Pastoral Sharings: "Fifth Sunday of Lent"

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.  
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Posted for March 22, 2015   

John 12: 20–33
Gospel Summary

Some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover feast say to Philip, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Jesus responds, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” He then says that in order to produce much fruit, a grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die; and only the person who “hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” Those who follow him, Jesus promises, will be where he is, and the Father will honor them.
Jesus, realizing that his “hour” will involve suffering and death, is troubled; yet, he entrusts his life to the Father. Through giving himself to his Father’s will, the world will be judged, and the ruler of this world will be driven out. Jesus then reveals the purpose of the “hour” he is about to enter: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”   

Life Implications    

The incident of the Greeks asking to see Jesus marks a turning point in the fourth gospel. Before, as at the wedding feast at Cana, Jesus had always said that his “hour” had not yet come. Now through the symbolic presence of the Greeks, Jesus will be able to draw everyone to himself—Gentiles as well as Jews, people today as well as people of the first century. We, too, would like to see Jesus.    

One of the most elusive concepts in the entire bible is “glory.” John uses the term to refer to the divine presence manifesting itself in the world, and also to the recognition of that supreme presence by a faithful person. In the hour that has come upon him, how will the Father’s presence manifest itself to Jesus, and how will he honor that divine presence? It is clear from many incidents in the fourth gospel that Jesus loved and enjoyed his human life. He took part in a wedding feast at Cana. At the death of his friend Lazarus, Jesus was moved with the deepest emotions (anger or indignation as well as sorrow). He wept, so much did he love his friend. Now that his “hour” has come, Jesus is troubled at the prospect of losing his life. The Letter to the Hebrews states: “In the days when he was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death….” (Hebrews 5: 7).   

Because human life is so precious, perhaps the deepest human instinct is for its survival. We seek power and possessions to secure it. We seek pleasures to enjoy it. We seek honors to assure ourselves of its worth. Jesus, too, faced the temptation to make the preservation of his own life his supreme value. In prayer, however, he recognized the presence of the Father’s eternal life dwelling in him, and he committed himself to his Father’s will even if it meant he would die. In this the Father glorifies his name by showing us in Jesus that divine life and love overcome death, not only in his beloved Son but in every human being who follows Jesus.   

When Jesus dies on the cross, it appears to be the “hour” when the “ruler of this world” has triumphed once and for all. However, the reality is that Jesus is lifted up not to end his life on the cross, but is lifted up to eternal life in the Father. The good news that John’s gospel proclaims is that now Jesus draws everyone to himself. The Greeks and all who now “see” Jesus and follow him in faith will be where he is, with God.   

The crucial “hour” when one must choose either to love one’s life in this world above everything else, or to love one’s life in God, of course, will come in the particular circumstances of one’s own world. There are immediate implications of that decision. To define one’s ultimate meaning in relation to any reality but God is to live in a state of anxiety because that finite reality, however precious, may pass away at any moment. On the other hand, to define one’s meaning in relation to life in God brings peace beyond understanding. Even though, like Christ, we may experience the deepest emotions at the death of a loved one, or be troubled at the prospect of our own death, the final word is peace. “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16: 33).

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
March 22, 2015

Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B—March 22, 2015
In our Gospel, some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem to worship at Passover asked to see Jesus. When told about this, Jesus announced that His “hour” had come. Why?

Gospel (Read Jn 12:20-33)

St. John tells us that when Jesus was in Jerusalem for His final Passover festival, “some Greeks who had come to worship” desired to see Him. These were non-Jews who were strongly attracted to the God of Israel and so participated in the liturgical feasts at the Temple. They may have been actual converts (meaning they had been circumcised), but, more probably, they were “God-fearers,” Gentiles who tried to keep the Law of Moses and to observe the pious practices of the Jews. We see they approached Philip with their request. He had a Greek name and was from Galilee, so he probably spoke some Greek. These men may have heard stories about Jesus’ miraculous works, especially the raising of Lazarus, recorded in the previous chapter of the Gospel.   When Philip and his brother, Andrew, tell Jesus about the Greeks’ request, He begins speaking about His “hour,” His glory, and His death.

Fifth Sunday of Lent: Our Hours
The days are coming when I will write my law deep within their hearts.  All of them, from the least to the greatest will know that I am their God.

