Gospel Reflections

5th Sunday of Lent

John 12:20-33

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Lucy Musembi

Published: March 22, 2015


Lent is a time of preparation for Good Friday and the death of Jesus, and his Resurrection on Easter Sunday. This period is like a journey for us in 40 days of repentance, with prayer, fasting, abstinence, and confession. As our destination draws near, at the end of this journey, we may well have mixed feelings. We look forward to our arrival; we may be uncertain and anxious about the outcome.

As we commemorate the Savior’s Paschal Mystery, the liturgy of this Fifth Sunday anticipates our mood and reassures us. The readings ask us to prepare well for what lies at the end of our journey. In the first reading, Jeremiah tells the people that the Lord will make a new covenant, planting the law within their hearts. As foretold by Jeremiah, the Crucified One will become ‘a source of eternal salvation’ for all who become his followers (Hebrews), and the new covenant will be written in our hearts, and sealed with the Savior’s blood.

Jeremiah draws a picture of the relationship between God and the people: “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel.”  We can ask ourselves how is this relationship going to be different in the future. Jeremiah is prophesying for the people of God an agreement he describes as being unlike the old one “....where I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke....” The new covenant is different “... I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be my people.” The image of a loving God painted in very human terms emerges from this writing by the prophet. The law and covenant that Jeremiah wanted replaced had been handed down from Moses, written on stone, and was to be rewritten in the hearts of the people. As Jeremiah saw, unless the covenant and the law of God are taken to heart, conversion from sin is impossible. Jeremiah acknowledges sin as second nature to the people of God, and the very absence of ‘heart’ in the first covenant explains why obedience to God was never realized, and why the people broke the covenant. Only conversion of heart will lead to an eternal covenant, one that cannot be broken.

Jesus, speaking to the hearts of all people by his message and life, has become the model for that conversion of heart. Jesus has come to redeem us through his life and death on Calvary. It is this sign that will remain inscribed forever in the hearts of people. And as the letter to the Hebrew affirms, through his sufferings, Jesus gains salvation for all who obey him. Today’s Gospel shows Jesus’ public ministry coming to a close. A crowd of people from many different places gather for the Passover. The Jews are upset because people are following Jesus and they plot to kill him. In the opening of this Scripture passage, as we hear about the Greek pilgrims who wanted to ‘see Jesus,’ the readings indicate the kind of death Jesus was to die. These Greeks arriving to worship at Passover go to Philip and say, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” As sincere people with limited access at this feast, they recognize Philip and Andrew as receptive persons and less likely to rebuke them. These Greeks gather enough courage and faith to approach Philip, an intimate friend of Jesus, and ask him to help them see Jesus, about whom they had heard strange stories. Some people say that he is Messiah of Israel; he associates with pagans; his message includes entrance for all peoples into the kingdom of his Father. This may even include them! They heard also the most incredible story that he had raised Lazarus from the dead!

If we picture ourselves as foreigners standing outside the promises of Israel, we hear the mighty things Jesus has done and our bodies ache with a longing to ‘see Jesus.’ As Christians, we search for an encounter with Jesus. Many times we are faced with the usual question: “Do you love Jesus?” or “Do you know Jesus?” Standing today with the Greeks, let each one of us ask ourselves: Why do you want to see him? Today, it seems that this world is falling apart with injustices and the absence of peace, with more brutal deaths in countries faced with terrorist attacks, with poor children languishing in hunger, with sufferings of every kind. There is more bad news every day. Are we seeking Jesus to help us deal with all these sufferings in our world?

In this Gospel, Jesus does not answer directly the request. He says: “The HOUR has come for the Son of man to be glorified.” Now is the time for this one main event for which Jesus has come to earth, to be the Savior of humankind. Jesus teaches his disciples about the way in which he will be glorified by God. Using the grain of wheat, falling into the ground and dying, Jesus says that his dying will bring about a harvest. A voice from heaven speaks and affirms that God welcomes the sacrifice. As we travel this Lenten journey, we are reminded that it is through losing that we gain; unless you die to yourself you will not have life in you. “The one who loves his life will lose it, while the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

In these last weeks of Lent, we can echo the words of the psalmist: “A new heart create for me, O God, put a steadfast spirit within me.”

 

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