Some of you may remember the famous comedy team Burns & Allen. George Burns & Gracie Allen were on radio and television many decades ago. They're both gone now, but a lot of Gracie Allen's scatterbrain lines still hit home. In one of their skits, Gracie calls a repairman to fix her electric clock. The man arrives, looks at the clock and says, "Lady, there's nothing wrong with your clock. You just don't have it plugged in." To which Gracie matter-of-factly replies, "Oh, I don't want to waste electricity, so I only plug it in when I want to know what time it is! We all know that's not the way an electric clock works. That's not the way our life works either. Plugging ourselves in occasionally isn't enough to make life meaningful and worthwhile.
Most of us are "bargain-hunters" and we like to get something for nothing. But some things, the important things in life, don't come at bargain prices. They are bought only at a great price over a lengthy period of time: raising children, building a marriage, developing a deep faith life. They are bought only by people who consistently give all they have: their time, their energies, their talents. Those who hold back and stand on the sidelines of life, plugging in occasionally, get precisely what they pay for : leftovers, mere fragments of real life.
That's the point of today's Gospel. Jesus declares: "The truth of the matter is, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest." There is no middle ground for that little grain of wheat. Either it risks everything and drops to the ground in harvest hope, or it sits there on the shelf with the other grains, dries up, withers and dies. The only way for the seed to save its life in the long run is to spend all of itself, holding nothing back. Paul reminds us today in his letter to the Hebrews that this is precisely what Jesus does for us : he spends all of himself and holds nothing back.
The same is true for us. If we cling blindly to what we have here and now, we can never become what God calls us to be. We will have no harvest. We will dry up, wither and die. We are created for a rich harvest life, not for shelf life! We are created for the Banquet, not for dry crusts, old crumbs and cold leftovers. Jesus declares in today's Gospel: "Anyone wanting to work for me must follow in my footsteps." Then he adds, "And anyone working for me will be honored by Abba God!" In Jesus we have our model for the harvest life. Giving his all, he invites us to give our all to the task of building a world of peace and justice, compassion and forgiveness : 'God's realm,' he calls it. To do this, we need to bring these gifts to each other just as Jesus brings these gifts to us.
The clock of our lives is constantly plugged into the wall socket, you know, ticking away the hours and days of our lives. Do we plug in too, or do we not?