Homily for the fifth Sunday of Lent - Year B - Jn. 12:20-33


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, 'Sir, we wish to see Jesus.' Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew went with Philip and they told Jesus.


"Jesus answered them, 'The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him. Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify thy name.' Then a voice came from heaven, 'I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.'


"The crowd standing by heard it and said that it had thundered. Others said, 'An angel has spoken to him.' Jesus answered, 'This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.' He said this to show by what death he was to die."





Homily:


"Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, 'Sir, we wish to see Jesus.' Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew went with Philip and they told Jesus."


Today is Passion Sunday. One week before Palm Sunday, the Church wants us to begin preparing to celebrate Christ in his triumph on the day he solemnly entered Jerusalem acclaimed by a great crowd. Already, the Church wants to remind us above all that, if the Passion of Jesus took place and if we must bear our own share of suffering throughout our life, glory and triumph await us in eternal life as they did for Christ. But we know, and it is the Spirit who bears witness to it to our spirit, that eternal life has already begun here on earth, in our temporal and fleeting life: already, we are glorified with the resurrected Christ, and it is because of this triumph and this anticipated glorification that we follow the Savior, bearing courageously, with the help of God's grace, each day's little crosses.


This Sunday's Gospel tells us about something which took place on the very same day as Palm Sunday. It is the great triumph of Jesus! And some Greeks ask to see the Messiah! Jesus will use this opportunity to explain to everyone the true meaning of this solemn demonstration. For nothing is left to chance in the divine enterprise that is the salvation of the world. Everything has its meaning, its significance, but above all its share of Mystery!


"Jesus answered them, 'The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him.' "


Jesus is the Messiah. It is true. But he remains nonetheless a man like all others, except that he does not have the least trace of sin in him. It could not be otherwise: if Jesus were not fully man, he could never have fully saved us. But living his life as a man, Christ is unceasingly instructed by the Spirit who rests upon him in fullness. At no moment of his life, from the time of his conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary, was Jesus ever forsaken or abandoned by He who guides him and instructs him, through the intermediary of the Word, under the Father's benevolent gaze. Throughout his life, Jesus knows, in the Spirit, that one day his hour would come. And now that hour has arrived: "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified." Jesus is sure of it, he knows, for the Spirit told him so, and there is no alternative: "now" is the time!


Jesus then explains what must happen to him, and what must also happen to all who wish to follow him. "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." Jesus wants to give his life for the salvation of the world: to gain a multitude of his brothers and sisters for his Father, he wants to give up his own life, for it is by doing so that he will no longer be alone, and instead, with all his brothers and sisters ressurrected in him, he will form the great Body that is the Church. We too, following in Jesus' footsteps, and with him, in the Spirit, are invited to give our own life to God, in a spiritual sacrifice, in order that the Body of the Church might strengthen itself and grow, ever approaching the perfect unity of all the believers in Jesus Son of God.


In our everyday life, there is no lack of opportunity to be charitable to the people we meet, even if we may find it difficult to put up with them, by strengthening the ties and relations we have with one person or another, thus allowing the Spirit of God to act in the hearts of men for the unity of all. May we be able to say each day, with Saint Paul: "In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church." (Col. 1:24)


" 'Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify thy name.' Then a voice came from heaven, 'I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.' "


Is it easy to bear one's cross each day? Certainly not! The proof: Jesus himself was troubled at the time of his supreme sacrifice. "Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour?" Certainly, Jesus could have avoided undergoing the humiliation of being troubled, and publicly at that. But his Love is so great, his Mercy so overflowing, that he did not hesitate to suffer for us as much as he could. And it was even worse on the evening of Holy Thursday, on the eve of his Passion, when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane: "Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." (Lk. 22:42)


But Jesus, though troubled for a moment, very quickly recovers himself and declares: "For this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify thy name!" And the glorification is not long in coming. Once the sacrifice is achieved, in this case a spiritual sacrifice, the Father glorifies his Son by making his voice heard: "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." This was similar to what took place in the Garden of Gethsemane. After having been tempted with discouragement, Jesus resolutely decides to go to the torment awaiting him: "It is enough; the hour has come; the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand." (Mk. 14:41-42) But in this case it was necessary to wait until the Sunday of the Resurrection to see the glorification of the Son by the Father, in the Spirit.


"The crowd standing by heard it and said that it had thundered. Others said, 'An angel has spoken to him.' Jesus answered, 'This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.' He said this to show by what death he was to die."


"This voice has come for your sake, not for mine." Indeed, Jesus does not need this external help, this sensible consolation: he has in himself the Spirit who powerfully comforts him, for the Spirit is the Power of God. Jesus is and remains all-powerful. Even in the greatest weaknesses of his Passion, when he suffered on the Cross of Calvary, Christ remained master of all and capable of the most extraordinary acts. He even provided the proof of this when, exhausted, completely unable - humanly speaking - of doing anything, he died after crying out in a loud voice, something that only the very Power of God was then capable of allowing him to do: "Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, 'Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!' And having said this He breathed his last." (Lk. 23:46) "And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that he thus breathed his last, he said, 'Truly this man was a son of God!'" (Mk. 15:39) No, if the voice of the Father resounded, it was not for Jesus himself, but rather for us, the members of his mystical Body: Jesus wanted to appear powerless and troubled, in order to better resemble us and thus to be our model.


May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary always accompany us on our way to Easter, to glorification with Christ!