POPE FRANCIS’ REFLECTION FOR THE
5TH SUNDAY OF LENT B.
“WE WISH TO SEE JESUS.”
Fifth Sunday of Lent Year B, 18 March 2018
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today’s Gospel (cf. Jn 12:20-33) narrates an episode which took place in the last days of Jesus’ life. The scene takes place in Jerusalem where he finds himself for the feast of the Jewish Passover. Several Greeks had also arrived there for this celebration. These men were driven by religious sentiment, attracted by the faith of the Jewish People and, having heard of this great prophet, they approach Philip, one of the 12 Apostles, and say to him: “we wish to see Jesus” (v. 21). John highlights this sentence, that is centred on the verb to see, which in the evangelical lexicon means to go beyond appearances in order to comprehend the mystery of a person. The verb John uses, “to see”, means to reach the depths of the heart, to reach through sight, with understanding, the depths of a person’s soul, within the person.
Jesus’ reaction is surprising. He does not answer with a “yes” or with a “no” but says: “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified” (v. 23). These words which at first glance appear to ignore the question of those Greeks, in reality provide the true response because those who seek to know Jesus must look within the Cross where his glory is revealed; to look within the Cross. Today’s Gospel invites us to turn our gaze to the Crucifix which is not an ornamental object or a clothing accessory — abused at times! Rather, it is a religious symbol to contemplate and to understand. Within the image of Jesus crucified is revealed the mystery of the death of the Son as a supreme act of love, the source of life and salvation for humanity of all ages. We have been healed in his wounds.
I may think: “How do I look at the Crucifix? As a work of art, to see if it is beautiful or not? Or do I look within; do I penetrate Jesus’ wounds unto the depths of his heart? Do I look at the mystery of God who was humiliated unto death, like a slave, like a criminal?”. Do not forget this: look to the Crucifix, but look within it. There is a beautiful devotional way of praying one “Our Father” for each of the five wounds. When we pray that “Our Father”, we are trying to enter within, through the wounds of Jesus, inside his very heart. And there we will learn the great wisdom of the mystery of Christ, the great wisdom of the Cross.
And in order to explain the meaning of his death and Resurrection, Jesus uses an image and says: “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (v. 24). He wants to explain that his extreme fate — that is the Cross, death and Resurrection — is an act of fruitfulness — his wounds have healed us — a fruitfulness which will bear fruit for many. He thus compares himself to a grain of wheat which, rotting in the earth, generates new life. Jesus came to earth through the Incarnation, but this is not enough. He must also die to redeem man from the slavery of sin and to offer him a new life reconciled in love. I said “to redeem man”: but to redeem me, you, all of us, each of us. He paid that price. This is the mystery of Christ. Go towards his wounds, enter, contemplate, see Jesus — but from within.
And this dynamism of the grain of wheat which was accomplished in Jesus must also take place within us, his disciples. We are called to take on the Paschal law of losing life in order to receive it renewed and eternal. And what does losing life mean? That is, what does it mean to be the grain of wheat? It means to think less about oneself, about personal interests and to know how to “see” and to meet the needs of our neighbours, especially the least of them. To joyfully carry out works of charity towards those who suffer in body and spirit is the most authentic way of living the Gospel. It is the necessary foundation upon which our communities can grow in reciprocal fraternity and welcome. I want to see Jesus, but from within. Penetrate his wounds and contemplate that love in his heart for you, for you, for you, for me, for everyone.
May the Virgin Mary who, from the manger in Bethlehem to the Cross on Calvary, has always kept her heart’s gaze fixed on her Son, help us to meet and know him just as he desires so that we may live enlightened by Him and bring to the world fruits of justice and peace.
Fifth Sunday of Lent Year B, 22 March 2015
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, John the Evangelist draws our attention with a curious detail: some “Greeks”, of the Jewish religion, who have come to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, turn to Philip and say to him: “We wish to see Jesus” (Jn 12:21). There are many people in the holy city, where Jesus has come for the last time, there are many people. There are the little ones and the simple ones, who have warmly welcomed the Prophet of Nazareth, recognizing Him as the Messenger of the Lord. There are the High Priests and the leaders of the people, who want to eliminate Him because they consider him a heretic and dangerous. There are also people, like those “Greeks”, who are curious to see Him and to know more about his person and about the works He has performed, the last of which — the resurrection of Lazarus — has caused quite a stir.
“We wish to see Jesus”: these words, like so many others in the Gospels, go beyond this particular episode and express something universal; they reveal a desire that passes through the ages and cultures, a desire present in the heart of so many people who have heard of Christ, but have not yet encountered him. “I wish to see Jesus”, thus He feels the heart of these people.
Responding indirectly, in a prophetic way, to that request to be able to see Him, Jesus pronounces a prophecy that reveals his identity and shows the path to know Him truly: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (Jn 12:23). It is the hour of the Cross! It is the time for the defeat of Satan, prince of evil, and of the definitive triumph of the merciful love of God. Christ declares that He will be “lifted up from the earth” (v. 32), an expression with a twofold meaning: “lifted” because He is crucified, and “lifted” because He is exalted by the Father in the Resurrection, to draw everyone to Him and to reconcile mankind with God and among themselves. The hour of the Cross, the darkest in history, is also the source of salvation for those who believe in Him.
Continuing in his prophecy of the imminent Passover, Jesus uses a simple and suggestive image, that of the “‘grain of wheat’ that, once fallen into the earth, dies in order to bear fruit (cf. v. 24). In this image we find another aspect of the Cross of Christ: that of fruitfulness. The death of Jesus, in fact, is an inexhaustible source of new life, because it carries within itself the regenerative strength of God’s love. Immersed in this love through Baptism, Christians can become “grains of wheat” and bear much fruit if they, like Jesus, “lose their life” out of love for God and brothers and sisters (cf. v. 25).
For this reason, to those who, today too, “wish to see Jesus”, to those who are searching for the face of God; to those who received catechesis when they were little and then developed it no further and perhaps have lost their faith; to so many who have not yet encountered Jesus personally…; to all these people we can offer three things: the Gospel, the Crucifix and the witness of our faith, poor but sincere. The Gospel: there we can encounter Jesus, listen to Him, know Him. The Crucifix: the sign of the love of Jesus who gave Himself for us. And then a faith that is expressed in simple gestures of fraternal charity. But mainly in the coherence of life, between what we say and what we do. Coherence between our faith and our life, between our words and our actions: Gospel, Crucifix, Witness.
May Our Lady help us to bring these three things forth.
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