Saturday, March 17, 2018

5th Sunday of Lent, Year B, 18.03.2018

Jeremiah 31:31-34 / Hebrews 5:7-9 / John 12:20-33

Most offices would have a secretary as part of their admin staff. Depending on the size of the office, the secretary’s tasks can be varied and diverse.

The often stereotyped tasks of a secretary is to make coffee for the boss, make shorthand notes as the boss rambles on, answer phone-calls, arrange the boss’s schedules, takes charge of the office admin, etc.

The secretary is often portrayed as the one who stands between the boss and visitors. So if someone comes to see the boss, the secretary would tell the visitor to wait and proceed to inform the boss.

Actually it is more like to alert the boss that there is a visitor, so that the boss can be prepared to meet the visitor. And of course the boss would want to look his best and give a good impression to the visitor.

And the secretary’s task is to ensure that. So a good secretary is vital for the boss and for the running of the office admin.

Today’s gospel begins with some Greeks approaching Philip with a request that they would like to see Jesus. Philip went to tell Andrew and together they went to tell Jesus.

Those Greeks may have heard about Jesus, how He worked miracles and performed healing, how He taught with authority, and they were certainly impressed with what they heard and hence they wanted to see the man for themselves.

And Philip and Andrew would also want Jesus to look His best and give those Greeks a good impression. After all Jesus was their Master, so if He looked good, then they too would look good, going by “like Master, like disciple”.

But the reply of Jesus was rather strange. At first He says that the hour has come for Him to be glorified. So they would have thought that He was going to give those Greeks a profound impression.

But what followed after does not seem to sound like anything impressive. Jesus talked about a wheat grain having to die in order to yield a rich harvest.

He went on to give a reflection about life, that anyone who loves his life loses it and anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

And then He went on to say that His soul is troubled and He seemed to wonder if God would save Him. By those words, He indicated the kind of death He would die.

That would have left Philip and Andrew rather confused and apprehensive. Just what are they going to tell those Greeks. What Jesus said was far from impressive; in fact it sounded rather repulsive. 

If they had expected Jesus to impress those Greeks, they would be disappointed. And those Greeks would be disappointed too.

Philip and Andrew might not have understood what Jesus was talking about. But we should understand. As we come to the 5th Sunday of Lent, we should know what was the preoccupation in the mind of Jesus. He was preoccupied with His impending suffering and death.

The 2nd reading gives us a glimpse of Jesus that we don’t often hear about. During His life on earth, Christ offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the One who had the power to save Him out of death, and He submitted so humbly that His prayer was heard.

So although He was Son, He learnt to obey through suffering, but having been made perfect, He became for all who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.

Next Sunday, the Church enters into Holy Week, with the emphasis on the suffering and death of Jesus. For the RCIA Elects, this week is the final leg of their preparation for Baptism, as they undergo purification and receive enlightenment through the final Scrutiny.

As for us, we enter into the mind of Jesus as He dwells on His impending suffering and death. It was a mental burden for Him as He says, “Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say? Father, save me from this hour?

We would also be led to think about what is burdening our minds and what is troubling our hearts.
In life, there are many burdens and many troubles. It may be financial difficulties, job insecurity, health issues, marital problems, family problems. Yes, in life there are many burdens and troubles. 

And ironically, many of these burdens and troubles are not even ours, but they somehow landed on our turf. And here is where we are called to be like Jesus, and to be with Jesus, in sacrificing our lives for the good and for the salvation of others.

A wise man was asked this question – What is the heaviest burden and the greatest trouble in life?
The wise man answered: The heaviest burden and the greatest trouble is to have no burden and no trouble at all.

We may think it is a weird answer. It doesn’t sound logical, at least initially. But upon deeper reflection, we will come to realize that if life has no burdens or troubles, then we are going to be like dead fish that just go with the flow and end up as sludge.

But like Jesus, we want to believe that burdens and troubles, suffering and pain, are not dead ends. Because like Jesus, we believe that God has the power to save us out of death. God has the power to save us and help us overcome our burdens and troubles, our suffering and pain.

Jesus has already overcome the world. Let us believe in Him and follow Him to overcome our burdens and troubles. Let us show the world who Jesus really is. It is not to make an impression but to show our conviction.