The Victory through Suffering and The Cross

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MY daily reflection and prayer: Sunday, March 22, 2015
The Fifth Sunday of Lent
Dear my friends,

Here is the Gospel for us today according to St. John 12:20-33

Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew went with Philip and they told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him. “Now is my soul troubled.

And what shall I say? `Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify thy name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

The crowd standing by heard it and said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He said this to show by what death he was to die.

This is the Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ.

***

Let’s focus on the Gospel, especially on Jesus’ word that the “hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified … When I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself” (John 12:23, 32).

As we know it well, one of the title of Jesus is “the Son of Man”. It’s a prophetic title for the Messiah recorded in the prophecy of Daniel (see Daniel 7:13-14). In Jesus’ time the Jewish people were looking for a Messiah who would set them free from the oppressive rule of Rome. But Jesus also came to set us free from the worst oppression of all, the tyranny of endless slavery to sin, Satan, and death. He has come to bring us into a new covenant relationship with God that would not end with death but lead to eternal life.

How would Jesus be glorified? He announced to his followers and as well as to all of us that he would be glorified when “I am lifted up from the earth,” then “I will draw all people to himself” (John 12:32). What does Jesus mean by the expression of being “lifted up” and “drawing people to himself”? When a great leader wins a complete and decisive conquest over his enemies and brings freedom and peace to his people, he is crowned and given a new title, as the savior of his people. A conquering ruler is robed in royal splendor and raised up and enthroned on high in the sight of his people.

In the Christian faith, Jesus way of glorification has been fulfilled through the cross. Jesus knew that the only way to decisive victory for God’s kingdom on the earth would be through his voluntary suffering and death on the cross. Jesus described his willingness to go to the cross as his “hour of glory” (John 12:23) when he would fulfill his Father’s will and accomplish the mission entrusted to him. Jesus death on the cross was a victory over the powers of sin and Satan’s forces of darkness. He took our sins upon himself and nailed them to the cross to set us free from condemnation to death and destruction.

How did Jesus explain that his suffering and death would bring life and freedom? The Gospel today records that Jesus used the illustration of the “grain of wheat” to show how God brings life from death and good fruit through patience and suffering. Seeds by themselves are worthless and lifeless. Only when the seed is destroyed by burying it in the ground, can it rise to new life and bear fruit.

With this image of the grain of wheat that must first die in order to rise to new life and bear good fruit, first of all, Jesus wanted to explain his own impending death on the cross and to his resurrection. He wanted also to explain another kind of death and rebirth in mind for us, his disciples. Yes, no doubt, Jesus had both meanings in mind. Now, surely, Jesus’ obedience and death on the cross obtain for us freedom and new life in the Holy Spirit. His cross frees us from the tyranny of sin and death. It shows us the way of perfect love and readiness to lay down our lives in sacrificial service for the good of others as well.

We believe that his death on the cross would bring an abundant life for us. If we want to receive the abundant new life and the fruit of his death, we must first break our sinful desires. It must be put to death, then, we live according to his will.

Thanks be to God that, in baptism, our old habit which was enslaved by sin is buried with Christ, so we may rise to new life with Christ through the cleansing waters of baptism. This process of death to the old habit is both a one-time event which occurs in our baptism, and it is also a daily, on-going cycle of growth in which the Holy Spirit buries us more deeply into Jesus’ death to sin so we might rise anew in the power of God’s love, righteousness, and holiness.

There is a great paradox here. Death leads to life. When we die to our selves, to our rebellious sinful habit and willful rejection of God’s commandments, we receive God’s forgiveness and the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit which frees us to love and serve others, and follow God faithfully. It is God’s free gift of grace and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit which enables us to live and serve joyfully as sons and daughters of God.

In Perpetual Adoration of the Eucharist, while worshipping him, we learn to practically die to ourselves so that Jesus Christ can live in us and transform us into his likeness and holiness. Let’s put to death what is contrary to God’s will within us. He gives us grace to say “yes” to his will and the strength we need to reject whatever is contrary to his plan for our lives. He promises that we will bear much “fruit” for him, if we choose to deny ourselves for his sake and embrace his will for our lives.

Let’s pray: Lord Jesus Christ, let us be wheat sown in the earth, to be harvested for you. We want to follow wherever you lead us. Give us fresh hope and joy in serving you all the days of our lives now and forever. Amen.

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