Monday, March 26, 2012

5th Sunday of Lent

The Gospel passage we read at Mass today from St. John, is very full and pregnant with food for thought and reflection as we approach the holiest week of the year. As I reflected on the text I could see glimpses of the entire life of Jesus from the beginning of his public ministry, his death, Resurrection and glorification – a text that can surely help us ‘come to know the Lord’ and put us in touch with what is happening at this stage in his life.

The pilgrims are arriving in Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, including some Greek converts who want to “see Jesus”. This is the desire in the heart of all of us. “I would like to see Jesus”. Jesus responds as He always does throughout the Gospels, and very pointedly in St. John’s Gospel, which always has many layers and levels of meaning, e.g. in response to “where do you dwell?”, Jesus says “come and see”. In response to John the Baptist’s disciples' questions – “are you the one who is to come or are we to look for someone else”? Jesus’ replies “go and tell John all you see and hear – the blind see, the deaf hear – lepers are cleansed and happy the one who does not lose faith in Me”. Here in our text today Jesus’ reply was “Now the hour has come” the kairos time of God for the ‘Son to be glorified’ is at hand. His words or his reply to the questions are never direct, but they are authenticating who He is.

“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. Even the ‘dead grain of wheat yields a rich harvest’. Seeds left in a packet are no good. Plant them, they die, they multiply, they flower and they bear fruit. Jesus observed this principle of life within the natural world, namely, that life is born from death. Until the seed is buried, it remains one, if planted, it will produce many. Jesus saw his own death mirrored in this process of nature. He lived to die and his death meant life for the world. This opens a horizon for us where all our little deaths are understood in a new way. Jesus has gone before us and understands all our struggles and efforts at dying and we are confident that he is with us. We also have the example of Mary and all the saints gone before us who had to die in order to have real life with Christ. Tomorrow we celebrate the transferred feast of the Annunciation and there we see clearly, Mary’s total letting go or dying to her own plans to do God’s will, and Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, murdered in March 1980 at the Altar as he celebrated the Eucharist, wrote just before he died “to each one of us Christ is saying: ”if you want your life and mission to be fruitful like mine, do as I. Be converted into a seed that lets itself be buried. Let yourself be killed. Do not be afraid. Those who shun suffering will remain alone. No one is more alone than the selfish. But if you give your life out of love for others as I give my life for all, you will reap a great harvest”. As the Dalai Lama said “suffering is not overcome by leaving pain behind; suffering is overcome by bearing pain for others”.

Jesus, the Suffering Servant of the Lord is to be exalted and glorified in consequence of His Passion and Death. Jesus will be lifted up from the earth. In St. John, we know this is a twofold, simultaneous lifting up – the physical crucifixion of Jesus on the Cross and Jesus’ glorification. As people gaze in faith on Jesus lifted up in his kenosis ‘He will draw all of them to Himself’ lifting their minds and hearts upwards towards the vision of God and Eternal Life.
Only now in this second last sentence of today's Gospel text is the request of the Greeks and all of us fulfilled – “We want to SEE JESUS” (Jn.12:22).

Prayer – Lord Jesus, your cross is the source of all blessing and the cause of every grace. Your Father glorified your name and you are continually glorified in heaven. Grant me the grace to see that I must lose my life in order to gain your life, blessing and grace. Amen.

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