Lectionary Reflection: Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year B

“O God, make me productive grain, efficient grain, effective grain. Jesus, make me a grain of wheat so that I can reach your Eucharistic reality, by which I really and truly live.”

Prayer of Bl. Carlo Acutis

Lectionary Readings: Jer 31:31-34 / Ps 51 / Heb 5:7-9 / Jn 12:20-33

Who do we want to live for? I think these are questions that have been scattered throughout the themes of Lent this year, particularly with this year’s Lectionary cycle. The First Sunday of Lent, we hear the call to “repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mk 1:15) On the Second Sunday of Lent, we read of the transfiguration of our Lord, a sign of the Divinity of Christ was revealed. The Sunday after, we read of the cleansing of the temple and we pondered upon the notion of the Temple, as a place of Worship, the Lord’s dwelling, not meant for profanity. Last week, we read of Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus and are reminded of God’s eternal love for every one of us.

This Fifth Sunday of Lent, we enter into a more critical stage of Lent, the week before Holy Week. Prior to the reforms of the liturgy in the 1960s and 70s, this Sunday marked a time period known as Passiontide. With Evening Prayer I of the Fifth Sunday of Lent, statues and sacred images were veiled with violet cloth, only to be unveiled at the Easter Vigil. The practice of veiling statues and images is now optional. However, we see a shift in the tone of today’s Gospel. The past weeks, we discovered who this man named Jesus really is: True God and true Man, and heard the call to repent and believe in the Gospel. Now, the question posed is, “Do we want to follow Him and imitate Him?”

The Gospel today poses an image of the grain of wheat is a humble but powerful image – “…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.” (Jn 12:24) Take a moment and reflect on that verse.

Let us speak of this verse in the context of Jesus as He Himself lived up to this. Jesus is the grain of wheat, the innocent lamb, who dies, takes upon Himself all the sins of the world so to bear fruit, and that fruit we can freely accept, and that is eternal life. Jesus asks nothing of us in return for this great act of selflessness because it is our choice as to whether or not accept it.

Now, we speak about ourselves in the setting of today’s Gospel. Are we willing to be a grain of wheat that dies so that others will be able to benefit? I think that is question worth asking. How often are we willing to give up of ourselves for the benefit of another person? Perhaps sometimes we make excuses, “I’m busy,” or “I have XYZ,” or we think we have everything we need. We make these excuses, but sometimes we look back and see that what we do is so self-centred, everything is so, “me, me, me,” or rather, egoistic. We take a look at ourselves and ask, “How have I freely given of myself to God?”

To freely give ourselves to God is to be free of our ego. It is only then can we instil in ourselves a sense of true humility and therefore, become a grain of wheat that dies, but bears fruit, fruit that would become bread for the hungry.

The prayer of Bl. Carlo Acutis is so beautiful. When I came across it in Mgsr. Figuidero’s newest book, Blessed Carlo Acutis: 5 Steps to Being a Saint, I noted it and copied into my personal prayer notebook. It is hard to imagine a teenager praying that, but that was Carlo’s reality that he strived for. “O God, make me productive grain, efficient grain, effective grain.” To become productive, efficient and effective grain, means that one gives wholly of themselves, not partial, but their best efforts. You give someone a birthday cake, you never give them half a cake – that would be absurd. Same with out efforts: when you give, you give until the end – no room for partial effort because partial effort indicates that one still has something within them that they cannot yet let go. It is only when we give wholly of our efforts, of ourselves will we able to be “productive, efficient and effective grain.” In doing so, you put in your part, and surrendering yourself so that God may work through you.

“… so that I can reach your Eucharistic reality.” I really love this line and spent much time pondering the term, “Eucharistic reality.” When we are able to grasp what it means to be “productive, efficient and effective grain,” we come to truly understand who Jesus is. In less than two weeks, when we celebrate the Paschal Triduum, this is what we celebrate – a “Eucharistic reality” – Jesus Christ, in the upper room, instituting the Eucharistic sacrifice, which is not merely bread and wine, but a gift of Himself, a gift that would be fulfilled through His sacrifice on the cross for the salvation of all. Here, we see that the “Eucharistic reality,” is a total selfless, outward and impartial love, no matter how deserving or undeserving one is, because the “Eucharistic reality,” is nothing but GOD. The God that we worship is this “Eucharistic reality,” the God all powerful, almighty who over 2000 years ago came here on earth, and dwelt here on earth, is “God-with-us,” so to freely give of Himself.

We are called to strive to become this “productive, efficient and effective grain,” and this conforming ourselves to this “Eucharistic reality.” By striving and committing to do so, our celebration of the Paschal Mysteries will become deeper with meaning as we partake in and indeed live in this “Eucharistic reality.”

“O God, make me productive grain, efficient grain, effective grain. Jesus, make me a grain of wheat so that I can reach your Eucharistic reality, by which I really and truly live.” Amen.

About Vincent Pham

Vincent is a humanities student of the University of Toronto’s Trinity College of the Faculty of Arts and Science. He hopes to pursue a double major in Ethics, Law and Society, and Philosophy.
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