18 March 20185 Lent

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
5 Lent
Fifth Sunday of Lent - Cycle B - John 12:20-33

Socrates was sitting on a park bench. A cop asked him, "Who are you?" He answered, "I wish to God I knew." Egypt's King Tutankhamen left us his golden furniture and jewels, but he is dead. The Nazarene left us no golden toys, but He lives. The answer to this riddle is locked in this Gospel. No other Gospel contains the story of the Greek travelers. That is not surprising. John's work was written to present Christ to the Greeks and Gentiles. His Jesus was designed for export. Nor is it surprising to find Greeks in Jerusalem. The Greeks were inveterate wanderers. They had an insatiable desire to see fresh places and taste new ideas. They also had the dollars. They were yesterday's jet set. The Greek tourists were smart. The time to be in Jerusalem was Passover. Then they would get all the action and color they wanted. The Greeks may have seen some of the miracles worked by the Christ in Jerusalem. They may have witnessed Him driving the bankers out of the Temple. Surely they had heard of His triumphal entrance into Jerusalem. Is it any wonder then that they wanted to pull up chairs with our Christ? They were as inquisitive about Him as we are. Besides, they suspected such an outspoken person would not live long.

They chose the apostle Philip as their messenger. They liked his Greek name. Their famous line "Sir, we should like to see Jesus!" has been echoed by billions since the Greeks spoke it. But Philip broke into a sweat at their request. Did the Master want to chat with these foreigners? They had no appointment. Timidly Philip threw the ball into Andrew's court. He set up the rendezvous immediately. He had learned long before that the Teacher had time for everybody. You need no appointment. He has no voice mail, no cell phone, no peeper. He takes all calls immediately. He is on the job 7/24/365. He's just a prayer away. Besides Jesus was delighted at the arrival of the Greeks. The Wise Men from the East at His birth carried news of Him to the countries east of Palestine. The Wise Men from the West would carry His message into the western world. Jesus shares a Greek salad (What else?) and white wine with His Greek guests at a vine covered outdoor cafe. Jerusalem is enjoying beautiful weather.

There has been speculation for centuries that Jesus Himself spoke some Greek along with His native Aramaic. He proves as sophisticated as the Greeks. Originally they thought of Him as a Socrates. They found Him much more. Unlike Socrates, He knows exactly who He is. He blows their sharp minds with His surreal message. Only death brings life. To illustrate His point He uses the grain symbolism. Unless grains of wheat are buried, they will not produce wheat fields. Our Lord was teaching the Greeks and us that only by spending one's life do we retain it. We will exist long into the 21st century if we take things easily, avoid strain, and protect our lives as would a hypochondriac. We will exist longer, but unhappily we will not live. We will prove the point made by a priest that not all the dead are buried. History is filled with people who have learned the lesson Jesus was teaching the Greeks that day at brunch. GB Shaw's Joan of Arc is one. She knew her enemies were closing in. So she shouts to God, "I shall last only a year.

Use me as you can." Christians who lost their lives helping Holocaust Jews are remembered today in Israel in the garden known as the Avenue of the Just. They surrendered their own lives to save others. Incidentally, the Teacher underlines His teaching that from death springs life more than once. You will find Him doing it two times in Matthew, twice in Luke, and once in Mark. He had no intention of pigeonholing this teaching. The Master picked up the check at the bistro. As He was leaving the Greeks, He threw them a fluttering knuckle ball that must have caused indigestion. "And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to myself." It was on the magnet of a wooden cross Jesus placed His hopes. History proved Him right. The empires founded on force have gone leaving bad memories - Genghis Khan, Alexander, Napoleon, Hitler, and Saddam. But, as Christ the swordless on an ass." The Christian life, the sage says, is like parachuting. We must do it right the first time.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
5 Lent
Fifth Sunday of Lent: The Law Written On Our Hearts

This Lent the first readings have by and large presented covenants. Again, the term covenant means a binding agreement between people, or in the case of Sacred Scripture, between God and His people. On the First Sunday of Lent we heard about the Covenant God made with the people at the time of Noah, the Covenant of the Rainbow. We were reminded that God will never give up on his people, or on any of us as individuals. The Second Sunday, we heard about the Covenant of Faith made between God and Abraham. We were encouraged to have the faith of Abraham and to trust in God when we are challenged. We might not know how, but somehow God will set things straight. The Third Sunday of Lent presented the Covenant of the Law God made with Moses, the covenant of the Ten Commandments. This Sunday we just heard Jeremiah's prophecy of the Covenant of the Heart. This will all lead to the Paschal Mystery and the Blood of the New and Eternal Covenant, the covenant we will renew on our altar in a few minutes. Our focus today is on Jeremiah's prophecy. "A day will come," says the Lord through Jeremiah, "when I will write my law upon their hearts. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives how to know the LORD.

