5th Sunday of Lent, Year B
Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15
March 18, 2018
When Mary came to Jesus at the wedding feast in Cana to ask him to help, his response was “My hour has not yet come.” Now, some three years later, some Greeks came to see Jesus. When Jesus hears this, his response this time is “The hour has come.”
The “hour” has come for what? Jesus continues, “for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Of course, “the Son of Man” is a reference to Jesus. How is he glorified? By being lifted up on the Cross.
How is being lifted up on a cross a way of being “glorified”? Crucifixion was considered to be the worst and most humiliating form of execution. His life was taken from him, or was it?
Jesus’ life was not taken from him. He freely gave it up in obedience to his Father. Jesus knew “it was for this purpose” that he came “to this hour.” Jesus came because, as we heard last week, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” Jesus came to die for our sins so that we might have eternal life.
While he knew it was his purpose, it was not easy. As Hebrews tells us, Jesus “offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears.” Jesus prayed in agony in the garden knowing what was to come. He suffered greatly as he was mocked, beaten, and crucified.
As he did this, “he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” In accepting this suffering in obedience to his Father, he showed us the value of “obedience” and “suffering.”
He showed us that life comes from death.
In strictly human terms, this makes no sense. How can life come from death? Here Jesus says, “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.”
A seed must give up its existence as a seed to bear fruit, to realize its full potential. In the same way, a caterpillar must enter a cocoon to begin the next stage of its life as a butterfly. A caterpillar crawls around on the ground but a butterfly can fly.
We need to be willing to let go of the things of this world to receive eternal life. We need to let go of our attachments, not just possessions, but everything like our favorite activities.
We need to let go of everything to become all that God calls us to be. It’s not enough just to fit God into our schedule once in a while.
Some people say they don’t come to church much because they don’t get much out of it. Sometimes we don’t get much out of church because we don’t understand what we do or why we do it. That’s why we need to be willing to put some effort into learning about what we do and why. Why do we genuflect? How are the readings selected? What does the color of the vestments represent? (You can find some of these answers in my article “The Roman Catholic Mass Explained”).
I said before it isn’t enough to come to church once in a while. When we are tempted to come less because we don’t get much out of it, what we actually need to do is come more often. Yet, it isn’t about the tabulating the number of hours we spend in church. It’s about giving our whole life to Jesus. After all, that is what Jesus did for us on the Cross. He gained nothing by his Crucifixion but through his suffering and Crucifixion we get eternal life.
In his pastoral letter calling for our current Year of the Eucharist that continues until June, Bishop Matano spoke of our obligation to attend Mass each week (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2181) except for serious reason such as illness or the care of infants (I’ll add deep snow). We need to put God first in our lives.
To get more out of coming to Mass, we need to realize it isn’t all about “me.” The first purpose of Mass is to praise God. In doing so, through the prayers, readings, and the Eucharist, we open ourselves to all that God offers us.
This can require a little preparation time. Are you able to get here before Mass and offer a prayer to open yourself to God’s action in your life? How quickly do you leave at the end (or even before the end)?
How about the rest of the week? Do you give God time each day to keep yourself aware of his loving presence?
Are you willing to give up the things and activities of this world to know Jesus in the next?
this world to know Jesus in the next?