Painting by Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975),
Painted in 1967,
Oil on wood
© Smithsonian American Art Museum
If a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it will yield a rich harvest
Jesus said to his disciples:
'I tell you, most solemnly, unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain;
but if it dies,it yields a rich harvest.
Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life.
If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too.
If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.'
Reflection on the Painting
Today's artwork was painted in 1967 in the USA, against a backdrop of abstract art and pop art which took the world by storm. Thomas Hart Benton went against this current and painted these simple yet very powerful American agricultural scenes as protest pieces against the advance of mechanisation and technological innovations. Our painting is thus a social commentary and a celebration of the beauty in nature, and the joys held by traditional methods of farming that were becoming obsolete in the 1960s because of the use of large agricultural machines and harvesters. Our painting illustrates what happens when, as Jesus says in today's reading, a 'grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies, it yields a rich harvest'.
At the very bottom of the painting we see a harvested row of wheat where only the stubble remains. The rest is yet to be harvested. We are all grains of wheat with so much potential to grow and produce food that could nurture the souls of our fellow human beings. However, to achieve this we have to 'die to ourselves'. Easier said than done. Dying to ourselves is hard, but not impossible. Each time we put someone else first, each time we go through hardships, each time we give up a bad habit, each time a relative or friend dies, each time we lovingly help someone by giving something of ourselves, etc… all these moments help us to die and become more and more reliant on God… and that is exactly when new life is emerging.
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Readings related to John 12:24-26
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