cross, the place of his martyrdom and his glory, as a sign of his limitless love. There he gave everything: forgiveness to sinners and heaven to the good thief; he gave his mother; he gave his own body and blood and his very life, to the point of crying out: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46).

Back in 1944 I wrote: "Do you realize that he has given us everything? What more could a God give us, who loves us so much that he seems to forget that he is God?" And he gave us the possibility of becoming children of God. He generated a new people, a new creation.

On the day of Pentecost, the grain of wheat that had fallen to the ground and had died was already blooming into a fruitful plant. Three thousand people, of every ethnicity and nation, became "one heart and soul" (Acts 4:32). Then they became five thousand, and then ...

"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!"

This Word of Life gives meaning to our lives, to our suffering and to our death.

The universal brotherhood we want to live for, the peace and unity that we want to build around us, is merely an illusion, a nice dream, if we are not ready to follow in the same footsteps as our Teacher. How did he manage to produce "much fruit"?

He shared everything that is ours. He took on our sufferings. He joined himself to our darkness, our sadness, our fatigue, and our struggles. He experienced betrayal, solitude, being orphaned. ... In a word, he made himself "one with us," taking upon himself all our burdens.

So we who are in love with this God who becomes our "neighbor," now have a way to tell him that we are infinitely grateful for his immense love; we can live as he lived. And then we, too, become "neighbors" to all those who come in contact with us in life, with a readiness to "be one" with them, to reconcile a division, to share in a suffering, or to resolve a problem, with a love that serves others concretely.

Jesus in his abandonment gave all of himself. In this spirituality that is centered on him, the risen Jesus should shine out fully and our joy should bear witness to him.