(Because of traffic, preached only at Saint James, Guatemala City)
March 22, 2015, Antigua, Sacatepequez, Guatemala
HOMILY FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT
Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:1-113; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12: 20-3
“Sir, we wish to see Jesus”. This is said to Phillip by some Greeks who have come up to Jerusalem. Phillip tells Andrew, and together they tell Jesus. Who are these Greeks? No doubt they are Greeks from the Eastern Rim of the Mediterranean. Why have they come up to Jerusalem? They come because they wish to celebrate the Passover. We call them God-fearers because they are searching for truth and are attracted to the monotheism of Judaism as well as to its ethical content. The Passover celebrates the liberation of Israel from bondage in Egypt. For Christians the Passover just before the crucifixion of Jesus is the threshold of our liberation from bondage to sin and death.
Why do these Greeks want to see Jesus? Have they heard that he is the Messiah who will free Israel from Roman captivity? Or have they heard that he has worked great miracles or signs as they are called in this Gospel? He has restored the sight of a man blind from birth, and he has revived Lazarus who had been four days dead. It may be that they have heard both versions and wish to satisfy their curiosity. Or it may be that the moment is coming in which the death of Jesus will have portentous meaning for non-Jews as well as Jews. In any case these Greeks admire and love the content of Judaism, although the requirement that converts be circumcised is a stumbling block to the expansion of the Jewish faith. The time is at hand when the Gentiles will be drawn to a new paradigm of this faith. A new Covenant is about to be made manifest.
I think this is what Jesus means when he says to Andrew and Phillip “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” Jesus will be glorified by his death on the cross. That death will lead to life, not only in terms of the resurrection of Jesus himself but in the vanquishing of death and sin. “Very truly, I tell you, 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”. That single grain of wheat will be re-born as a wheat plant, and that plant will bear much fruit. Here again he reiterates what he has said before: “Those who love their life lose it, but those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also”. Jesus appears to understand that his death is the preamble to something much better.
Jesus is not going gladly or lightly to his death. “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say-Father save me from this hour? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour”. If you contrast this with Jesus’ prayers in the garden of Gethsemane, we see in the latter a much greater struggle and reluctance to embrace the Father’s will for him. In this same vein the Epistle reading from the Letter to the Hebrews says: “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission”. I think that the foreknowledge of his coming suffering and death was terrifying for Jesus. He did not go breezily to the cross. Yet he obeyed..
Jesus understands that the world is on the brink of being judged; “Now is the judgement of this world, now the ruler of this world will be driven out”. Jesus sees that what he is about to undergo will have a radical effect on this world. The ruler we can assume easily is Satan, but I think we can say that death can also be considered the ruler, since all are condemned to die. Jesus’ death on the cross will free us from that bondage to death. Finally there is the statement “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to me”. This concept is stated much more strongly in last Sunday’s Gospel, also from the Gospel According to John: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life”. Jesus’ death will make it possible for humanity to be reconciled and reconnected to God. It will open the way for us to eternal life.
“Sir, we wish to see Jesus”. Don´t we all wish to see Jesus? Where are we to see Jesus? I don´t think we see him in representations of his death on the cross, or in sculptures of Jesus on the cross that adorn some churches. Our cross is an empty cross because the resurrection of Jesus is more important to us than his suffering and death. Yes, suffering and death lead to resurrection and eternal life; but these last transcend the first two. So where do we find Jesus? Where do we see him? Jesus tells us where we will find him in Matthew 25;34-41 in the parable of the king and his subjects “And the king will answer them:” “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ This is the face of Jesus in the world, and this is our invitation to honor Jesus in the poor, the humble, the sick, the prisoners. If we wish to see Jesus, this is where we will find him.
I look forward to celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord with you on Easter Sunday, April 5th, in Antigua.
Remember that on Saturday April 11th we will hold a parish meeting to discuss many important items. This will be held beginning at 12:30 at Casa Convento Concepción, and will begin with a potluck meal. An agenda will be supplied sooner rather than later.
May God bless and keep each and every one of you. May your Lenten season be spiritually enriching.