|by Angela (Lambert) Jendro|
March 18th, 2018 5th Sunday of Lent
Gospel of John12:20-33 NAB
Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “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. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me. “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.
Someone may say to you, “[Your Name], I would like to see Jesus.” Imagine that for a moment and take it in. A person looking to you with a hopeful and somewhat anxious expression, addressing you by name, and depending on you to connect them to Christ.
“Why me?” you might say. Yet, in a secular culture void of God, searching souls see Christ from a distance and feel more at a loss to find their way to Him than you may think. Thus, your relationship with Jesus, and their relationship with you, provides the bridge they need.
Yet, to be Christ’s light and love in the world, to be a bridge, demands a serious choice which will decide the trajectory of your whole life. Jesus made this choice, and so must each of His followers.
The choice – to live for yourself or to live for the Lord, to build a life of your own making or to build the kingdom of God.
A grain of wheat, in and of itself, is small and insignificant – enough to feed only a bird. Yet, within it lies tremendous potential – enough to feed human persons. The movement from potential to actuality however begins with death.
If a grain were a conscious soul with a mind and will, it would see before it a decision:
- Go on living as a seed for itself, unchanged and comfortable.
- Surrender itself to the Creator, be broken apart in death and then transformed into something new and quite different from its experience as a seed.
Although the second option sounds scary, to grow and change also entails being lifted up from the ground, becoming tall stalks of wheat, and finally, maturing to the point where it can be picked as harvest for others. The first choice may be easier, but the second adds so much more meaning to its life.
As Jesus’ “Hour” approached, He came to the final crossroads of His decision. He had said Yes to the Father when He agreed to become man at the incarnation, He said No to Satan in the desert when offered the kingdoms of the world without the Cross, and now as His final suffering and death approached He weighed His decision aloud for His disciples to hear and one day follow.
Jesus didn’t want to suffer but He did want to save us. So what was He really to do? Christ’s magnanimous love refused to live for Himself, and so chose the path to the Cross. He chose to die that He might be lifted up – on the Cross and in His Resurrection – and thereby bear fruit that gives all mankind who plucks it life eternal.
As Christ’s disciples, we first must receive life from our Lord who has become our spiritual bread. Under the appearance of wheat bread in the host, He gives His very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity to us in the Eucharist. With this union and grace, we then are asked to allow Him to transform our souls.
He begins by breaking down sin and selfishness. Dying to ourselves marks the first stage of development. Thus prayer, fasting, and almsgiving facilitate this process by putting God first, denying ourselves pleasures, and opening ourselves up to the poor around us.
From this death to self however, which no doubt is painful, emerges transformation. Sin and self at bay, Christ is more free to build virtues within us and to grow authentic Christian love. The process snowballs positively as the greater one loves, the easier sacrifice becomes. In full Christian development, love is so perfected that it, like Christ, can’t bear to choose pleasure or comfort over love of God and neighbor. We experience something of this in human loves between parent and child, spouses, or dear friends. In loving relationships, giving of one’s self or possessions is felt to be an opportunity rather than a burden.
In this fifth week of Lent, you may be feeling the pain of perseverance in the commitments you made Ash Wednesday. However, the more weak you feel on your own, the more reliant you become on Christ and His grace to support you. Have hope, we are past the midpoint! Just as there can be no Easter Sunday without Good Friday, we can’t truly feast until we’ve fasted. The more we enter in to Lent, the more joy we will experience during Easter.
Like Jesus, we might pray to the Father:
|“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.”|
We choose death to self because we desire life in Christ – which we know to be much happier, peaceful, and fulfilling than anything we could construct for ourselves. We don’t die for its own sake but rather to receive greater life.
Jesus teaches, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.” In consequence, as we approach Holy Week we endeavor to be with our Lord wherever He is – at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, at the Cross on Good Friday, waiting in anticipation Holy Saturday, and rejoicing in His Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
If we persevere and remain near to Christ, those near to us can be blessed by His Presence too. Our lived discipleship might drive out the lies of Satan with Christ’s Truth. You can be a witness that Christ brings true happiness to someone disillusioned by the world’s false promises. Your unconditional love can drive out the lie that someone is only as valuable as they are useful. Your forgiveness can drive away the temptation of despair with the truth of mercy.
Christ’s saving love draws everyone to Himself. If we allow ourselves to be conformed to Him, we just might be that bridge to Christ for someone’s salvation, or that stalk of wheat which they pluck to receive our Lord for the first time.
- Meditate on the words, “we would like to see Jesus.” Make this your prayer to the Holy Spirit and spend 5 minutes in silent prayer listening.
- Consider Christ’s gift of self for you. Pray about how you might give more of yourself to Him and to others.
- In what ways does your life witness your faith to others? In what ways do you hide your faith?
- Are you a joyful or a gloomy Christian? Do you greet people with a smile? (one of Mother Teresa’s common suggestions)
- In conversations, does your speech reflect your Christian values or do you participate in gossip or vulgar jokes.
- Do you speak about your church or priest with respect or are you overly critical?
- Do you reach out to persons at work or in your neighborhood who seem to be friendless or having a tough time, or are you too focused on your own life?
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Invite someone to Mass or Bible Study with you this week.
- Pray with someone this week.
- Intentionally greet each person with a smile, even if you don’t feel like it.
- Pray the Stations of the Cross. Meditatively be with Christ at each step.
~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018
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