Jesus told his disciples:
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, 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. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.
“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”
It is always difficult at the time of death or even a memorial service such as this one to speak about resurrection and life after death. None of us has died and come back to life, and some of the images we use seem inadequate. Today’s gospel, however, gives us some insight.
Whenever I ask people what has happened to their loved ones now that they have died, the answer is always the same statement of faith. Without exception, people believe that their mother, father, sister, brother, friend, whoever, is now living with God in heaven. What does that mean? How do we understand it?
The gospel we just heard uses the image of a seed that falls to the ground and rises to new life. From one perspective the seed never really dies. The life that is contained in the seed is the same life that rises into a flower, a plant or a tree. The form of the life is different. The tree does not look like the seed, and in fact, life in the form of a tree dwarfs the seed. John is trying to tell us, as did St. Paul, that it is the same with us.
In a real sense, we do not die. The life that is contained within our physical bodies here on earth rises to live in a new form in the resurrection. We don’t know what that form is. It is different, but the life is the same. Remember that after Jesus’ resurrection, not one of his closest friends recognized him upon first seeing him. After they realized who he was, however, they were convinced that it was really the same Jesus. His body had changed, but he had not--he continued to live. So it is with each of us and so it is with all those who have died before us. They continue to live, though their bodies are different.
We do not believe that we will be stuck with the body we now have for all eternity. What rises to new life is the person we have become through our existence here on earth. How we will live is a mystery we are content to leave to God. We have already experienced one creation, and God did a pretty good job with it. Why should a new creation, this time not limited by the corruption of earthly life, be so unlikely? We are indeed like the seed. The person, the life we are falls into the ground, but is raised to live in a new form. That is the wonder and the love of God.