5th Sunday of Lent 2018 – Year B

18 March 2018

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Hebrews 5:7-9
John 12:20-33

Many years ago a famous footballer who had been a legend in his own lifetime agreed to play one final game for charity in another country because of a close friend of his who now lived there. People came from far and wide even at great expense to see him play. They had previously only seen him on television. Many of these people brought their children along and others much younger wanted to be able to say to their own children that they had seen this legend playing.

In the gospel today there are some Greeks who want to see Jesus too, so they go first to Philip and Philip calls on Andrew and both go to Jesus to tell him. The Greeks’ request to Philip was ‘we would like to see Jesus’. They had probably heard all about the miracles of Jesus and the large crowds which followed him. Possibly they were searching for something to give greater meaning to their lives. Maybe their own particular belief system did not satisfy their needs and perhaps Jesus could provide the answer to their desires.

Jesus’ first response is rather strange. He talks about the process of dying. Jesus is saying very clearly that if you want to go to him and follow his ways you must be prepared for something far from easy. Following Jesus is not all about miracles and large crowds. In fact, these would pass very quickly and then following Jesus would involve commitment to his value system and maybe to suffering.

So seeing Jesus is not just like seeing the famous footballer. We may have had a very pleasant and enjoyable time and go home probably feeling very good. To SEE Jesus is not just to look at him as if he were on a stage performing. Those Greeks would not have realised what seeing and meeting Jesus would lead to. To SEE Jesus is to enter totally into his way of thinking, to accept that he had to suffer and die and rise again. Like the grain of wheat, Jesus had to let go of everything, including his own life, in order to bring life to many others. In the process both he and we will be transformed. If we cannot see this as the core of Jesus’ life we have not really seen him. But Jesus goes further and says that we must have the same way of thinking. Anyone who loves or clings to his life will lose it.

Are we ready for what Jesus asks? Are we afraid to follow him closely by taking on his value system which in many circumstances is contrary to the way the world thinks? Is Jesus asking too much? Let us have no doubt. Jesus too was afraid, deeply afraid. Today’s gospel says it clearly – ‘Now my soul is troubled. Father, save me from this hour’. But as the second reading today, The Letter to the Hebrews says ‘he learned to obey through suffering’. This is not an easy experience to go through.

The readings today point out the source of our hope. We are asked to consider the strangest of paradoxes that life itself comes through death. It seems to be a clear from experience that in seeking our own happiness and comfort only we will never find it. But like Jesus, it is in seeking to make others happy and trying to alleviate their sufferings even at a cost to ourselves that happiness comes to ourselves too.

The Letter to the Hebrews and the Gospel both speak of the suffering and death of Jesus and tell us it was very real and very painful. Yet through his death comes our hope for new life. This then is the core of Jesus’ message. To die is to give life. We do this and often are not aware we are following this pattern.

Finally, in today’s gospel in spite of his rejection by his own people Jesus must have been heartened in seeing these Greeks coming to him. He sees in them the fulfillment of his mission. He will now be revealed beyond the borders of Israel.

“Lord Jesus, give us the courage to be life-givers even at the cost of dying to our own self seeking ways”

Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA

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