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Seeing Jesus "Sir, we would like to see...

Année liturgique 2017-2018 [B]

Seeing Jesus

"Sir, we would like to see Jesus."

Isn’t this pretty much the desire of all of us, Greeks and non-Greeks alike ?

But what does “seeing” Jesus mean in the context of today’s gospel passage or, indeed, in the context of our own lives ?

The Greeks’ simple request of verse 20 ripples up the chain of command before finally ending at Jesus’ door : Philip goes to tell Andrew, and then he and Andrew go to tell Jesus. And then – we never hear of the Greeks again. But their presence in the story at this moment is not for nothing. Their desire confirms what the Pharisees had just been saying to each other in verse 19 : “You see that you can do nothing ; look, the world has gone after him.” The Pharisees were referring to the crowd’s reaction to Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead and his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. That crowd was predominantly Jewish, but here now is “the world,” in the person of the non-Jewish Greeks, coming to Jesus as predicted. Their brief moment onstage suggests to some scholars that the Johannine church had made the transition from evangelization of the Galileans and Samaritans to the mission to the Gentiles.

Ironically, once Jesus gets their message, the Greeks disappear from the narrative. They had probably wanted to honor him in some way, and that theme appears in the words he addresses to the disciples. But as is so often the case with Jesus, conventional meanings are put to one side. Instead, Jesus offers the disciples some hard truths about what it means to “see” and “honor” him authentically. 

"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.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me.

It couldn’t have been easy to listen to this then, any more than it is easy to read it today. For everything that grounds us limited human beings in reality is turned upside down by these uncompromising words :

Whoever loves his life will lose it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.

Get ready to die like a grain of wheat so that more life may come. Lose and hate your life so that life may come. That’s what I’m going to do, says Jesus. If you want to “see” me, then you must be with me in all of that process.

“The Father will honor whoever serves me.” The one who serves me must follow me, says Jesus. And following me is going to lead you to a desolate hillside outside Jerusalem. I admit that even I am troubled by the thought of all that is to come.

But I am obedient to my Father, the One who made the “new covenant” with the house of Israel, the covenant of which Jeremiah speaks, a covenant written “upon their hearts.”
I am obedient to my Father, the LORD, who promises : “All, from least to greatest, shall know me, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.”
I am obedient to my Father, the One to whom I pray : “Father, glorify your name."
I am obedient to my Father, whose voice comes from heaven and proclaims : “I have glorified it and will glorify it again."
I am obedient to my Father.

*

This is what it means to “see” Jesus. To follow him, to allow the new covenant of love to be written on our hearts, to trust in the Father’s love for Jesus and for us. Even to be “lifted up” with him – first on the Cross and afterwards, in eternity. 

And this where I think the little comedy of Philip going to tell Andrew, and then Andrew and he going to tell Jesus comes in to play. Jesus speaks to them both, and perhaps to other disciples as well. Following him is a personal decision, of course. But it’s made in the context of the community, and it’s with the community – call it the Church, call it whatever you want, but call it, and understand that you are part of it thanks to the call you received in Baptism – that you will find the faith, the hope and the love to “see” Jesus.

Sr. Nuala Cotter, r.a.
Worcester - United States


Fifth Sunday of Lent/Year B
Jeremiah 31:31-34 ; Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15 ; Hebrews 5:7-9 ; John 12:20-33

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