In the first reading, the Prophet Jeremiah spoke about a time when God’s people would be so united to God that they would know within themselves how to serve Him.  That time is now.  God’s law is written deep within each of our hearts.  We don’t need anyone to tell us what we should do.  Deep within ourselves we know if we are true to God or not. Some people will argue with us.  They will say, “It’s OK to get drunk, to try this, to do that.”  They will argue that all the bad things that high school, college and basically people of all ages get into is really normal behavior.  We know that is a lie.  Everything within us, deep within us, tells us that this is a lie. We know that we cannot behave immorally and face our God. So much of what the world tells us to do conflicts with the deep life within us.   We have to recognize that what some call normal behavior is for us Christians, abnormal behavior.

If God so Loves the World, Why is There a Hell?
As the camera pans the crowd at a football game, you see a few fans holding up the sign. It simply says “John 3:16.”

For years, evangelical Protestants have extolled this little bible verse as the heart of the Gospel. In their minds, if you only have a moment to tell people something about the Christian faith, this is the Scripture to quote: “For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son that whosoever believes in him may not die but may have eternal life.”

Ten Reasons Why Christ Conquered Caesar…
I’ve just finished a book I had been wanting to read for some time,The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries.

Stark is a sociologist and with years of research and a sociologist’s tools he asks how a tiny Jewish sect following an executed criminal could possibly have dominated the pagan Roman Empire in just three hundred years. How is it that a rag tag band of disciples could organize a movement that grew so quickly and spread so widely that by the mid 300s it had become the state religion of the Roman Empire?

Try Hard, Love Much
“She tried hard and loved much.”

Not to be morbid, but I hope that can be truthfully put on my tombstone. I’m not planning on dying any time soon, but I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Over the years I have come to realize that a great way to live is to really consider my own death. What is important in life? How could someone sum up what I’ve done in my short time (hopefully 99, give or take, “short” years of course) on this earth? In a busy world of seemingly endless demands and constant choices which must be made almost instantly, what should I strive for most? What, in short, really matters?

You Can’t Have Jesus Without the Church
Of all the many movements within Protestantism, among the most disturbing is the notion that one can have Jesus but does not need the Church. In order for this to be true, one must separate the bridegroom from the bride. This is impossible:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her …. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” [Genesis 2:24]. This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:25, 29-32 RSVCE)

So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder. (Matthew 19:6 RSVCE)

Learning Deep Repentance in Lent
Why do you go to confession anyway?

There’s a first level of repentance which is simply duty. The church says you should go to confession at least once a year. So off you go. You stand in line. You “make your confession” but it’s a superficial grab at some top level sins. Maybe you aren’t even aware of the difference between mortal sin and venial sin, so you trot through a little list. You’re not sure you’ve really done much wrong at all, and you go through the motions.

You’ve not really examined your life or the state of your soul in any depth.

Tolerance Has Its Place, But Also Its Limits – A Brief Consideration of a Widely Misunderstood Virtue
Yesterday we discussed the intolerance of the very radicals who are forever calling for tolerance. A couple of people wrote in to indicate that they consider my stance duplicitous, since I likely support Archbishop Cordeleone’s stance requiring Catholic School teachers to demonstrate loyalty to Catholic teachings and promise not to teach to the contrary in Catholic schools. I do in fact support the good Archbishop. But I do not accept the charge of duplicity.

Why? Because, as I hope to teach, tolerance is a virtue, but it is not an absolute virtue. …more

At Lenten penance service, pope announces Holy Year of Mercy
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis announced an extraordinary jubilee, a Holy Year of Mercy, to highlight the Catholic Church’s “mission to be a witness of mercy.”

“No one can be excluded from God’s mercy,” the pope said March 13, marking the second anniversary of his pontificate by leading a Lenten penance service in St. Peter’s Basilica.

There’s No Middle Ground on the Path to Heaven, Pope Francis Says
VATICAN CITY — It is the saints — not the hypocrites — who carry the Church forward, Pope Francis said Thursday, cautioning that there is no middle ground on the path to heaven.

“Jesus says: ‘Whoever is not with me is against me.’ And there is no compromising. You are either on the path of love or on the path of hypocrisy,” the Pope told attendees of his March 12 daily Mass, held in the Vatican’s St. Martha guesthouse.

When Faith Falls Out of Fashion
In those days, all the princes of Judah, the priests, and the people added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the Lord’s temple, which he consecrated in Jerusalem (2 Chr 36:14).

This is what happens when faith falls out of fashion. The Israelites learned that the hard way. Is there any other way? That’s the only way that I know how to learn.

God, the Life of the Soul
God did not make death. On the contrary, he created the rational soul to dwell in indissoluble union with the human body. When the psalmist sang, “A body hast thou prepared for me”, it was as if he had said to the Creator:

Shadows of Suffering Fade in the Light of Christ
Maurice Ravel’s Pianoforte Concerto for the left hand was written for Austrian pianist, Paul Wittgenstein, who lost his right arm in the 1st World War.

