FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT. SOLIDARITY SUNDAY
National Collection for Development & Peace
First Reading: Jeremiah 31. 31 – 34
Second Reading: Hebrews 5: 7 – 9
Gospel: John 12. 20 – 33
Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). Jesus then explained what he meant. He said, “The person who loves their life will lose it, and the person who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” It’s true in life, isn’t it? If we are going to get anything out of it we have to invest ourselves in it.
Do you remember the Beatle’s album called “Abbey Road”? The last song in this album is titled “The End”. This song says, “In the end the love you take is equal to the love you give.”
The great statesman, Sir Winston Churchill, once said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” The truth of this is written in creation. It is evident for everyone to see even in something as small as a grain of wheat, a seed.
Jesus declares that he who love his life loses it and he who hates his life will keep it eternally. Thus Lent is about loss, and so it is a season for losers. A loser by our social standards is one who has failed to accomplish any success of relevance or significance in life. But by God’s standards a loser is one who has totally immersed his life in the will of God.
Jesus is looking for losers. The most amazing thing about the Christian’s God is that he is loser-friendly. The world only uses winners, God seeks losers. It seems as though he has always chosen the greatest losers to do his best work. How vastly different from the world’s view of picking winners to help us succeed.
Now many of us may say to ourselves, I’ve already lost so much. What else is there for me to lose? How much more do I have to endure? How much more can I lose? You lost a husband or wife, a son or daughter. You’ve lost a job, your health, and even your peace of mind. You’ve lost some friends, your sense of purpose, your direction, and your strength to endure. Some of us have lost so much. We have lost loved ones during this pandemic. We have lost jobs and lost opportunities. And yet, with all that you have lost, this Lent Jesus wants you to know still that there are more of you to lose.
A matter-of-fact loss is the essence of the gospel. Following Jesus is a matter of losing. It is matter of ‘letting go, and letting God.’
As followers of Christ, we’re called to let go of the old and embrace the new. Prophet Isaiah said it best: “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43: 18 – 19.
What is striking about the teaching style of Jesus was that it was almost entirely based upon the principle o observation and imitation, an artisan with an apprentice rather than teacher with a pupil. Jesus asked his followers to copy what he did and to learn from the impact it had.
In the passage from John’s Gospel the disciples are struggling to understand the point Jesus is making. In response Jesus simply asks them to imitate him. As a master teacher he knows that their understanding will be deeper after the experience. He also knows that the experience of taking part will stay in the memory long after passive knowledge has been consigned to the unconscious. In contrast to most assessments we face in life, regurgitating what is remembered, this is a different kind of test. Jesus encourages his followers to dare to do as he does and then interpret its impact. As Jesus washes the disciples’ feet he is no longer instructing them, he is giving himself to them.
In speaking to the Corinthians, Paul drives the point home by both imitating and calling for imitation. “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1), he says, John too in his first letter, stresses that believers “ought to walk just as he walked” (1 John 2:6). For the followers of Jesus, copying him was not hypocritical or lacking originality – it was an act of courage which would lead to new and unforeseen possibility.
Most of how we behave comes from imitating things we have seen and value in others. As a parent this becomes an onerous and sometimes frightening responsibility. Everything we do, both good and bad, is observed and practiced. How we stand in photos, who we value, what causes us anxiety, how we draw pictures in the woods – everything is watched and practiced. These behaviours become part of who we are and then impact on the lives of others.
When I behave as I imagine Jesus would have, I am not doing it in order to appear as something I am not, but in order to learn from and be changed by the experience. In imitating him I can become slowly, and with a little failure along the way, the very virtue I practice. There are lots of people who will helpfully tell you about virtue. The ones who really make an impact tend to practice them.
The problem is, it’s hard to know what to let go of and what to hold on to. So, as you reflect on God’s Word today, ask yourself whether you are stuck in the past.
We live in a changing world, and the question is whether or not we have the courage to let go of the past, and have the faith to trust God to transform us into a new creation.
Jesus says – “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this our. Father, glorify your name.”
Jesus is saying that His soul is troubled. He is feeling that it is too hard for Him to take it. But still He is firm that He will not ask God to remove this suffering from Him, because it is the purpose of His life. He is pleading only to glorify God’s name through His suffering. Though Jesus suffered deep enough to sweat blood (this depth of suffering very few of us have gone through), still He had the courage to say – ‘Not my will be done, but yours’. Do we understand that the challenges we undergo are intended to serve God?
The devil will also bring up challenges in our life – like how Job had to undergo them and God recompensed Job with multiple blessings. We should not quit the challenge in front of us.
Our Pioneer, Lord Jesus Christ had to undergo the sufferings on the Cross, before He achieved the purpose of His life.
We should also follow His footsteps and undergo the sufferings. Even when we do not feel the presence of God, or when we feel that God is silent, He is actually taking care of us, working for us. He will let us know what to do in the right time.
Why are we feeling scared or frightened looking at our challenges? If there is a big mountain of challenges in front of us, then there is a bigger grace of God to challenge the challenge.
God bless. Have a wonderful Sunday.