Homily for March 25, V Sunday of Lent, year B-II
In the gospel today, we hear how some pilgrims come to St. Philip and say, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” I think that’s something we can all agree with: we would like very much to see Jesus.
The Lord’s answer to this request might seem puzzling at first, because it sounds as if He ignored their request. Instead of simply asking to have the pilgrims brought over to see Him, He starts to speak about His Passion, death, and resurrection. But if we think about it, it’s actually a very enlightening answer.
Jesus is telling us that, if the pilgrims truly want to see Him, they should witness the way He willingly carries the cross and dies for love of us. Through His sacrifice He works the redemption of all humanity – a much greater miracle than any of His healings or exorcisms. It is through His redeeming death and resurrection that He establishes the New Covenant promised in the first reading today, forgiving our sins and drawing all people to Himself, binding us to Him through love. It is through this act of self-giving that He becomes “the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him”, as St. Paul describes in the second reading.
That little phrase, “all those who obey Him”, is also very important. Not to trivialize the subject, but it works a bit like a coupon for a free product in the newspaper. Christ made salvation available for everyone, and that’s like the coupon. But having the coupon isn’t the same as having the product. To get your free can of soup or tube of toothpaste, you have to follow the instructions on the coupon. Similarly, if we want to see Jesus, and receive the salvation and eternal life that He has won for us, we have to follow His instructions.
What are those instructions? Jesus tells us in this same Gospel passage: to follow Him, and die with Him, valuing God and our eternity with Him more than the goods of this life on earth. It’s essentially the same message we have heard before: that we need to love God above all things, and love our neighbor as Jesus loves us. What stands out a bit more in this way of expressing it, is the fact that it can be really difficult at times.
So it’s important to remember that, the moment our self-giving to God and others begins to hurt, is the moment that it is most authentic. When our self-love is defeated, is when we triumph. Like the grain of wheat, it is when we are buried in darkness and seemingly lost that we are about to be most productive.
However, it’s important to remember that we are not talking about sacrifice and suffering that lasts forever. The way of the Cross is the path to the resurrection. When we experience Jesus in our lives and become more like Him, He will give us greater peace and joy in this life, and eternal rejoicing in the next. The sacrificial time of Lent is preparation for the celebration of Easter.
So, let us ask God today to help us follow in the footsteps of Christ throughout the remaining time of Lent, giving ourselves more and more to God, both in prayer and by loving and serving others. And as we celebrate Easter, may we share in a foretaste of the joy of heaven.