Saturday, March 28, 2009

Gospel for the 5th Sunday of Lent

From: John 12:20-33

Jesus Foretells His Glorification

[20] Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. [21] So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." [22] Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew went with Philip and they told Jesus. [23] And Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. [24] 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. [25]He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. [26] If any one serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there shall be My servant also; if any one serves Me, the Father will honor him.

[27] "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. [28] Father, glorify thy name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." [29] The crowd standing by heard it and said that it had thundered. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." [30] Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. [31] Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; [32] and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." [33] He said this to show by what death he was to die.

20-23. These "Greeks" approach Philip because seemingly this Apostle, who has a Greek name, must have understood Greek and been able to act as interpreter. If that was the case, then this is a very important moment because it means that people of a non-Jewish culture came in search of Christ: which would make them the firstfruits of the spread of the Christian faith in the hellenic world. This would make it easier to understand our Lord's exclamation in v. 23, about his own glorification, which has to do not only with his being raised up to the right hand of the Father (cf. Phil 2:6-11) but also with his attracting all men to himself (cf. Jn 12:32).

Jesus refers to "the hour" on other occasions also. Sometimes he means the end of the world (cf. Mt 13:32; Jn 5:25); sometimes, as is the case here, it means the moment of Redemption through his death and glorification (cf. Mk 14:41; Jn 2:4; 4:23; 7:30; 8:20; 12:27; 13:1; 17:1).

24-25. There is an apparent paradox here between Christ's humiliation and his glorification. Thus, "it was appropriate that the loftiness of his glorification should be preceded by the lowliness of his passion" (St. Augustine, "In Ioann. Evang.", 51, 8).

This is the same ideas as we find in St. Paul, when he says that Christ humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross, and that therefore God the Father exalted him above all created things (cf. Philippians 2:8-9). This is a lesson and an encouragement to the Christian, who should see every type of suffering and contradiction as a sharing in Christ's cross, which redeems us and exalts us. To be supernaturally effective, a person has to die to himself, forgetting his comfort and shedding his selfishness. "If the grain of wheat does not die, it remains unfruitful. Don't you want to be a grain of wheat, to die through mortification, and to yield a rich harvest? May Jesus bless your wheatfield!" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 199).

26. Our Lord has spoken about his sacrifice being a condition of his entering his glory. And what holds good for the Master applies also to his disciples (cf. Matthew 10:24; Luke 6:40). Jesus wants each of us to be of service to him. It is a mystery of God's plan that he--who is all, who has all and who needs nothing and nobody--should choose to need our help to ensure that his teaching and the salvation wrought by him reaches all men.

"To follow Christ: that is the secret. We must accompany him so closely that we come to live with him, like the first Twelve did; so closely, that we become identified with him. Soon we will be able to say, provided we have not put obstacles in the way of grace, that we have put on, have clothed ourselves with our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Romans 13:14). [...]

"I have distinguished as it were four stages in our effort to identify ourselves with Christ--seeking him, finding him, getting to know him, loving him. It may seem clear to you that you are only at the first stage. Seek him them, hungrily; seek him within yourselves with all your strength. If you act with determination, I am ready to guarantee that you have already found him, and have begun to get to know him and to love him, and to hold your conversation in heaven (cf. Phil 3;20)" ([St] J. Escriva, "Friends of God", 299-300).

27. The thought of the death that awaits him saddens Jesus, and he turns to the Father in a prayer very similar to that of Gethsemane (cf. Mt 26:39; Mk 14:36; Lk 22:42): our Lord, as man, seeks support in the love and power of his Father God, to be strengthened to fulfill his mission. We find this very consoling, for we often feel weak in moments of trial: like Jesus we should seek support in God's strength, for "thou art my rock and my fortress" (Ps 31:4).

28. "Glory" in Sacred Scripture implies God's holiness and power; the "glory of God" dwelt in the sanctuary in the desert and in the temple of Jerusalem (cf. Ex 40:35; 1 Kings 8:11). The voice of the Father saying "I have glorified it and I will glorify it again" is a solemn ratification that the fullness of divinity dwells in Jesus (cf. Col 2:9; Jn 1:14) and that, through his passion, death and resurrection, it will be made patent, in his human nature itself, that Jesus is the Son of God (cf. Mk 15:39).

This episode evokes other occasions--at Christ's baptism (cf. Mt 3:13-17 and par.) and his transfiguration (Mt 17: 1-5 and par.)--when God the Father bears witness to the divinity of Jesus.

31-33. Jesus tells them the results that will flow from his passion and death. "Now is the judgment of this world", that is, of those who persist in serving Satan, the "prince of this world". Although 'world' means the totality of mankind whom Christ comes to save (cf. In 3:16-17), it also often means all that is opposed to God (cf. note on Jn 1:10), which is the sense it has here. On being nailed to the cross, Jesus is the supreme sign of contradiction for all men: those who recognize him as Son of God will be saved (cf Lk 23:39-43); those who reject him will be condemned. Christ crucified is the maximum _expression of the Father's love for us (cf. Jn 3:14-16; Rom 8:32), the sign raised on high which was prefigured in the bronze serpent raised up by Moses in the wilderness (cf. In 3:14; Num 21:9).

Our Lord on the cross, then, is the Judge who will condemn the world (cf. Jn 3:17) and the devil (cf. Jn 16:11); in fact they have provoked their own condemnation by not accepting or believing in God's love. From the Cross the Lord will attract all men to himself, for all will be able to see him there, crucified.

"Christ our Lord was crucified; from the height of the cross he redeemed the world, thereby restoring peace between God and men. Jesus reminds all of us: 'et ego, si exaltatus fuero a terra, omnia traham ad meipsum" (Jn 12:32), and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself'. If you put me at the center of all earthly activities, he is saying, by fulfilling the duty of each moment, in what appears important and what appears unimportant, I will draw everything to myself. My kingdom among you will be a reality!" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 183). Every Christian, following Christ, has to be a flag raised aloft, a light on a lampstand--through prayer and mortification, securely attached to the cross, always and in every situation, a sign to men of the saving love of God the Father.

"Through his Incarnation, through his work at Nazareth and his preaching and miracles in the land of Judea and Galilee, through his death on the Cross, and through his resurrection, Christ is the center of the universe, the firstborn and Lord of all creation.

"Our task as Christians is to proclaim this kingship of Christ, announcing it through what we say and do. Our Lord wants men and women of his own in all walks of life. Some he calls away from society, asking them to give up involvement in the world, so that they remind the rest of us by their example that God exists. To others he entrusts the priestly ministry. But he wants the vast majority to stay right where they are, in all earthly occupations in which they work--the factory, the laboratory, the farm, the trades, the streets of the big cities and the trails of the mountains" ("Ibid.", 105).

32. "I will draw all men to myself". The Latin Vulgate, following important Greek manuscripts, translates this as "omnia", "all things"; the New Vulgate, using equally important and more numerous manuscripts, opts for "omnes", "everyone". There is no compelling reason for adopting one or other reading: in fact, both are theologically correct and neither excludes the other, for Christ attracts all creation to himself, but especially mankind (cf. Rom 8:18-23).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

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