Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of March 29, 2009
5th LENT SUNDAY (YEAR B)
1st Reading: Jer 31:31-34; Psalm 50; 2nd Reading: Heb 5:7-9; Gospel: Jn 12:20-33
Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir” they said, “We would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. Jesus replied: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. (Jn 12:20-33)
The Gospel passage we just read is one of the most shocking as it goes radically against some commonplaces, so much so that it affirms as something is better than what, according to the mentality of men, is worse,.
It is also good to clarify the context of this Gospel passage.
Jesus has recently triumphantly entered Jerusalem and the Holy Triduum is about to begin: the institution of the Eucharist, his passion, death and resurrection. The Lord is now living the last week of his life and during these last days he is committed to completing his teaching, so as not to leave any doubts to his disciples.
There is an opportunity to meet people who do not belong to the Jewish people but have converted to the Jewish religion: they are some Greeks mentioned by John. They are specifically addressing Philip and Andrew. Indeed, their names are of Greek origin and, probably, the two also knew the language. It can be deduced that these Greeks made a wise and brief investigation and when they discovered that among Jesus' disciples there were some who spoke their own language, they immediately got in touch with them, asking to see him. “They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request: «Sir, we want to see Jesus»” (Jn 12:21). The desire to "see Jesus" does not end with gazing in admiration as we might when we are facing a work of art, a painting, a sculpture or even a work of art made by God, for example a marvelous landscape; "To see" is meant in the sense of speaking and knowing. We remind that the Greeks love philosophy, they are dialectical; they want to delve into things. The two apostles, therefore, take them before Jesus who, however, does not consider them at all; not at all due of lack of respect, but because he takes the cue to extend his teachings as much as possible even over a long time. In fact he knows very well that those are the last teachings and wants to extend them to all his disciples, including those in the centuries to come. Only God can do such a thing, for Him time or distance are not obstacles.
And now we should really taste, feel the depth, the consistency, the sweetness of these last words of Jesus. These are his last teachings; if some of you did not understand them, now he can follow Jesus' talk with greater attention: "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified" (Jn 12:23). This is the statement we too would like to hear, applied to our situation. At other times, in the Gospel, this expression has been used in a negative sense "This is not the time" but, in this case, Jesus says that the time has come. In fact, God's plan is about to come true which envisages that Jesus is taken prisoner, brought before the judges, spit upon, humiliated, punished with the terrible Roman scourge, worse than the Greek one, and finally unjustly condemned and taken to Golgotha to die before his enemies, satisfied because they believed they got rid of him, but all this was part of God's plan.
I want to point out an aspect concerning God's friends and enemies. In theory, friends are those who should respect his provisions to the letter and with absolute fidelity, but often fail to do so due to tiredness, weakness and frailty.
And here is the absurdity that makes me smile. I was pleased to note that the greatest enemies of the Eucharist are now among those who underwent a transformation and now they talk about it with enthusiasm in catechesis and homilies; they defend it, organize processions, vigils and Eucharistic congresses. They do all this with great effort, despite being the enemy, as they have to mask their hostility. The same thing happens with Christ: the enemies of God were then the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodians, priests and high priests who, out of hatred, revenge and the desire to get rid of him, carried out God's plan to perfection. God had already announced it in the Old Testament, just read prophet Isaiah who described all that the servant of Javhe would have to suffer. Well, they fulfilled to the letter what had been prophesied seven centuries earlier. They had never thought about this. And yet, it is just like that: God's enemies did his bidding out of wickedness and thus accomplished exactly what God had planned.
"The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified" (Jn 12:23). Then we would have expected carpets, silver trumpets, processions of people, applause and cheers, but, once again, God surprises us, confuses us: what is the glory he is talking about? We close our eyes and see Jesus covered with blood, wounded, spit upon, made the object of irony, treated as a mocking king: what kind of glory is this? On the other hand Jesus says and affirms that the time has come to be glorified. "For this reason, entering the world, Christ says: Behold, I come, father, to do your will" (Heb 10:5-9). Paul reminds us of Jesus' desire: to totally fulfill the Father's will. And the Father's will is that he incarnates, suffers, dies and is resurrected. Behold, this is the glory our Lord talks about, he talks of his glory, he does not refer to that of others or the apostles. And to give a solemn tone to what he is saying, he uses those rhetorical grammatical forms used by the rabbis to highlight the solemnity of the moment and that that teaching was the most important truth. “Truly, truly, I tell you: if the grain of wheat that falls to the ground does not die, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit" (Jn 12:24). And here is this very short parable. We know that a grain produces an ear and, in turn, this ear will produce many other grains and many other ears. But the production process begins with death and all this goes against human logic. What life begins with death? None. But according to God, life for oneself and for others must begin with death. Whoever accepts this becomes a true follower of Christ, instead, whoever rejects it, even if it were the highest State or church authority, places himself in opposition to God. "If instead the grain dies, it produces much fruit", Jesus applies this solely to himself. But what he says afterward is for all peoples, he extends the discourse to all his disciples regardless of civilization, culture or ethnicity. “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (Jn 12:25). It is a statement that once again leaves us dumbfounded. He mentions words that logically cannot be related: love and hate. What does it mean to say: those who love their own life? Whoever in his life should reach the greatest goal of success or occupy the highest position of power but without God is lost because he has made the wrong choice. “He who hates his life will keep it”; pay attention: for the Jews, for the Semitic style, the contrasts must be evident to be understood, in this case the meaning of hating one's life is not to despise it, but to consider something much more important.
