* Fifth Sunday of Lent
In today’s gospel for the B cycle of readings some “Greeks” (non-Jews) ask Philip: “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip tells Andrew, and then both go and tell Jesus. You will notice in the reading that Jesus seemingly ignores the request. He talks about the Son of Man having to be glorified, about how the grain of wheat has to die to produce much fruit. Jesus then turns to God the Father in prayer and being willing to face his “hour of suffering” in order to fulfill his mission. In that prayer to the Father, the crowd hears something like thunder, but Jesus hears the Father telling him that what he is doing will bring glory to God. Although Jesus seemingly does not answer the request to “see him,” he is announcing for all time how anyone can truly “see” him—be that grain of wheat that dies so that others might experience great blessing. Like Jesus, we are to face our “hour of suffering” with faith in God. In other words, we will see Jesus whenever that offering of one’s life for others is done.
John’s gospel strongly affirms the full unity of the Word of God (Jesus) with God the Father and the Spirit. But John’s gospel is less concerned with a doctrinal statement about God and more focused on how the action or pattern of Jesus’ death, resurrection and sending of the Spirit is the pattern that will always bring glory to God and healing and salvation to the world. John’s gospel makes it clearer than the others that we cannot separate any of these realities of what we call the “Paschal Mystery.” Whenever he refers to the cross, he talks about being “lifted up.” He does so here and earlier in his talk with Nicodemus which we heard proclaimed last week. But the same word in Greek for “lifted up” is used for the resurrection. Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection are one reality. And then, in John’s gospel, on the day of resurrection, Jesus appears to the disciples and breathes on them, giving them the gift of the Holy Spirit. His day of resurrection is also the day of unleashing the Spirit of God through the disciples out into the world. Resurrection and sending of the Spirit (Pentecost) are also one united reality.
Why is this important theologically? Too often we separate these elements of faith in our thinking. If we are moved to humble awe in contemplating the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross, we are asked to also embrace the hope of resurrection, the new life, that such suffering and death brings. Moreover, we are asked to be vessels for receiving the Spirit of God and bring that new life and hope into the world as we work to change those realities that lead to suffering and death in today’s world. If we are people who have a joyful sense of God’s new life in the Spirit available to all, we are asked to embrace the cross, when necessary, in order that others might receive life through us.
* Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and the Triduum
For those who must still be careful about public gatherings, in addition to the usual 10:00 a.m. Sunday Mass livestream, we will also livestream, via our stregis.org, the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7:00 p.m., Good Friday Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion at 1:00 p.m., and the 7:00 p.m. Holy Saturday Easter Vigil. These three celebrations (collectively called “The Triduum”) are the heart of the covenant that God has brought to fulfillment in Jesus’ death and resurrection. If you have never participated in these celebrations, you will want to be here. If you have in the past but have allowed other obligations to take precedence, please try to re-arrange your schedule.
We lead up to these all-important days by celebrating Palm Sunday next weekend. We bless palms and remember Jesus’ seemingly triumphant procession into Jerusalem. Then we all share in the proclamation of the Passion of Jesus according to Mark. It is an odd juxtaposition, isn’t it—the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, followed by the passion narrative of his suffering and crucifixion? But that captures well the way faith interacts with the world. Too often what the world around us celebrates and declares as “the best life” is really an illusion and quickly fades. The real hope for life comes from trusting in God in the midst of the challenges and sufferings, defeats and disappointments of life. Palm Sunday (technically the Church calls it Passion Sunday) reminds us that, in the end our hope is not in what we accomplish, but in what God is doing.
As you take a palm next weekend and participate in the blessing and gospel readings, place before the Lord all your hopes and dreams that have not come to fruition during this pandemic year. Life can be hard. True change and healing can be slow in coming. Yet, in the midst of that reality, where do we place our trust? Do we give in to despair? Discouraged at times, yes, but never despair. Do we affirm yet again that the crosses that come our way will be shared with the Lord, trusting that God is at work in our lives?