Year B: Fifth Sunday of Lent
The Gospel: John 12: 20-33
Although this is only chapter 12, we are approaching the end of John’s Gospel. Jesus is beginning to prepare his disciples for what lies ahead.
In today’s Gospel, we get a hint that Jesus no longer sees his ministry as solely for the Jews. He is increasingly aware that other nations are being attracted to him and to his message - and sees in the interest a sign that the time is coming when he is to be glorified.
Jesus uses a very simple analogy - one familiar to anyone who has grown seed. When we sow a seed, there comes a point where the seed ceases to exist - it becomes soft and collapses as the new life germinates within it. If the same seed had fallen onto a path or onto stony ground, it would have been trodden underfoot - or gradually died from dehydration. Translated into human terms, such a death is meaningless - a life has been lived and has ended.
For many people today, that is the sum total of what they expect from life. they will be born - live - die - and then, that will be the end.
As Christians, we believe that there is more to life - and death. Jesus himself did not relish the path that he was bidden to follow - but how could he ask that he be excused - wasn’t this why he came into the world?
Neither could he ask that his followers be excused that path. But, what we as his followers know is that it isn’t that path to suffering but the path through suffering.
For its own sake, suffering can do as much harm as good. We have met people whose lives have been blighted by suffering - in whom bitterness and resentment have taken hold. The question they will pose is: “Why me?”
On the other hand., we have met people who have allowed their suffering to be tuned into the suffering of Jesus. They have not chosen the pain - but, having encountered it have made a choice: is this to give life or death? In their choice, the physical and emotional pain has not been diminished. Rather, it has been given a different dimension. They have set their pain into the pain of Jesus. It is never an easy choice. Very few of us can make it. But, those who are so able set an example to the rest of us...