By Deacon Jerry Franzen Cathedral 3/25/12
Jeremiah 31:31-34 Hebrews 5:7-9 John 12: 20-33
*- An Old testament reading from the book of the prophet Jeremiah
describing the new covenant
that God would make with the Israelite nation.
- Simply three verses from the letter to the Hebrews
about Jesus praying to the Father
and about how his prayers were heard.
- A gospel reading in which some Greeks want to meet up with Jesus
and Jesus decides instead to set about telling his disciples about
what would be happening to him in the near future.
Three readings; we will look at them in reverse order:
Today’s reading from the 12th Chapter of the Gospel
according to St. John serves to set the scene
for Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.
In Chapter 11 Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead
and the Pharisees became very concerned.
Their plot against Jesus began to materialize,
because Jesus has been working all of these signs
and gathering a good number of followers.
Something had to be done.
In Chapter 12, in today’s Gospel reading,
Jesus explains that his hour is about to come.
The section just before today’s reading
describes Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Apparently the commotion caused by Jesus’ entry was so great
that it drew the attention of some “Greeks”, some Gentiles.
They wanted to “see” Jesus, probably see some of the signs
and miracles that they had heard about.
They had asked Philip for information on Jesus’ whereabouts,
so Philip and Andrew went to Jesus.
There is no indication whether the Greeks ever “saw” Jesus.
Jesus took this occasion to tell Philip and Andrew the following:
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
That some non-Jews might wanted to “see” Jesus and his signs
was not nearly as important to Him
as having His own disciples
“see” the deeper inner meaning of the Son of Man’s
presence here on earth.
It was more important that their faith in Him be strengthened,
because Jesus knew what was coming.
The Pharisees were becoming more militant.
We have encountered the connection between “seeing” and “faith”
at other places in scripture.
In John’s Gospel from Year A for the fourth Sunday in Lent,
we hear the story of the man born blind,
whose faith was increased when his blindness was cured.
He saw and he believed.
Jesus wanted his disciples to “see” or better understand
what was going to happen to him so that their faith in him
would not be shaken by the events of his passion and death,
but rather strengthened by what would happen.
He was telling them, in a short parable,
that He had to die, like the grain of wheat dies,
and then rise like the plant rises to
produce the fruit of our salvation.
He told them that they, as his followers, had to do the same.
Hold on to your life in this world, and you will lose eternal life.
Give up your worldly life, and gain eternal life.
Your hour will come also.
He told them that to be one of His followers, if they were with Him,
this is what they must do.
And those who followed Him will be honored by the Father
with eternal life.
He had come to this hour, this point in his life, for our salvation
and this is what he now had to do.
What a glorious God we have
who would sacrifice his only begotten Son for us.
In the second reading, we heard that Jesus
“offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death
and he was heard because of his reverence.”
He was heard?
He asked that the bitter cup be taken from him,
that he not have to suffer and die and he was heard?
Wait a minute. He asked that the bitter cup be taken from him,
that he not be subjected to the terrible suffering
and slow agonizing death and God heard his prayers?
Doesn’t sound like that’s the way things turned out.
Remember he also prayed that “not my will but thy will be done.”
He was praying that the bitter cup of weakness,
the weakness that he was feeling
would be replaced with the strength to be obedient,
to say “Yes” to the Father’s will.
And through his suffering in the garden,
through his prayer to and reverence for the Father,
he became obedient to the Father.
It is not the physical suffering and death of Jesus
that leads to our salvation.
It is Jesus’ free-will obedience to the Father’s plan
that is our salvation.
I have brought you through two readings,
told you about Jesus and what he was about to go through,
and how he prayed that it would not happen,
but what does all of this mean for us?
Does it mean that we will all have to suffer?
Most of us know that we too must suffer.
Most of us have felt the suffering in some way.
All of the suffering from terminal cancer
to adolescent acne
should become our sharing in the suffering of Christ.
This is fearfully and wonderfully true,
but to join our suffering to that of Christ,
our suffering must be Christ-like, linked to obedience.
Our Salvation is not just about Jesus’ obedience,
It’s also about our obedience.
Obedience is the key.
When God calls, we must answer “Yes,” freely.
In the old testament covenant,
God spoke to the leaders of the Israelite nation,
and they passed the words and laws down to the people
for them to obey.
In today’s Old testament reading Jeremiah was telling the Israelites
that there would be a new covenant,
not the law handed down to the leaders, then to all,
but a law that would enter their hearts.
“I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts.”
Jesus is that New Covenant.
He came to earth to take our nature, he came within us
to show us the way back to the father.
The New Covenant is not a set of written laws
that we must memorize or continually be reminded of
by our leaders, so that we can do God’s will.
The New Covenant is a person, Jesus, a perfect model, one of us,
to show us what to do,
to help us to understand what to do,
to write on our hearts what we are to do when God calls.
I cannot trace out what your path of obedience will be:
what God will ask of you and how he will ask it.
But I dare to make two predictions with confidence:
“FIRST, you will hear God speaking to you,
and you will answer “Yes”
in the measure that your covenant,
your commitment to Christ,
to his Church,
to your brothers and sisters,
is interiorized, is written on your heart.
God never stops speaking,
but the cold mind, the locked heart,
those for whom Jesus is just a Sunday phenomenon,
will not hear his voice.
The SECOND prediction is a warning.
The more deeply the covenant is etched on your heart,
the more likely you will learn obedience as Jesus did:
May we learn to pray as Jesus did,
not for things to be changed to conform God’s plan to our will,
but for a warming of our minds
and an unlocking of our hearts,
for the will to make Jesus #1 on our list every day,
for the strength to be obedient to God’s plan,
so as to be able to say “Yes” to God’s will
and to endure any suffering.
Holy Week is fast approaching.
May we become more involved each day this week
and every day for the rest of our lives
in the dying and rising of Jesus Christ.
*Parts based on “Through What He Suffered He Learned to Obey” from “Still Proclaiming Your Wonders” by Walter J. Burghardt, S.J. Paulist Press 1984 NJ pp 39-44