SEASON OF LENT 2012
Reflection for Fifth Sunday in Lent
(25 March 2012)
(Jer 32: 31-34, Heb 5: 7-9, Jn 12:20-33)
The Greeks had an extraordinary thirst for the truth. They were characteristically seekers of the truth. The Gospel of today shows that the first Greeks went to Jesus in search of the truth. How had these Greeks come to hear of Jesus and to be interested in him? Perhaps it was the behaviour of Jesus at the Temple where he had driven the traders away that had created an enthusiasm among the Greeks. Perhaps they wished to know more of a man who could do things like that. What made Jesus to behave in such a manner in the temple was that He couldn’t bear the exploitation of the poor in the name of His Father. During the Season of lent, let us also cultivate a sense of thirst for the truth and to know Jesus more. Liberation theologians say that the best way to know and experience Jesus is to live Jesus in our lives.
Christian discipleship is not to know about a doctrine of Jesus or to know about Jesus, but to participate in the life of Jesus.
The reading of today manifests the life of Jesus. In John’s Gospel,’ the hour’ is important. The ‘hour’ is the time of redemption and the time of glorification. ‘The hour has come’, began Jesus “when the son of man should be glorified.
The understanding of the title ‘Son of Man’ by Jesus and the people of Israel were different. The term had its origin in Daniel 7:13. The Jews, being a small nation experienced rule by the mighty powers such as Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians who were cruel, savage, sadistic and described only under the imagery of wild beasts. But the people of Israel dreamed of a new power which was to be gentle, human and gracious so that it could be depicted under the symbol not of a beast but of a ‘man’. The Israelites, being a small nation, never imagined that this could be possible by human means and human power; it must come by the direct interventions of God. To the Jews, the ‘Son of Man’ stood for the undefeatable world conqueror sent by God.
We are called upon to reflect on Jesus the ‘Son of Man’ in this background. Jesus says: “The hour has come when the son of Man must be glorified.” Jesus’ understanding of glorification is essentially crucifixion – when “ Son of Man” was mentioned, the people of Israel thought of the conquest of the armies of God: but what Jesus meant was the cross.
Hence, Jesus’ teaching and the life of Jesus consist of three things:
(1) He was saying that only by death comes ‘Life’. The grain of wheat was ineffective and unfruitful so long as it was preserved, as it were, in safety and security. Only when it is buried does it bear fruit. It was by the death of martyrs that the Church grew. Unless we as citizens of Sri Lanka die to our petty interests, we will not be able to bring peace in our country. It is only when a person buries his personal aims and ambitions that he begins to be an instrument of reconciliation and peace. When one says no to one’s personal desire and personal ambition, one becomes a servant of God.
(2) It is only by spending life that we retain it. This appears to be a paradox but one has to realise that Christian life consists of many paradoxes. The man who loves his life is moved by two aims: by selfishness and by the desire for security. Jesus insisted that the man who hoarded his life must ,in the end, lose it and the man who spent his life must, in the end, gain it. We have only to think of what this world would have lost if there had not been men prepared to forget their personal safety, security, selfish gain and selfish advancement. When we don’t spend our lives no doubt we will exist longer but we will never live. As citizens of Sri Lanka, the teachings of Jesus demand from us that a person be ready to deny his desires and ambitions for the sake of establishing peace and unity. Generally it is the children, the women and the poor who are affected by war. There are a few who gain by conflict and war, and those who gain by it must spend their gains for the sake of the poor. It is only by ‘spending’ that a true peace and unity can be established.
(3) Jesus, through his life, taught us that by service comes greatness. The people whom the world remembers with love are the people who serve others. For example, Mother Theresa was a shining example of loving service to humanity. But unfortunately, the modern world considers everything, especially the human beings as an economic unit. In most of the sectors of human advancements be they health, education, social security, humans are perceived as objects of a commercial unit. Many are in business only for their personal gains. They may well become rich but one thing is certain- they will never be loved, and love is the true wealth of life.
We Sri Lankans need to imitate Jesus in our lives and as followers of Jesus, we must have a new view of life namely; that by dying give birth to new life, that by spending life retain it, and that by service only comes greatness.
In Sri Lanka the disciples of Jesus have the great task of establishing a lasting peace and unity and this is possible only through reconciliation. To reconcile, we need to imitate Jesus and imitating Jesus is to die, to spend and to serve.
Rev. Fr. C.G. Jeyakumar