March 21, 2021 Fifth Sunday of Lent

Welcome Father Cyril Today’s Readings: Jer 31:31-34 | Heb 5:7-9 | John 12:20-33

The Gospel of today begins with the desire of the Greeks who were among those who had come to Jerusalem to worship at the feast to meet Jesus. These perhaps were not the Greek-speaking Jews but were gentiles. So they went to Philip, one of the disciples of Jesus, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and requested him to make such visit possible. The scene is much the same as when Jesus called his first disciples and Philip and Andrew were present as connecting link to that event. This also prefigures the church’s future mission to the gentiles. This event took place on Palm Sunday itself, the day of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This welcome of Jesus into the Holy City was so remarkable that the Greeks, who were known as foreigners, who were not living in Palestine, desired to see Jesus. In a similar way we can see our today’s gospel as a preparation for the Palm Sunday, the day when the Lord received a royal welcome. We do this welcome both with our soul and body that is, by praying, at the same time by greeting him with blessed palms, which symbolizes the eternal Victory of Christ in his Church. Jesus responded to them saying that the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. In a real way this is an eschatological moment pointing to the death of Jesus and that was the moment of his glorification. Jesus was aware of everything, for he is not only Man, but he is also, and first, God. Therefore he was very much aware of the closeness of his Passion and his Resurrection immediately afterwards. Jesus was aware of the hour of his glorification of his body which was the gift of his Father to him.

In the Gospel passage of today we have a series of concentrated teachings about the meaning of death of Jesus and the urgency of the hour. The tone is set by the imagery of a grain of wheat. Jesus tells his disciples: “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. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Here Jesus tells us that this is the price of eternal life. The grain, of course, does not actually die but is totally transformed into something completely new: roots, leaves and fruit. Jesus here speaks about his own life which he sacrificed in order to gain new life in the Kingdom. He invites us too to be ready to lose our life for the sake of Jesus in order to gain eternal life. Our soul is immortal, but our body can be separated from our soul and can thus die in order to gain eternal life. Jesus has done so for us by giving his life for us so that we may gain fruit in plenty. The fruit refers to the community of believers that will emerge as a result of his death. A parabolic saying teaches that authentic love of life requires losing it and that the real meaning of life is not to be found in this world. Rather it is to be found in union with God. This attitude and approach that Jesus has towards life and death is to be imitated by his disciples. Death is understood here as a service. It is the giving of one’s life so that life may indeed flourish. In all of this the emphasis is on the meaning of Jesus’ death and not on pain and suffering of dying.

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