Deacon Cornell’s Homily

Readings: Jeremiah 31:31-34
Hebrews 5:7-9
John 12:20-33
Date: March 21-22, 2015, Fifth Sunday in Lent, Cycle B

Jesus said, "Father glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it and will glorify it again."

This is one of three times in the Gospels that we hear the Father voice: at Jesus' baptism, the transfiguration, and now just before his passion. At the baptism, the Father's voice vouches for his Son. At the transfiguration, the Father's voice gives us a command: Listen to his Son. In today's story from John's Gospel, the Father's voice challenges us to live out our baptismal call. How does what the Father says in today's story challenge us?

To understand that we have to see that all of today's readings are about mission: the mission of the people of Israel, the mission of Jesus, and here and now, our mission as the Body of Christ. In the first reading from the prophet Jeremiah, we have a thumbnail sketch of the story of our salvation before Jesus. God chooses the people of Israel to be his own special people; not so that they are saved out of the world, but so that they can draw the rest of the world to God by remaining faithful to the covenant. But they continually fail to live up to that covenant. Of course this brings them suffering. God pities them in their suffering and restores them to the covenant. This particular situation is while the people of Israel are in exile in Babylon. Jeremiah has sent them a letter with a prophesy from God that their time of deliverance has not yet come and they are to settle down and make lives for themselves in Babylon. Following that letter, the book of Jeremiah contains this prophesy of God's salvation coming to the people after their time of exile. Jeremiah says that this renewal will be a "new covenant" that writes God's law, not on stone, but in their hearts. Of course Catholics hear in this a prefiguring of the coming of Christ.

Today's Gospel story tells us how this promise God made through Jeremiah is now being fulfilled. The first part of this story sets the stage for the remainder of the story. In this one story, John combines the visit of the magi from Matthew and the scene in the Garden of Gesthemane in the other 3 Gospels. It is Passover and Jerusalem is full of Jews from all over the world, but it is not just Jews. Others like these Greeks who want to see Jesus, come as well, some for the festival aspects of Passover, and some because they are drawn to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We never hear whether these Greeks actually get to see Jesus. But that is not the point. As Jesus says himself to the Syrophoenician woman, he was sent to Israel not to the whole world. So in several senses it was almost impossible for the rest of the world, represented by these Greeks, to "see Jesus". There were the physical limitations of a person living in that part of the world at that time; but there was also the theological barrier between the Jews and the Gentiles.

Jesus' response to Philip and Andrew (and maybe the Greeks) reveals one of the dimensions of why he must die. By dying, and rising, Jesus will then transcend not only space and time but the artificial boundary between Jew and Gentile that has grown up in the world. The words Jesus use remind his listeners of Moses curing the deadly snake bites in the desert by lifting up a bronze serpent. They point forward to Jesus death which must take place before he can be raised from the dead to new life. And as John says, they indicate the manner of his death, being lifted up on the cross, but they also indicate that by his passion and death, Christ will draw everyone to himself. His mission of salvation is not limited to the Jews or the Palestine or to 2000 years ago.

So how does this challenge us? The Father glorified His name through the people of Israel; it was glorified again in the birth and life of Jesus; and it will be glorified again in his death and resurrection. But it doesn't stop there. We are the fruit that was produced by Jesus falling to the ground and dying. The Father's name is glorified again when we live out our baptismal promises and make God's love real here and now. But to do that we must follow Christ. We died to our false selves in the waters of baptism. We do it again and again at Eucharist when we strip off our failings and sinfulness and leave them at the altar so we might become what we eat.

Hopefully we have been doing this throughout lent by our fasting, praying and acts of charity. But let me suggest one more way to complete our lenten dying so we might bear much fruit this Easter season. Come and celebrate the Triduum with us. The schedule is in the bulletin and on the website. Celebrate the Lord's supper on Holy Thursday; venerate the cross on Good Friday, and then come and celebrate the Mother of all Vigils Saturday night with fire and darkness, and bells, and incense. In between there are moments of adoration and morning prayer. It requires a dying to self to participate in all that. It is mild suffering compared to what caused Jesus to offer prayers and supplications with loud cries, but we too will be made perfect so that we become part of that source of salvation that is the glory of the Father.

homily index