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On the Grain of Wheat

Taken from Medulla S. Thomae Aquinatis which arranges various short texts from St. Thomas Aquinas' corpus based on the liturgical year. I will be posting the day's meditation each day and will be bringing it into print once I'm through it.

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Saturday after Ash Wednesday

On the Grain of Wheat

Unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone. But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. (John 12:24)

I. It should be noted that we use a grain of wheat either for bread or as a seed. We should understand that the wheat is taken as a seed, and not as the wheat used for bread, for in the latter case it would never grow and bear fruit. He says, die, not because it loses its strength, but because it is then changed into something else: what you sow does not come to life unless it dies (1 Cor 15:36).

Now just as the word of God, so far as it is clothed in a sound that can be heard, is a seed planted in a person’s soul to produce the fruit of good works, the seed is the word of God (Luke 8:11), so the Word of God, clothed in flesh, is a seed sent into the world to bring forth a great harvest; thus it is also compared to a grain of mustard seed (Matt 13:31).

So Christ is saying: I have come as a seed, to bear fruit; and so I truly say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, it remains alone, that is, unless I die, the fruit of the conversion of the gentiles will not follow. He compares himself to a grain of wheat because the reason he came was to refresh and nourish our spirits, which is principally done by bread made from wheat: bread to strengthen man’s heart (Ps 104:15); the bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world (John 6:52).

II. But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit, which is to give the utility of his passion, as if to say: unless this seed falls into the earth by the humiliation of the passion there is no benefit, because it remains alone. But if it die, that is, is put to death and slain by the Jews, it bears much fruit.

First, the fruit of the remission of sin: this is all the fruit, that sin is taken away (Isa 27:9). Truly, this fruit was brought forth by the passion of Christ: for Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God (1 Pet 3:18).

Second, the fruit of the conversion of the gentiles to God: I . . . appointed you, that you should go, and bear fruit; and that your fruit should remain (John 15:16). This fruit, too, was brought forth by the passion of Christ: and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself (John 12:32).

Third, the fruit of glory: the fruit of good labors is renowned (Wis 3:15); he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit unto eternal life (John 4:36). And again, the passion of Christ produced this fruit: we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh (Heb 10:19–20).

(Selections from Ioan.C12.L4)

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