Lent 5, 21 March 21
In days, not so long past, this Sunday was known as Passion Sunday and the next Sunday as Palm Sunday but now Palm Sunday has become known as Passion Sunday since it begins Holy Week and commemorated the events of Our Lord`s final week before His Crucifixion and Glorious Resurrection. You will have noted the solemnity and mourning nature of these last two weeks which are made obvious to the eye by the veiling of the crucifixes and statues around the church. This enables us to focus on the Rood, the large crucifix surmounting the chancel screen, with Our Blessed Lord`s Mother and his closest friend St. John the Apostle standing on wither side as he hung on the gibbet of the Cross. We are told that two other Marys were there too but the rest of the apostle – where we they ? fearing their own safety they had disappeared!
We have been preparing. Since Ash Wednesday, for what is being proclaimed to us in these last two Sundays before Our Lord`s crucifixion and, in a special sense, the opening of the reading from St. John`s Gospel chapter 12 verse 20 sets the scene. John writes: `Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. These approached Philip, who came from Bethsaida in Galilee, and put this request to him, `Sir, we should like to see Jesus.` Not surprisingly, Philip went to tell Andrew and both went to tell Jesus and received a rather surprising reply: `Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.`
The foreigners, Greeks, had likely heard of this Jesus for word of his teaching and healing miracles had spread through the populace. Maybe they were Gentiles seeking to learn of the religion of Jews or, less likely, converts to Judaism. Whatever, they wanted to see Jesus and whatever it was that prompted their curiosity it gave Jesus the opportunity to explain to them, and for that matter to us too, that the very purpose of these last days was to show the world that His call is to fulfil the will of His heavenly Father for `Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.` Jesus is telling them that He is to die but uses the picture of a grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying and, then, how it produces a rich harvest. Jesus goes on to say that anyone who serves Him must follow Him. Yes, we too must take up our crosses – there is no ease of life for the ones who follow Jesus for to share in the glory of the Resurrection we have also to share in the Way of the Cross. Indeed, we are closest to Jesus when we are sharing with those who suffer, for that is what He did and He does. We too must share with the broken when we are performing, mostly unrecognized self-sacrificing service and when, like him, we are exercising self-emptying love. `If any one serves me, he(she) must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too. If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him(her)` To continue what He is saying, Jesus tells that His soul his troubled, asking, `What shall I say: Father save me from this hour ? But it was for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name!`
St. John, in his gospel, though he tells of Jesus being betrayed by judas in the Garden of Gethsemane, and of what follows, he does not record how Jesus prayed in the Garden, “Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet not what I want, but what you want.” Peter and James and John were in the garden with Jesus and He had asked them to watch as He prayed but they fell asleep. We learn that from Matthew, Mark and Luke. Even so, it is Joh alone who records this meeting with the Greeks and how Jesus explains the reason that He came to this hour! The voice of the Father is heard by Jesus, whilst others heard what they thought to be a clap of thunder and other said it was angels speaking to Him but the voice said, `I have glorified it and I will glorify it again.` To those around Him Jesus explains: `It was not for m y sake that this voice came, but for your`…. And, after a little more explanation, declared: `And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men (and women) to myself,` thus indicating His coming crucifixion.
In last Sunday`s gospel reading from chapter 3 of St. John`s Gospel we heard of how Jesus had explained to Nicodemus how the Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him.
The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews encapsulates what Jesus was about in that very short passge we heard read to us a little while ago: “Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering, but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation.
Both the gospel reading for today and the comment in the letter to the Hebrews clearly fulfil the prophetic message from Jeremiah 31 and, particularly, those words from verse 34: “No, they will all know me, the lest no less than the greatest – it is the Lord who speaks – since I will forgive their iniquity and never call their sin to mind.”
Well may we cry out daily in prayer, as we prepare for holy Week and Easter those very words which were our response to Psalm 51 this morning: `A pure heart create for me, O God.`