Homily for March 22, 2015: 5th Sunday of Lent: Deacon Dave McGhee

March 22, 2015

Reading 1 Jer 31:31-34

Responsorial Psalm Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15

R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.

Reading 2 Heb 5:7-9

Gospel Jn 12:20-33

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A peculiar thing happens in today’s Gospel.  Some Greek people ask to meet Jesus.  There’s nothing unusual about that since people were asking to see him all the time.  But what IS strange is that when Philip and Andrew come to inform Jesus, he seems to go off into his own little world.  In his “answer” to them, Jesus says things like,  “… the hour has come…,”  and “My souls is troubled now…”  and then he talks about his death. 

He knows that his death will happen soon since all the signs are pointing to it.  People were changing their opinion of him. Their amazement had changed to suspicion. These were not paranoid delusions he was suffering from.  He could see anger and jealousy in their eyes.  He could clearly hear the edge of hate in their words. 

And why … why is this all happening?  Oh, there were several reasons, but the most basic reason of all was that he had been telling the truth.  For three years Jesus had been talking and preaching, calling people to hear the truth about God and the kingdom.  But there were those who thought that they were the experts, and in charge of all things that pertained to God and truth.  Jesus was upsetting their program. 

Most basic of all was the fact that Jesus was being true to himself, and to the message that God, his father, had entrusted to him to give to his people.

Jesus could have avoided the horrible and humiliating ordeal of crucifixion, but it would have meant being untrue to himself.  Could he do that?  Well, he certainly struggled with it.  Practically the entire Gospel today is made up of thoughts that were going through Jesus’ mind.

He made a comparison.  “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat.  But if it dies, it produces much fruit.”

He might have gone on to say, “I’m just like that grain of wheat.  Unless I face this ordeal, I’ll be a failure.  But if I do face it and accept it, I could do a lot of good for a lot of people.”

Jesus went on to say,  “My soul is troubled, but should I ask my Father to save me from this hour?  No, because it was exactly for this ordeal that I came to this hour. “

Meanwhile, Philip and Andrew stood there wondering what Jesus was talking about.  Their lack of understanding and that of his closest followers must have added to the anguish that Jesus felt. 

Now in all that Jesus said and did, he was teaching us.  He was teaching us how to live, how to cope, how to become worthwhile and God fearing, happy people.  So there must be a lesson here for us.  What can we learn?

If Jesus could have talked himself into getting out of this ordeal, this death by crucifixion, he would have gone on living.  He would have been able to get out from under it all.  But what would he have gained by doing it?  What would WE have gained?

Fortunately for us, Jesus chose to accept the brutal humiliation, pain and death of the cross.  He faced it squarely and bought for us salvation from the death of sin.

What is the challenge in all this for us?  I believe each of us often comes to a point in life when we have to make serious, life-changing decisions.  Just as Jesus did, we are forced to look at ourselves, our values, our beliefs and our fears as well.  

We have faith and we have the example of Jesus, yet let’s face it, we don’t always make the best decisions when we compromise our principles, our values and our beliefs.  Even good old St. Peter, Jesus’ most loyal follower felt the pangs of remorse and guilt knowing he had betrayed his friend when he denied knowing Jesus on the night before the crucifixion.

God understands our human weaknesses, yet we have the promise that God will always be with us and give us strength when we face the difficult task of being true to ourselves.

Remember that Jesus was human just like us, but he chose truth.  What do we choose?