Brothers and sisters, we have made it to the threshold of the great events of our salvation. We have followed Christ throughout His and our Lenten journey. This is very important; Christ was the first to experience a Lenten Journey. Remember back to the first week of Lent when we heard proclaimed Christ being driven into the desert where He fasted and prayed and dealt with the devil. But His Lenten journey didn’t end as He left the desert; it continued until Calvary. His life among us was a Lenten journey and everything that Holy Mother Church teaches us about participating in Lent is the fruit of what Christ did first.
- His Lenten journey was one of continual prayer, fasting and alms-giving in the form of miracles. Ours has, or should have had, the same emphasis: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
- Christ’s movement was towards Jerusalem and His great act of love – His Pasch. Our movement is to embrace His Pasch and help others do the same.
- Christ’s Lent was done in humble obedience to His Father. Our Lent should be exactly the same.
- Christ’s Lenten journey was a great witness to His Father and so should be ours.
The difference between our journey and Christ’s is that He was one with His Father and our Lenten journey helps us to grow closer to our heavenly Father – to discern better His will and to strengthen our ability to live the life that He desires. In short, we have been trying to see God clearer.
Each week during this season we have journeyed with Christ as He moves decisively towards Jerusalem. We have been witness to His revelation of His Father’s plan and His part in it. Hopefully, we have embraced His words and, step by step, come to understand them as they relate to each of us.
And so we come to today, this 5th Sunday of Lent, where we are turning the corner towards Holy Week (next week is Palm Sunday when Christ arrives in Jerusalem). At this point in His journey He has a large following traveling with Him and He can feel the expectations of this throng – which includes us.
Today’s Gospel places us in this journey and it gives us what seems to be an odd exchange. It starts with a simple request: ‘Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”’ But Christ’s answer seems strange, disconnected: ‘“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.’
Though His answer seems strange it cuts right to the heart of who He is, and our deepest needs. The Greeks want to see the man Jesus, they are in awe of this Galilean because of the spectacle that He has been for the past three years or so. Jesus Christ knows this – he has been dealing with groupies since His baptism. He knows that they are missing, what the French would say is His ‘raison d’être’ His reason for existing – but hopefully they won’t much longer. In less than two weeks He is going to offer Himself for them; He is going to suffer and die for them; He will pay their ransom. He will be the grain of wheat and fall to the ground by being placed into a tomb, and by doing so He will produce the fruit of salvation.
This is the Jesus these Greeks truly desire in their heart; not the miracle worker; not the charismatic anti-establishment hero. It is the Jesus we desire to see as well; the Jesus that loves us more than anyone, even ourselves. But both the Greeks and we have to come to that awareness; and to be able to do that we have move past our self-centeredness; we have to open ourselves to God.
Our entire Lenten exercise has been to come closer to Jesus, to clear the lens of our heart so that we can see Him clearer, understand Him better. Like the Greeks we can easily fall into the trap of seeing the Jesus we want to see. We need to allow the real Jesus to penetrate our hearts – and Lent is the time we set aside to do this with special intensity.
Brothers and sisters, in less than two weeks Christ will give each of us a chance to easily see Him. He is going to climb high on the cross to give us that view. Are we ready to understand what we will see? Has our Lenten exercise cleaned our heart’s lens so that we see Him as He truly is? It is not too late to make sure our view is clear. It is not too late to move further away from our self-centeredness. We just need to start and all that takes is for us to turn to God and from the depths of our heart humbly cry out ‘Father, I have sinned against you’ and ask for forgiveness.
Why not start now? In a few short minutes Calvary will be here before us. We will watch as Christ offers Himself for each us on this altar – we will participate in Calvary. I urge each of us, when Father Holds up the Body and then Blood of Christ and the bells ring – in the silence of our hearts lets cry to God ‘Father, I have sinned against you’ All of us need to say these words; some of us hold within mortal sins which require the Sacrament of Reconciliation (ask our priests, they will help). While all of us hold within us shortcomings such as venial sins and doubts. These words are important for everyone; they are the key to our Lenten journey – without this disposition our view remains clouded.
Let’s do this – all of us – so that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, when Holy Week comes we are not the among those in the Gospel who only heard thunder, nor even the ones who thought they heard angels – but people who clearly hear and see our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.