FiFTH SUNDAY OF LENT (B)
18th March 2018
by REV. FR. ALLEN BACLOR ABADINES
GOSPEL: John 12: 20-33
Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. The person who loves their life loses it, and the person who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
“Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.
“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say-‘Father, save me from this hour? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An Angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ.
Story: In a retreat, the Priest was sharing an inspiring story to the children.He said, “A father, his son, and a friend of his son were sailing off the Pacific coast when a fast approaching storm blocked any attempt to get back to shore. The waves were so high that, even though the father was an experienced sailor, he could not keep the boat upright, and the three were swept into the ocean as the boat capsized.
Grabbing a rescue line, the father had to make the most excruciating decision of his life: to which the boy he would throw the other end of the lifeline. He only had seconds to make the decision. The father knew that his son was a good Christian, and he also knew that his son’s friend was not.The agony of a decision could not be matched by the torrent of the waves. As the father yelled out,”I love you, son.” he threw out the lifeline to the son’s friend. By the time the father had pulled the friend back to the capsized boat, his son had disappeared beneath the raging swells into the black of night. His body was never recovered.
The father made that decision because he knew his son would step into eternity with Jesus, and he would not bear the thought of his son’s friend stepping into an eternity without Jesus. Therefore, He sacrificed his son to save the son’s friend.”
One of the children who was listening to the priest said, “Father, that was a nice story but I don’t think it was very realistic for a father to give up his only son’s life in hopes that the other boy would become a Christian. For me, it was unthinkable for a father to sacrifice his son that others may live.”
And the priest said, “That is precisely the point, it is also unthinkable for God to sacrifice his only-begotten son that we might live. But that’s the mystery of God’s love for us.”
And the boy further said to the priest,”And how could the father be so sure that his son’s friend would become a believer of Jesus Christ? And that despite the sacrifice he made, how could the father be so sure that his son’s friend would even manifest his gratitude to him. Isn’t it a risk?”
The priest said,”Yes, indeed a risk…God took that risk when He sent us his Son. Despite the fact that there was no assurance that man will respond back to His love. ” The priest further said to the boy, “And you know my child…I am that son’s friend in the story. If the father of my friend did not choose me, then you won’t have a pastor now speaking to you.”
Today’s Gospel text is like preparing us for our reflection for the Holy Week. The Gospel ushers us into our reflection of the Passion of Christ. It was like we are being invited to stand at the foot of the Cross asking Jesus why do you have to suffer for us? Why did the Father have to sacrifice his only begotten Son for the salvation of all? Who are we to be given such immense importance by God? To answer these questions, Jesus uses the image of a grain of wheat. “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” The grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die so that it can produce fruit. Jesus was talking about his own death. He was talking about the Cross that he had to bear. Jesus’ salvific mission cannot be accomplished without the Cross. Our reflection this Sunday, therefore, should be focused on the Cross of Christ as a symbol and means of salvation.The love of God is manifested in the Cross. In Romans 5:8, it says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This mystery reveals the great love which God has for us. Our Lord Jesus was rejected and crucified by man. But precisely in this rejection on our part that God manifested to us his fidelity and unconditional love. Nothing could stop God from loving us – not even sin. God will never give up on us despite the hardness of our hearts. God will keep on loving us, seeking us, calling us to come to Him, revealing us a God of great mercy. God, in fact, has not sent His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world may be saved through him. Therefore, in today’s Gospel text our Lord Jesus is telling us that his death indeed is necessary to achieve his mission to save us – “if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
However, our Lord Jesus was also talking about our own death. Death is necessary for us to achieve eternal life. He was talking about dying to oneself. “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24) Life, in order to be meaningful, involves sacrifices. When we die to self we realize the value of sacrifice. We set aside our personal wants and desires but we learn to be more kind, generous, accepting and loving of others. Although dying to oneself may not only be about sacrifice, it is more on seeking God’s will. It is motivated by love. When we experience trials, sufferings, and setbacks in life, and if is done as a process of seeking the Lord, then we suffer with meaning. Suffering, as they say, is a way of purification to achieve redemption. We are not to despair and lose hope – for remember “The nightingale always sings sweetest at the darkest hour.”
As we reach the last Sunday of Lent, let us ask God to give us the will and the strength to imitate Christ in his love and sacrifice and that we may always seek God’s holy will. “God, not my will, but thy will be done.