Gospel Reading: Jn 12:20-33
Vs.20 Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks.
Vs.21 These approached Phillip, who came from Bethsaida in Galilee, and put this request to him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”
Vs.22 Philip went to tell Andrew, and Andrew and Philip together went to tell Jesus.
Vs.23 Jesus replied to them: “Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
Vs.24 I tell you, most solemnly, unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest.
Vs.25 Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life.
Vs.26 If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am my servant will be there too. If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.
Vs.27 Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say: Father save me from this hour. But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour.
Vs.28 Father, glorify your name!” A voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
Vs.29 People standing by, who heard this, said it was a clap of thunder; others said, “It was an angel speaking to him.”
Vs.30 Jesus answered, “It was not for my sake that this voice came, but for yours.
Vs.31 Now sentence is being passed on this world; now the prince of this world is to be overthrown.
Vs.32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to myself.
Vs.33 By these words he indicated the kind of death he would die
Historical Situation : 5th Sunday of Lent Year B John 12: 20-33
As with weeks 3 & 4 the Gospel for the 5th Sunday of Lent is taken from St John.
The spirituality of Jesus – the kind of person he was deep down – is seen in action in this gospel in his reflection on “the hour”- the hour of crisis which he trusts will lead to resurrection – a crucial moment in the life of Jesus. The hour is a frightening and vulnerable time but we are able to witness his greatness in the way he lived through it.
Where did this take place? In John’s gospel Jesus made three visits to Jerusalem for Passover celebrations. This passage is an account of what happened on his third and final visit.
When did this take place? This took place in the days before his arrest and execution. Hostility and opposition to him has increased. He knows his death is imminent. “The hour has come ” – this is the critical moment in his whole life journey. God’s loving graciousness had already been revealed in the life of Jesus. He trusts that his death will be the fullest manifestation of this.
Who was there? The Greeks – they were converts to Judaism who came from Bethsaida, a cosmopolitan town on the Sea of Galilee at the entrance to the River Jordan. They had heard about Jesus and wanted to see him for themselves. Philip- Philip was a Greek name and presumably he spoke Greek and because of this the Greeks approached him with their request. Andrew: Peter’s brother and like Philip one of Jesus’ close disciples. Philip and Andrew had a role to play – it was to bring the Greeks to Jesus, then they disappeared off the scene. Jesus – approaching the moment when his love for humanity, learnt from the father would express itself totally.
What happened? V20-22: the Greeks come to Philip with humility – “Sir” – their request is a beautiful, humble prayer -“we would like to see Jesus”
V23: the moment when Jesus recognizes that “the hour has come”. He is fully conscious that he is in a crisis moment.
V24-26: Jesus presents us with a parable, a law of life, followed by two abstract teachings that apply the parable. ” unless a grain ” – this parable gives a truth about life – a human life that dies to itself (self interest or unbridled ego) and gives itself away will yield a rich harvest, whereas as to remain a “single grain”(caught up in oneself and one’s own interests) refers to a failure to realize one’s true potential. What might have been!!
V25: is the abstract teaching that ties down the parable. Loving your life in this world means your present position – lifestyle, security, popularity- anyone prepared to let go of this and take risks will have a deeper and more fulfilling life “eternal life”. If we love just where we’re at, we lose what might have been, a greater realization of our potential. “Hates his life” – hate in the Bible means prepared to sacrifice for the sake of something else.
V26: “follow me” to follow him is to opt for discipleship- “my servant”: those who follow his way of self-giving love will experience something of his inner strength and peace.
V27-28: there is no mention of the “agony in the garden” in John’s Gospel. But here we have the same journey expressed in John’s language: Jesus before “his hour” – my soul is troubled; Jesus hesitant, vulnerable and afraid and then coming to the realization that this is the moment he was preparing for all his life.
V28: “glorify your name”- go ahead, carry out your plan – not my will but thine be done. It’s the same journey, a journey to a place where he accepts that God is in charge.
V29: “a clap of thunder” – in the bible thunder was traditionally accompanied by a revelation of God. “An angel speaking to him” – a messenger from God.
V30: “Jesus answered” : here Jesus comforts and encourages – “not for my sake …but for yours”.
V31-33: 3 deep and beautiful sayings: “Now sentence is being passed …now the prince of this world is to be overthrown” – the prince is the embodiment of evil and evil will be conquered not by threats or propaganda or other aggressive and violent ways. It will be overthrown by truth and fidelity. “And when I am lifted up…” – It is enough for Jesus to be “lifted up” in order to overcome evil. He is “ lifted up” in vulnerability but also in strength. The witness of his life with its inner strength and trust and the same courageous way he died, loving to the end, drew people to him. No evil could ever eclipse the love in his heart
Guidelines for Meditation.
Can we remember a time when we had heard quite a lot about “someone” or some “activity”, and the positive impact these were having on people, and we just felt it was time to time to experience this for ourselves and to make up our own minds – “Sir, we would like to see Jesus?”
Can we remember a difficult experience in life, which has taught us an important lesson: that in life we have to let go of certain things, painful and all as it is at the time, – “the grain of wheat has to fall to the ground and die” – in order to fulfil our potential and “yield a rich harvest”?
Can we remember an experience of “the hour” in life – a time of crises which we or somebody close to us had to face-
A pregnant woman at the onset of labour;
A student on the day before a major exam;
A patient about to undergo potentially life-saving surgery.
A person face to face with death.
And while there was much fear and apprehension “My soul is troubled..save me from this hour,” we just knew that this was what we had been preparing for, “that it was for this very reason we had come to this hour,” and we said yes to it with courage and strength?
Can we remember an experience that brought home to us that the most important gift we can give to others is the example of our own lives – living in love and dying in love? In this way we can show others how the “prince of this world” – darkness, sickness, betrayal, rejection, failure, even death itself “can be overthrown”.
Can we remember an experience of seeing someone “lifted up” in suffering, and in the same moment “lifted up” in inner strength, courage, dignity, and peace and they had a profound impact on us and on others “when I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all men to myself”?