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Spirituality of the Readings
The Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 18, 2018
John Foley, SJ

Coming to Pieces

A tiny grain finds itself planted deep in the soil, with its small self tucked into complete darkness. And yet it is fearless. It is sheltered by the tough, safe shell that is its home. The seed belongs there, and it knows it. In quiet. In growth.

Then calamity.  

The shelter turns tight and invading and painful. Our growing seed is shocked. Its protector is opposing it, holding it back. Crushing it. Suddenly, as if planned from all eternity, the husky shell cracks right open.

  “Wait, wait, I need you! You know how I depend on you! Wait!”

Except for one voice from deep within. Push. Push, it whispers. I am with you.
The seed goes to pieces. What is left of it copes somehow, crazily extending a new, thin arm outward and “steady by jerks” slithers its whole self through the cracks in its shell. It has to get out. It dares its way into the rough, cold mud. How foolish and shaming. Stay where safety was, you fool!*

The transforming little self slowly takes on an unexpected new life. It dares a new home now, in, surprisingly, the slippery soil. It moves with caution and upwards it goes.

But there is much in its path, including a huge, unmovable rock. A jagged, rough, uncaring rock, heedless of tiny green shoots.

And so the story ends, doesn't it?

Except that the former seed appears to have will power. It is seeking something—urging itself toward some objective, rooting its way with intuitive ambition.

Fingering along the brutal under-edge of the rock, fearful and with rending pain, and after what seems like years, it achieves the far edge of this gnarly thing and guess what. It starts upward again.

Now there are hard clods to press through, and pebbles aplenty. The higher it goes the more dry the surrounding soil becomes. The top crust of ground, at last achieved, forbids any penetration. It is an ultimate, intractable, stupefying barrier.

And now the story does end.

Except for one voice from deep within. Push. Push, it whispers. I am with you. The young sprout feels around for just a thinnest lesion in the tough upper skin. With a certainty that now is written on its heart, this vine-to-be breaks through to where it was meant to be. In a heaven of light and warmth, bathed in the sun’s astonishing rays, our plant stretches and yawns in the wafting breezes of Spring.

It is just like our own journey, isn’t it? Dark corridors can sometimes seem to be our only life.

But Jesus says, do not worry, child, trust me. “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” (Gospel).

This is the real conclusion to our story, isn't it?

John Foley, SJ

 * For an example of an opposite approach, try this:

Oh I am a chickie who lives in an egg,
But I will not hatch, I will not hatch.
The hens they all cackle, the roosters all beg,
But I will not hatch, I will not hatch.
For I hear all the talk of pollution and war
As the people all shout and the airplanes roar,
So I’m staying in here where it’s safe and it’s warm,

You are invited to email a note to the author of this reflection:

Fr. John Foley, SJ

Fr. John Foley, SJ, is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
Art by Martin Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go