Today, men are attached to their own lives and therefore lose God's life. Those who, on the other hand, give importance to God's life, also acquire their own lives and, at this point, I must remind you: "The last will be the first and the first will be the last". And we are the "last", those condemned by the world and by the Church. In this case by Church I simply mean some men of the Church. It's time to stop saying: "the Church says this", because the Church says what is written in the Gospel, the rest is human chatter. It's time to stop it, we come to the absurdity of denying what God has done: the Eucharistic miracles, the ordination of the bishop, the apparitions of Our Lady. “The Church says that the devil is here”, are we kidding? “If anyone wants to serve me, let him follow me, and where I am, there will also be my servant. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him" (Jn 12:26).
To be with Christ, however, one must carry the cross, to be honored by the Father we must respect all commandments and this already puts us in a situation of opposition with the world. We must keep all Ten Commandments. The men of the Church have attempted to eliminate some of them. Like fools they were trying to take away two of them: honoring the holy days and not committing impure acts. What fools! The commandments are from God! Who can afford to remove them? Still, they tried. Of course, the Commandments are demanding, but we must absolutely respect them, even if we may encounter obstacles, difficulties and struggles.
Back to the Gospel passage: there are only a few days left until Jesus will sit with the apostles in the upper room. He is God and therefore he is already beginning to experience the atmosphere of Holy Thursday when he will institute the Eucharist, but just because He is God, he will also see all the sins committed by men against the Eucharist throughout the centuries and, believe me, it must have been a dreadful sight.
I can add my own interpretation: Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, sweats blood and is in agony, because he felt rejected, betrayed, deceived, above all in the Eucharist. He saw all the sins that men would commit: the sacrilegious communions, the profanations of the Eucharist, all attempts of the devil, later successful, to distance people from the Eucharist. Could all this leave Christ indifferent? This is the reason for his great suffering.
“Now my soul is troubled; and what should I say? Father, save me from this hour? But that is why I have come to this hour! Father, glorify your name". (Jn 12:27-28). Men will be redeemed and purified by the passion and death of Christ and Jesus, God the Son, will, in this way, make the highest act of worship to God the Father. Once again there is the cross, suffering and passion and then: "A voice came from heaven: "I have glorified him and will glorify him again!" (Jn 12:28). He glorified him in working miracles, making it clear that only God is the author, even if men continue to deny it. Indeed, even the greatest Eucharistic miracle in the entire Church history, that of June 11, 2000, was rejected by men. Do you realize how far we've gone? This is diabolical.
God the Father glorified God the Son by working miracles and revealing, during his earthly life, the will of the Father: this is truly the most glorious work he could do. And he adds "Again I will glorify him" and here he is clearly referring to the Resurrection, thereafter Jesus will return to occupy his rightful place in Heaven alongside the Father. And in the face of this great and extraordinary manifestation of God, how do men react despite having heard it? “The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him” (Jn 12:29). It was thunder or angel, had there been at least one who said he had heard the voice of God! And centuries later, faced with the great works of God, those who should have immediately taken their defense, what have they done? When there was the Bolsena miracle, erroneously called Orvieto miracle, the Pope, cardinals, bishops, all of them immediately ran to the place, to recognize the work of God.
In this place, 185 Eucharistic miracles took place and also the great Eucharistic miracle of June 11, which happened during the Holy Mass. And no one came to see it. After eight centuries, no one has come. I wouldn't want to be in their place when the time comes to go before God, it will be awful but it will be right. Let's stop at this.
You have indirectly heard the voice of God the Father, of Jesus, of the Holy Spirit, of Our Lady and of Saint Joseph through Marisa, his instrument. Remember that you are to bear witness and will be asked what you have done with all of these gifts. Let's try to be balanced, prepared and strong, this is the true Christian and it is the model that all of you must strive for. The Church must be like this; those who do not want to be like this model may remain quietly outside because God wants people who are convinced.
Praised be Jesus Christ.