Wheatfield with Crows
Vincent van Gogh
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.
In one of his final paintings, van Gogh depicts a wheat field during the night, with a flock of crows flying overhead. The mood is quite ominous; the moon suggests it is deep night, with the use of dark blues to color the sky. Crows are often symbols for death, as they are scavengers and when one finds a carcass, the rest of the flock will gather. Still, in the midst of the shadows and death, the field of wheat shimmers in gold, and there is a green path through the middle of the painting to the brightness of the moon.
In one of these final teachings in John, Jesus reminds his disciples that true life often requires death to proceed. In his own vocation from God to the world, Jesus recognizes that he must face death before the new life of resurrection can be made manifest.
And this is the promise of Holy Week as we look toward Easter: that even in this midst of the most ominous, deadly moments, the fruit of new life is already beginning to sprout.