We Would Like to See Jesus

(Homily Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year B)

Last weekend our pastoral administrator, Tim McDonald, told about a remarkable answer to prayer. It was a quite modern story involving the Internet and an apparent computer glitch as a solution to his brother's financial dilemma. Tim not only recounted the events, but invited us to join in a similar novena - nine days - of prayers. I was touched by his words and decided to make the novena, not for a financial solution, altho I do need that, but for something more important at this time. By this summer I will let you know how my own novena is answered. I also ask your prayers tho I cannot say now the specific intention.

As Tim mentioned last Sunday, the practice of the novena goes back to nine days between Jesus' Ascension and Pentecost. That novena prepared the disciples to receive the greatest gift of all - the Holy Spirit. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit fulfilled the great prophecy we heard in our first reading: "I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel." (Jer 31:31) It will consist not so much in external requirements as internal transformation. How? "All, from the least to the greatest shall know me, says the Lord." (v. 34)

This magnificent vision of personally knowing the Lord brings us to today's Gospel: the Greeks who wanted to meet Jesus. Before considering their petition and Jesus' reply, we might be wondering who were these Greeks who had "come to Jerusalem to worship at Passover time." Actually many Greeks had adopted partial or full Judaism. And many first century Jews lived outside of Palestine and had immersed themselves in Hellenistic culture to the point their first (or only) language was Greek. These two groups (Greek converts to Judaism and Hellenized Jews) were large. A few of them approached Philip, who like Andrew, had a Greek name. They made a request, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus." (Jn 12:21)

The request seemed simple - a chance to meet Jesus, maybe to say something to him or ask a question. But in John's Gospel hardly anything is that simple. Jesus counters their request with a revealing statement followed by an invitation. The revelation is about his own death, but since they are Greeks - and therefore not necessarily conversant with the Old Testament imagery of the sacrificial lamb - Jesus uses a comparison from nature. He talks about a grain of wheat which must "die" in order to produce food. Then he makes a startling invitation: Stop thinking that you are doing well. If you feel satisfied with what you have accomplished, you are a big loser. Instead, accept misinterpretation, abusive language, put-downs and humiliations. If you do, you will discover your true self. I will show you how within a week.

Jesus did not go gladly to his Passion. He is not like Socrates who calmly faces death all the while talking philosophy with his friends. He admits his soul is "troubled." (Jn 12:27) But still he does not ask to be rescued because every moment of his life has been leading up to that "hour."

Sometimes people approach me like the anonymous Greeks in today's Gospel. Their prayer life has become dry - or they are just not sure how to pray. They want to see Jesus. Now, I do not have an intimacy with him like Philip and Andrew (in spite of having been given their names at birth). But I do have a suggestion based on my own experience and that of thousands of Christians. If you want to know Jesus, offer to him the very first moments of your day. At the entrances of the church, you will see some peal-off stickers which you can affix to your bathroom mirror. When you are washing your face, or shaving in the morning, say this prayer:

O Jesus, in union with your most Precious Blood
poured out on the cross and offered in every Mass,
I offer you today my prayers, joys, sorrows and sufferings
for the praise of your holy name and
all the desires of your Sacred Heart;
in reparation for sin, for the conversion of sinners,
the union of all Christians and our final union with you in heaven.

If you begin your day by offering everything to Jesus, the rest will fall into its proper place: your work, your prayers, your sorrows, joys and sufferings. What seemed to lack meaning will become transparent - and you will discover your true self. "Amen, amen, I say to you, Unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit." (Jn 12: 24)

Dear brothers and sisters, in just seven days we begin the greatest week of the year. Next Sunday we inaugurate Holy Week with the beautiful celebration of Palm Sunday. The morning offering will help you prepare yourself for it - and to carry its meaning thru the year.

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From the Archives (Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year B):

2015: New Mind and Heart Week 5
2012: To Know the Lord
2009: A Matter of Life and Death
2006: Your Judgment on the World
2003: Now is the Time of Judgment
2000: We Would Like to See Jesus

Year A (RCIA):
Prayer and Spiritual Combat Week 5 (2014)
Revive (2011)
Overcoming Power of Death (2008)
Joining Body with Soul (2005)
He Was Buried (2002)
On Confession and Cremation (1999)

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