All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD." That day has come. When we are united to God, then we can look within ourselves, determine what our conscience is telling us, and know how to serve our God. We don't need particular laws any more. We have the Lord. A great example of the fulfillment of this prophecy was given by one of the saint's whose feast we celebrate tomorrow, St. Joseph. Consider Joseph's state of mind before the angel told him to take Mary to be his wife. He was about to marry a beautiful, young girl. He hoped he would have children with her. He was already an established tradesman. Now he would start his own family with Mary as its heart. And then he learned that Mary was pregnant. Joseph was devastated. He knew that the child was not his. Should he follow the written Law of Moses and reveal Mary's pregnancy to the local synagogue leaders? They would have no choice but to put Mary to death, probably by stoning. Perhaps in another horrid way. Think of how women who are judged to be sinners in the Islamic world of our own day are treated. The people of Joseph's time would not be gentle with Mary. Joseph knew that. He was convinced that he had been offended against, but within his heart he knew it would be wrong to have Mary put to death. Maybe the pregnancy was not her fault. Perhaps, she didn't know what she was doing. It made no difference. Joseph was a just man. That meant that he had a relationship with God. And that relationship told him, that law within his heart told him that he could not expose Mary to the law. He would just send her away, to have the baby in the home of a far off relative where she and the child would spend the rest of their lives. It was only after Joseph chose to follow the law of the heart that the angel appeared to him in a dream and told him about the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. When we are united to God, then like St. Joseph we know what is right and what is wrong. We call that knowledge a certain conscience. There may not be a written law that says we have to look in on that difficult elderly neighbor, but the law of our heart tells us that God expects us to do just that.

There may not be a written law that tells us that we should try to make peace with that estranged family member who has just returned home, that prodigal son or daughter who walked out on our Mom and Dad, brought them so much grief, and who now wants to be reunited with the family. There may not be a written law telling us how we should behave, but our hearts say that God wants us to welcome him or her home. A number of years ago, a girl from Oregon moved here to begin college at USF. She had been in a Life Teen Program at home and attended our program as a college student, offering to help out with the high school people. One reason she left the West Coast to come to Florida was to end a bad relationship and seek, what she called "a new virginity." She was only here a few weeks when she realized that she was pregnant. The people she was staying with tried to convince her to embrace a solution that she would regret the rest of her life and that would destroy the life within her. She was not going to do that. She wanted to go home, but she didn't think she could tell her parents. She went to our Pregnancy Center. They helped her with pre-natal needs, directed her to a doctor, told her they would help in any way they could.

She went to our Youth Minister, Bart, and then to me. Now there may not be a written law that says that we needed to care for her and the child within her, and get her back to her parents, but the law of God within our hearts told us that we have no choice but to do everything we could to help her. By the way, we got the money together to buy her a ticket home. When she called her parents to tell them about her situation they welcomed her home. She was over 18 and there was no law saying that they had to let her back into their home, no written law that is. But the law of the heart told them as it told us what needed to be done. We Americans are so legalistic that we can easily let the law reduce us to limiting the choices we make to that which is required by the written law. We are better than that. The law that we need to follow is the law of God that is written within our hearts. We need to stay united to God and listen to our consciences. I could tell you many stories about people who hid behind the law and hurt other people. I could also tell you many more stories of people, who like Joseph, were just, united to God, and chose to make what their hearts told them would be loving decisions. All of us are concerned with teaching our faith to our children. Religious education is not enough. It is important, yes, but it barely touches the surface of what it means to follow the Lord. Yes, it is important that our children learn their lessons. But it is infinitely more important that we provide our children with experience after experience of our living our love for God. It is not just their minds or our minds that God wants. What God wants is their hearts. What God wants is our hearts.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
5 Lent
Finding Hope When Life Hurts Week 5: Stop Procrastinating
Bottom line: Meditating on what Jesus has done, we ask his help to rightly order our lives. Stop procrastinating!

Today some Greek speaking Jews ask to see Jesus. In response Jesus talks about his coming *glorification.* "Amen, amen, I say to you unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies it produces much fruit." What fruit does Jesus' death produce? As today's Gospel indicates, his self-offering makes him accessible to all times and all places. Lifted up on the cross Jesus draws all people to himself. That's Jesus' glorification: Suffering typically leads to humiliation. United with Jesus, however, suffering leads to glorification. Like a grain of wheat - like a Passover lamb - Jesus dies to bear fruit. That principle applies also to you and me. During Lent many of you are reading Finding Hope When Life Hurts. I love Fr. Sica's daily reflections. The only part I don't like is that he keeps telling me I need to die - to let go of certain things to find the hope Jesus offers. Of all the things Fr. Sica suggests, what do I find most challenging? I don't know about you but for me it was this:

Stop procrastinating! Stop putting things off waiting for a more convenient time. I can miss opportunities, for example by placing people on the back burner, always thinking, "I'll do it later." As Fr. Sica observes, "other things take precedence and we get sidetracked by videos, blogs and music." The best way to avoid procrastination, he says: "be deliberate in doing what you don't feel like doing." Do the worst first, die to self. Fr. Sica gives this challenge: "What have you been putting off? Losing weight? Mending a relationship? Cleaning out closets? Job hunting? Write down the top three." I'll share mine. Your top three will be different but here are mine: One involves cleaning out a disaster area in the rectory. The second is about office files that have become unmanageable. The third is a personal relationship that needs mending. In the past I've wanted to do these things and failed. Fr. Sica suggests finding a mentor. In my case a friend has agreed to hold me accountable. Reflecting on things I need to do, where I need to die, causes me to ask a more basic question:

Why deliberately do anything? Why not just drift along, do whatever seems urgent? What is my purpose anyway? I see that purpose reflected in our parish mission statement: Blessed to live in this beautiful valley, we are Christians, in union with Pope Francis and Archbishop Sartain, who strive to lift up Jesus, love one another and make disciples. