Lent 2015: Fifth Sunday in Lent 2015 (Cycle B) - Sir, We Would Like To See Jesus
... At the festival were some Greeks. These approached Philip... "Sir, we would like to see Jesus. ..." Jesus replied to them: "Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.... A wheat grain... if it dies, it will yield a rich harvest...” (John 12)
All preaching is a response to this request. We come to listen because we want to "see" Jesus, to know him and to believe. This is what people really ask of the Church. This is why we read our bible, meditate, and serve the poor.
This request was made at a time of mounting tension just before Jesus underwent his passion. The sequence of replies Jesus made to the request seems to be a series of strange disconnects or non-sequiturs. We do not read that Jesus answered: "Here I am" or "I am Jesus." We read instead a set of signs:
- Now is the time for Jesus to achieve glory,
- Like the grain of wheat, we must die to bear fruit, we must lose our life to gain it,
- Jesus will be lifted up on the cross causing people to believe,
- A voice from heaven, like thunder, says God is affirming Jesus as the Christ, revealing God.
This reply is a simple, short course in Christianity! It says Jesus is the revelation of God. It outlines the paschal mystery of death-resurrection. It guarantees that suffering is not useless. It pits the cross of Christ against all evil, as the sign of salvation.
Jesus' response to those who desire to see him is to say that he will suffer and die, and that is the way he will achieve his glory and ours. He is in distress over it yet knows it is the way. By these same signs people will know his disciples.
Elsewhere Jesus says that those who do God's will know God, that is will "see" God in his doctrine. Jesus did God's will and he learned obedience through suffering. What can be the connection between suffering and God's glory? Is it not true that humans can neither understand suffering nor would they choose it? That is exactly why it is capable of being the deepest act of adoration: it is not our will. It is an act of faith that God will make our suffering glorious.
God's love in us must call us in some way to suffer rather than cause suffering, to lose our lives rather than destroy others. This is the root of non-violence. It is not a "martyr complex" but a willingness to suffer what love requires, that is, what God's glory requires.
If we would see Jesus, we must see him in our suffering brothers and sisters.
- Who comes to me to see Jesus?
- How is Jesus revealed in my life?
- What have I learned from suffering?
- Have I glorified God in it? Or become self-centered?
We have scarcely begun, Jesus, to grasp the mystery of your life among us, the mystery of the grain of wheat. Give us your Holy Spirit by whom alone we can enter this way of love. Give courage, faith and patience to your followers. Help us to cast off that self-imposed suffering and to suffer our share of your passion and let those who seek find you in us.
Mary Alban Bouchard CSJ
This reflection is from Sister Mary Alban Bouchard’s book Until the Son is Risen published by Novalis in 1988 and adapted for the web.