5th Sunday Lent
A Homily - B Cycle - 2008-2008


First Reading - Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm - 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15
Second Reading - Hebrews 5:7-9
Gospel - John 12:20-23


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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.

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.

“Sir, We would like to see Jesus” (Jn 12)


The request which the Greeks made to Philip: “Sir, we want to see Jesus,” poses an interesting reflection for each of us.  In all probability, we have not consider asking God to let us literally “see” Jesus.  We know that in his physical body Jesus died, that he rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and now sits “at the right hand of the Father” (Creed).  We fully expect that he will come again in glory; and it is our hopeful expectation that when we die we will go to heaven and “see him as he is”.  So it seems a bit presumptuous that we would ask to have a vision, or apparition, having the intense awareness of Jesus’ physical presence.


To “see Jesus” is not a matter of having 20-20 vision, or of having an imaginative portrait of how we think he looked.  Seeing Jesus is not a matter of apparitions or of heaving voices.  Rather, for us to see Jesus means to experience his presence – encounter him – in persons – both affluent and poor or less fortunate whom we encounter every day.


Most of us have heard, many times, in many years, that we should always try to “see” Jesus in others – persons who are ‘Children of God’ the same as ourselves.  In Mathew’s Gospel, Jesus declared that when we feed the hungry or give drink to the thirsty (actually, or through charitable donations); when we clothe those who have less than we have; when we visit the sick or imprisoned, we are doing these things to himself.  Jesus did not say that we should do these things as a favor to himself.  No!  He said, “When you did it for one my least brethren, you did it ‘to me… when you failed to do it for one of these least brethren, “you did not care for me” (Mt. 25).


It was the experience of Mother Theresa, when she cuddled and cleansed a skin-and-bones child, or a grimy adult on the streets of Calcutta, she was cradling Christ in her arms.  This is also the witness of Mother Theresa’s sisters in Washington, D.C., who see Christ when they feed and nurse the wasting-away bodies of terminally ill AIDS patients.  This is the perspective of those working in ‘Covenant House’ in Hew York who see a reflection of the adolescent Christ-child in the thousands of abused and screwed-up teenagers whom they rescue from the streets and pimps of Manhattan.  Please God, may it be our awareness also as we cook or serve the poor at S.O.M.E. (So Others Might Eat) or at ‘Christ House’ In Alexandria.  May the image and presence of Christ be seen by our parish teenagers who serve in various summer work-camps.


It would be a mistake to try to identify Christ only in the poor and disadvantaged of this world; to see his face only in the countenances of those who are ill or suffering.  The very first book of scripture tells us that God created mankind “in his own image and likeness.”  St. Paul had such a profound grasp of this truth that he exclaimed: “Are you not aware that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit?”  God dwelling in us!  Remarkable!  If you want to see Jesus, look deeply into the persons in your family.  See him reflected in the countenances of your neighbors and the persons you work with.  See Christ in yourself when you gaze into a mirror.


In the remaining two weeks of Lent we acknowledge that our faults and sins have distorted the image of Christ in us.  And so we pray: “Grant to us, O Lord, a heart renewed.  Re-create in us your own spirit, Lord.”  May we encounter your presence each day, and see you in all of our sisters and brothers.  Amen!

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