NO SHORTCUTS – 18TH March 1028 – 5th Sunday Of Lent (B)

Jer 31:31-34; Heb 5:7-9; Jn 12:20-33
Paul Yeung

It is human nature to look for shortcuts, seeking for an easy path especially when we go through suffering.  Yet, we all know that suffering and death are part of life, something we need to accept and embrace with love and courage, instead of to avoid with denial or fear.  However, the trend of this world is to attempt to avoid suffering and pain at all cost, increasingly in the name of compassion.

As can be witnessed during natural disasters, compassionate love is often expressed and made complete through suffering. It brings out the noble face of humanity which is a reflection of God’s image. People in many countries are advocating for euthanasia in the name of compassion.  But real compassion requires real companionship, like what Mother Mary did for Jesus during His Passion, sharing His suffering. They both know that there is a purpose for His Passion.  And Jesus willingly goes through all sufferings and offers up His life to bring about salvation for all.

“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.”   (John 12:24)

Through His Passion, Jesus has shown us the way to follow God’s will and to embrace our own passion and that of our loved ones.  Like the dying of the grain of wheat and the pruning of the branches which are necessary passages to new life, the afflictions we experience in this life are necessary passages to attain holiness, preparing ourselves for eternal life. The fruits will be plentiful as we die to ourselves through which we are sanctified and God glorified. Seeking shortcuts will not only strip away true human dignity and the expression of real compassionate love, but will also deprive ourselves and our loved ones of the opportunity to blossom and bear great fruits of life.

Not easy to get along with God

Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications, Macau

Some Greeks were among the pilgrims who came to Jerusalem for the Passover. They had learned from their fathers to worship idols. As soon as they discovered the God of Israel, they embraced the Jewish religion. Their spiritual restlessness is revealed by the need they felt to see Jesus.

This is not a trivial curiosity, a little frivolous desire to meet the star of the moment, to know him whom everyone is looking for because he has resuscitated Lazarus (Jn 12:9). Their desire to see Jesus meant to have an experience of him. The Greeks do not go directly to Jesus. They go through Philip and Andrew. (Remember, their names are Greek). It is only by going through the community/disciples that one can come to Christ. The Greeks who want to see Jesus represent the Gentiles. Their spiritual journey is the same as what every person, eager to become a disciple, must fulfill.

We do not know if they were then led to Jesus or not; the story is not concluded. Their presence served as a ploy to prepare the ground to the topic that he wants to develop. His aim is to show Jesus to his readers, then a discourse begins where Jesus makes himself really seen (vv. 23-32), showing his true face.

He begins with an image taken from the agricultural world. For the precious ears to germinate in the field, it is necessary that the grains disappear in the earth. A hundredfold life can bloom only after their death. 

The application is dramatic: it is about choosing to live or die. Jesus makes his bewildering, absurd proposal: the only fully realized life is the one consumed by love. He offers his own life for others. This sacrifice is an antithesis of the Greek philosophy which considers becoming an aristocrat, a prestigious and famous person as the ultimate glory of life (and now we understand why John has staged the Greeks).

Jesus believes this ideal of life a foolish proposal, and had rejected the diabolic suggestion for glory in the desert, “All this I will give you, if you kneel down and worship me” (Mt 4:8-9). Jesus explains to the Greeks the true glory: to fall into the ground and die in order to bear much fruit.

There is no need to have known Jesus physically to see him. Anyone can contemplate his true face, the one that, through today’s gospel, he shows, a face “many have been horrified at his disfigured appearance” (Is 52:13); “He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows familiar with grief, a man from whom people hide their face, spurned and considered of no account” (Is 53:3).

Anyone seeking to believe in Christ requires to commit himself totally. His proposal is “a great scandal for the Jews and nonsense for the Greeks” (1 Cor 1:22), but only one who, like him, dies for the brothers and sisters, is a successful person according to God.

Translated by Fr John Ladesma SDB
Abridged by Fr Jijo Kandamkulathy CMF

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