Imagine Wittgenstein’s grief! Music was the center of his world. He grew up in a prominent Viennese household visited by composers such as Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler, and Richard Straus: As a boy, Paul Wittgenstein occasionally played duets with them. He was close to 30 years of age when he lost his arm. It must have been a terrible shock!

Morality, Facts, and Opinions
Even those who do not torture themselves by the daily reading of The New York Times may have heard about the article “Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts” by Justin McBrayer, a philosophy professor who complained about quizzes his son’s second-grade class were given to teach them to distinguish, either/or fashion, between “facts” and “opinions.”

Consider the following list of propositions from worksheet materials McBrayer found on-line:

A Philosopher Takes on Hitler
My Battle Against Hitler: Faith, Truth and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich   –   By Dietrich von Hildebrand

Wow, what a book! You may have thought you’ve read everything about the persecution of Catholics by the Third Reich before and during the Second World War. 

However, you are likely to be surprised by the memoirs of one of the great philosophers of the last century, Dietrich von Hildebrand.

The Grace of a Slow, Painful Death
The list of things reflective of the gradual but now quickening loss of the Catholic mind is long. Among the things demonstrative that Catholics no longer think like Catholics is the often expressed wish, “I hope I die a quick and painless death.”

Death can be scary, for sure, and I resist and avoid pain as much as the next wimp. But for as long as I can remember, a quick, unsuspecting, and painless death is the specter that haunts my dreams. I cannot count how many people I have heard express the wish, “I hope I die in my sleep.” When a Catholic expresses this wish, I shake my head and offer a prayer that their wish will go unfulfilled.

An Act of Love: Stations of the Cross for Priests & Laity
During the Lenten season the Church invites us to spend some time reflecting on Jesus’ journey to Calvary. To do so is an act of love. As we accompany the suffering Eternal High Priest along the Way of the Cross it is most fitting to pray for all priests. The Sacrament of Holy Orders has radically changed them into other Christs for us. This is God’s act of love for us.

Why must we pray for priests? Fr. John Hardon, S.J., compellingly expresses both the urgency and the primacy of praying for priests:

Lent: Choose Your Weapons Wisely – How to fight the battle for our souls — and win
If you knew you had to fight for your life, would you want some time to prepare for that struggle? How would you spend that time? Surely, you would want to spend some of that time choosing suitable weapons and defenses, and you would want to learn how to use them well.

The Family as the Icon of the Holy Trinity
My nephew Tom came home from first grade in anguish. At dinner he could barely keep the tears out of his six year old eyes. When his parents pressed him to find out what was wrong, he replied that “this kid at school says I have a funny name.” His parents glanced at each other, thinking, “‘Tom Shea’ is a funny name?” So summoning their best parental wisdom, they told him to ignore the kid and he would go away.

Of course, this didn’t work. The kid kept it up for another day or two till Tom was really beginning to worry: maybe he did have a funny name.

Finally, Tom’s parents decided it was time to take action. Reasoning that they would have to go talk to his folks, they asked at dinner that night, “What’s the boy’s name, Tom?”

Tom looked at them, blinked his big blue innocent eyes and said, “Farquhar Muckenfussen, Jr.”

Has Confession Been a Part of Your Lenten Journey?
Dioceses around the country encourage people to prepare their hearts for Easter.
“When was the last time you made a confession?” Pope Francis asked during a general audience last year.

“And if much time has passed, do not lose another day. Be courageous, and go to confession!”

Is Reincarnation Biblical?
Recently, I was asked the question: “If Catholics believe in the natural immortality of the human soul, why would you not believe in reincarnation? After all, didn’t Jesus indicate John the Baptist was the reincarnation of the prophet Elijah, in Matthew 17:10-13?”

What is Sloth? It is More Subtle and Devilish Than Mere Laziness
One of the more misunderstood of the cardinal sins is sloth. This is because most see it merely as laziness. But there is more to sloth than that. Let’s take a moment and consider some aspects of the cardinal sin we call sloth.

A Crash Course on the Crusades
The Crusades are one of the most misunderstood events in Western and Church history.  The very word “crusades” conjures negative images in our modern world of bloodthirsty and greedy European nobles embarked on a conquest of peaceful Muslims.  The Crusades are considered by many to be one of the “sins” the Christian Faith has committed against humanity and with the Inquisition are the go-to cudgels for bashing the Church.

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