Fifth Sunday of Lent
John 12: 20-33
Recently a call came into the office to celebrate the sacrament of the Last Rites with someone who was actively dying. Cheryl and I went as quickly as we could, and when we arrived we were surprised as we walked into this small room, and it was filled with people. In the room were the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren and they were all surrounding the bed of their loved one who was dying. I celebrated the sacrament with the person, and the son-in-law said: “Believe it or not, this is the best day of her life!” This family made this time of death, a time to celebrate life!
We don’t like to acknowledge death because death is sad, painful and scary. Unfortunately, we tend to run away from death, to hide from our feelings, and avoid it at whatever cost! Our readings today help us to face the ‘greatest moment of our lives.’
In our Gospel, some Greeks come to the disciples and say, “We would like to see Jesus.” I love this line because I would like to see Jesus and I would assume you would also? Jesus responds, “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.” We do want to see Jesus, but to see Jesus means we must participate in his life, death, and resurrection. We tend to focus on the life and resurrection part and skip the part of death. If we want to see and know the fullness of Jesus, we must not skip over death.
Next week when we gather we begin the week we call “Holy” by celebrating Palm Sunday. Within Holy Week is the Triduum which is all about the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Holy Week is given to us not only to face physical death but to face all the spiritual and emotional deaths we face every day. We die a thousand deaths each day. There are deaths of relationships, marriages, hopes, dreams, careers, health and beliefs. Regardless of what it looks like, it is still a death. All these little deaths, when we see how God has helped us through them should help us with our death and how God will help us through it. Holy Week should be a week we spend more time in prayer. A Hebrew understanding of prayer is there are three kinds, and they lead to three different levels. There is a silent prayer that we pray all the time. There is a prayer that we cry out in a loud voice to get God’s attention, and there is the prayer of tears, which when prayed is from our hearts, filled with great emotion and this is the highest form of private prayer.
My friends in Christ, the pathway to seeing Jesus is not possible unless we are willing to face all of our little and big deaths. Jesus did not ask to be saved from death, he faced it, in all of its turmoil. If we want to see Jesus, we must see death, as our greatest moment. It is only through death that we can become the bread of life.