Fifth Sunday of Lent - 18th March, 2018

Liturgical Reflection

 
 

Choose Jesus! Choose life!


Today’s Gospel reading is pivotal in the structure of John’s Gospel.  Along with the story of Lazarus (proclaimed in Year A), chapters 11 and 12 bring to an end the Book of Signs (’that which we have ‘heard … and seen with our own eyes’ 1Jn1) and the Book of Glory (the unfolding of ‘his Hour’).  Both Books focus not so much on events, as in the other three Gospels, but on the significance or theology or meaning of the Gospel account.

The story of Lazarus which precedes this Gospel is significant because Jesus chooses to raise Lazarus back to life.  Remember Passover is drawing near … crowds are coming to Jerusalem to celebrate the great feast … the Roman soldiers stationed in the Antonia Fortress beside the Temple Mount are ever anxious about a Jewish uprising … and Jesus chooses to raise Lazarus, his Jewish friend, back to life! ‘How many other Jews has Jesus raised?’ they must be thinking.

And then some Greeks turn up! Rank outsiders!  Possibly Gentiles.  And they say to Philip, “Sir, we should like to see Jesus!’   What’s the significance of this?  These Greeks fulfil the words of the Pharisees that the whole world is going to Jesus.  No wonder the Romans are nervous!

So Jesus’ hour has come … God will be glorified.  The human Jesus will be like the seed that is crushed to death, the one who gives his/her ALL for another, the devoted and faithful follower.  Through death, something new emerges.  Note the surprising twist!  Jesus chooses to raise Lazarus from the dead but in so doing he signs his own death warrant.  Jesus will surely die …. and God will be glorified.

          A model of first century Jerusalem.                                         Antonia Fortress on back right.
  

The human Jesus agonises. ‘Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say? Father, save me from this hour?’ Might there be another way? Another opportunity? This is John’s version of the agony in the garden. The significance is not lost on us: Jesus dies that we might have life. Each day we also face moments of choice.

The ‘voice from heaven’, from the Father, leads Jesus safely through this hour of dread. Jesus chooses everything about being the Son of God, entrusting what lies ahead entirely to God.

The human Jesus agonises.  ‘Now my soul is troubled.  What shall I say?  Father, save me from this hour?’  Might there be another way?  Another opportunity?  This is John’s version of the agony in the garden.  The significance is not lost on us: Jesus dies that we might have life.  Each day we also face moments of choice.

The ‘voice from heaven’, from the Father, leads Jesus safely through this hour of dread.  Jesus chooses everything about being the Son of God, entrusting what lies ahead entirely to God.

The ‘voice from heaven’ creates confusion among those gathered.  Life circumstances can certainly confuse us.  Frank Moloney says: ‘The mystery of Jesus can only be understood by those who are prepared to accept that he is from God and that his story is determined by his origins and his ongoing union with God.’ (Francis Moloney, ‘The Gospel of John’, (Sacra Pagina p. 354)

This is the new covenant written deep in our hearts, through baptism: we are forever of God.  In Paul’s words, Jesus ‘learned to obey through suffering’, in silence, through deep listening, to acceptance.

Today’s Gospel challenge?  ‘It is not for my sake that this voice came, but for yours.’  Are we listening?  Follow the Word who is life!

Jill Shirvington OP