5th Sunday of Lent – Year B

Jer 31:31-34; Heb 5:7-9; Jn 12:20-33

Dear friends! We see in today’s gospel that among the huge crowds that had come to Jerusalem for the Passover feast were some Greeks. By the time of Jesus the Greeks had become among the most broad-minded people in the world. Various religious and philosophical traditions flourished among them and vied for popularity. It did not take these Greeks long to see that all was not well in Jerusalem. So they came to see Jesus. Why did they come to see Jesus? It is more probable that they came to alert Jesus to the seriousness of the danger surrounding him and to suggest to him to flee with them to Greece, the land of freedom.

The response that Jesus gives to their request shows that it has to do with his impending death and that he has chosen to stay and face it rather than seek a way to escape it. 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.”

Jesus explains to his apostles that it is by his suffering and death that he is bringing life and liberation to the sinful world, just as a grain of wheat sown in the field ceases to remain itself, “just a seed,” by germinating and then growing into a plant which produces many new grains of wheat. In the same way, it is by the self-sacrificial lives of holy men and women that life and salvation come to mankind. In other words, when we “die” to our selfishness, we “rise” to new life in Jesus Christ. To be “buried in the earth” means avoiding sin, accepting suffering and living for others.

One day, a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?” The boy replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going down. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.” “Son,” the man said, “don’t you realized there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!” After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said, “See? I made a difference for that one.” “The Star Thrower” is a classic story of the power within each one of us to make a difference in the lives of others. Today’s gospel challenges us to make a difference in the lives of other people by our sacrificial service to those around us in the family, in the workplace and in a wider society.

When we watch the Olympics, what do we see but young athletes who have made enormous sacrifices over the years? They have sacrificed a normal childhood for countless hours of hard work, pain and solitary training, and they have done it all just for that moment when they would stand on the winner’s platform at the Olympic Games. It all makes me wonder: if we are so willing to sacrifice and even suffer for things which matter for us in our worldly lives, why shouldn’t we do even more for the sake of our spiritual lives? Why should we shy away from the full meaning of what Jesus said in today’s gospel: “If you love your life you will lose it, but if you hate your life in this world, you will gain it for eternal life.”

When we meet with crisis and struggles in life, we may feel like what’s the use? I feel like giving up. I feel depressed. People say, “I just feel devastated.” Others say, “I can’t take the pressures. I’m so depressed. God has abandoned me”. Some quit church. Give up on being a Christian. Give up on the Lord. It’s too hard.

Was Jesus the Son of God free from all struggles? In today’s Gospel Jesus says, “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.” How did Jesus resolve the conflict? In the midst of the struggles within and without He said, “Father, glorify your name!” He is saying, “It’s OK–go ahead with the plan–I’m ready to go. Glorify–bring honor to, magnify, lift up Your Name.” Dear friends! There is one thing that reconciled him to the cross and that is found in John 4:34 when Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”