Just a word… Fifth Sunday of Lent…
Just a word… Fifth Sunday of Lent… March 21, 2021
The Greeks in today’s gospel were asking to see Jesus. Who among us would not like to see Jesus? I suspect that most of us would. But which Jesus? The Jesus who taught on the hillsides, or from a boat, or on a beach? The Jesus who performed miracles of healing and making wine from water? What about the Jesus who was tortured and hung on a cross? Is it the powerful Jesus or the helpless Jesus that calls to us?
I don’t know about you, but it is comforting to me to hear about the Jesus in the reading from Hebrews, where he appealed to the Father with “loud cries and tears.” Remember, this Jesus of ours was human as well as divine. As a human, he was not always in control of his life’s circumstances. He felt the emotions and frustrations we all feel… how did he deal with them? The reading from Hebrews goes on to tell us that Jesus’ prayers were heard because of his reverence, begging the question that if loud cries and tears can be construed as being reverent for Jesus, and if Jesus is the model of who a human should be, then it seems that God can handle our loud cries and tears, and understand that they are a part of whom God created us to be.
How do we deal with our own emotions and frustrations? How do we respond when the answer to our prayer fails to match what we have asked for? Or when our suffering seems meaningless? Jesus, our role model, is said to have learned obedience from what he suffered. This obedience is not a slavish acquiescence to the will of another, but rather an attentive listening to the other. Jesus had the kind of relationship with the Father that was built on mutual love and engagement. They were on the same page, so to speak, even if it took moments of loud cries and tears to get there. As with Jesus, so too, with us.
The third anniversary of Fr. John’s death is this Wednesday, March 24. In 2018, that date fell on the eve of Palm Sunday, and as we approach Holy Week this year, today’s readings, replete with language of covenant, reverence, suffering and obedience, bring Fr. John to mind. Many of us witnessed Fr. John’s long struggle with muscular dystrophy, and experienced his humility as he courageously continued his Holy Thursday washing of the feet long past the point where many of us would have asked another to take over. His focus was on the parish, not on himself. When he was praised for something, he deferred the attention to his staff. When he was complimented for any good deed, he applauded the parish. He was in a covenantal relationship with this parish, and his reverence for God and for us caused him to remain here throughout his suffering and his death.
Who among us would not like to see Jesus? Fr. John was not Jesus, but he was an icon of Jesus, reflecting back to us his obedience, his attentive listening to the Father, and in so doing, leading us all closer to Christ. And what of that line in the gospel about a grain of wheat falling to the ground and producing much fruit? Take a look around and see one another…