Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

5th SUNDAY OF LENT: THE HOUR OF THE SON OF MAN COMES

Jn 12: 20-33


IN THESE LAST two weeks of Lent, the readings draw our eyes to the Crucified One, with a focus on what God has done for us. The promise of the new covenant embodies Jeremiah’s spiritual testament to an exiled people: that even though they have sinned in the past, the LORD says, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” It will be written on the hearts of the people, and their acceptance will not be taught but will arise from their deep experience of forgiveness, for the Lord “will forgive their evil doing and remember their sin no more.” Today’s Gospel concludes John’s presentation of the public ministry of Jesus and provides the bridge to the story of his final days.

Let us go over once again the important moments in the gospel:

Firstly, 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. Jesus has a pretty good track record up to this point. He has cleansed the temple, turned water into wine, fed the 5000, given sight to the blind, and raised Lazarus from the dead.

Possibly the Greeks 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. And, thus, they wanted to see Jesus. We shall also ask ourselves: Do we want also to see Jesus? Surely, we want to see Him. When we go to Rome or the Vatican, our wish is to see the Pope. How much more for Jesus. We have a longing to see Him.

Secondly, the response of Jesus is rather strange. He says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” Jesus talks about the process of dying. Jesus points to the mystery of the grain of wheat, which after lying dead in the soil now springs up throughout the land to sustain life. Jesus is the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies, and in dying, yields a harvest of life. Like the grain of wheat, Jesus had to let go of everything, including his own life, in order to bring life to many others.

Going back to the request of the Greeks, we now say that to see Jesus is to see Him in His death. Certainly, the Greeks want to see something good in Jesus, and something they find comfortable with. But the response of Jesus is something different. The Greeks were instead invited by Jesus to see Him in His death, something they might not be comfortable with. And we are not also comfortable with it. Death is something we don’t want to talk about. We acknowledge death when it happens, but we do not talk about death with any real depth. We don’t deal with it and we avoid it because we don’t want to die. Death is something scary. In contrast, Jesus talks openly about His death. His death has a meaning, His death is meaningful to us.

Thirdly, this dying and rising provides a paradigm for discipleship. Jesus says, “Whoever loves his life will lose it, and whoever hates it will gain eternal life.” In the gospel of John, ‘loving life’ does not refer to the proper sense of joy that one should have as a graced person; rather, it means a preference for ‘the world’ that can blind a person to God’s love. While ‘hatred of one’s life,’ means rejection of the claims of the ‘world’ and the willingness to serve and follow Jesus. This becomes clear in the saying that followed, ‘whoever serves me, must follow me.”

Jesus says explicitly that if we want to go to Him and follow His ways, we must be prepared for the difficulties resulting to that decision. Following Jesus is not all about miracles. Following Jesus involves commitment to the values of the kingdom, and that includes, embracing of suffering.

The Gospel speaks of the suffering and death of Jesus and it was 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 have also seen this in the lives of heroes and saints. Like, for instance, a week ago we have heard an announcement from the Vatican that Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador is on the road to sainthood. For the Salvadorans, the death of Abp. Romero had given hope to the broken country. And until now, he remains a beacon of hope. Indeed, to die is to give life. AMEN.


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