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Fifth Sunday of Lent

Donna MacIntyre

As I reflect on John’s Gospel, I am vividly aware of the cold, strong wind blowing the snow outside amidst another Maritime winter storm, while simultaneously sensing the warmth of love in this gospel reading along with all of its complexity.  I remind myself that all the gospels are rooted in the words and actions of Jesus of Nazareth and portray his interactions and ministry while living among the disciples and others. This reading today is poignant as it comes six days before Jesus is going to die, the final week of his human life in Jerusalem. It is Passover time and people have come from all over the world to the city of Jerusalem. Two Greeks have “come to see Jesus”.  Did they hear of his miracles? Maybe they want to be his followers?  When the apostles approached Jesus to tell him the Greeks wanted to see him, Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (12-23). Jesus wanted the apostles to know that the Greeks coming signified that the hour had come for him to be crucified.  Is Jesus’s death his glory and our salvation? Jesus death on the cross certainly demonstrates the immensity of his love for us and his father.  “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." (12:32). Thus, Jesus explains the mystery of his death and how to live out our baptism. Jesus is for all people, the Jews and the Greeks, no one is excluded from this invitation to follow Jesus.  Catherine of Sienna in the 14th century said this so well “what draws us to Christ is love.” (Unknown source).

And then Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The person who loves his life will lose it, while the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.  My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (12:25-27).

In this passage, Jesus compares his life and ours with a grain of wheat. If the grain falls into the earth and dies, it then rises as a stalk of wheat that gives life by feeding others. Like the grain of wheat, we must be willing to lose our lives in order to gain eternal life.” In this gospel story, to lose our life may mean the setting aside of our attachments to anything or anyone that gets in the way of us following Jesus.  How do we follow Jesus? Not in laying down of one’s whole life in dying, but in the many little acts of daily giving, giving up our life in the moment for the love of others.

St. Francis of Assisi knew Jesus message when he said, “It is in giving that we receive; it is in dying that we are born again." Can we love as God loves? Can we deny ourselves and follow Jesus in love and service to others?  Can we see his cross and carry our own cross?  Can we be present with someone’s pain and suffering and see Jesus? Can we see Jesus while looking in the face of a laughing or crying child or in the face of the blind Golden Retriever, a rescue dog or in the face of a Sudanese refugee, a grieving parent? Our opportunities for love are endless…

What happens to us when we become a disciple –the inner meaning of all we do is changed. God calls us to love everyone with the love of Christ.  “Jesus gives us the gift of the holy spirit to draw others to him. God's gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost made it possible for us to fully express God's message of love.”

May you be blessed and touched with God’s grace and may the word of God become real to you by faith, like our Saints: 

St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, Mother Teresa, St. Francis of Assisi and our present day “Pope Francis”  are four models of what it means to follow Jesus with all one’s heart and strength, trusting and realizing that Jesus lives and acts through us.  

Marguerite’s Spirituality as written by Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in Celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life (January 2015)… a  living legacy of John’s gospel message for this 5th Sunday of Lent.

Just a year before St. Marguerite Bourgeoys death, she wrote, “It is true that what I have always wanted most, and most ardently desire, is for the great teaching of the love of God above all things and the love of one’s neighbour as one would be loved, to be engraved on all hearts.”

She wanted for her CND community, “the true spirit of hospitality and love which was the glory of the first Christians,” when they “were of one heart and mind in God,” and “held everything in common.”

The author goes on to state, “Marguerite expressed in New France the spirituality that had nourished her in Troyes, honouring in a particular way the visitation of Mary.”  “She sought to be a disciple of Jesus in the same way Mary was …..” “Mary never refused to be present where love or need required a helping hand. She did it in such a way that the poverty and humility that she professed were available to everyone.”

A historian of Hôtel-Dieu Hospital wrote that Marguerite had “the character of the strong women of the Gospel”. She wrote that she wanted her community to follow Jesus in “the straight and narrow way, poor and humble … because the more fearlessly I followed him, the more he protected me; the more I do his will, the more he shows me his love.” In the face of great spiritual struggle, she wrote, “I have never doubted God’s mercy and I shall hope in him when I see myself with one foot in perdition.” (Jan.2015-web).

"A new commandment I give to you," Jesus had said, "that you love one another; as I have loved you . . . By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13: 34-35)

So who is this Jesus of Nazareth that the Greeks have come to see?  Do we really see Jesus as he wants us to see him?


Donna MacIntyre

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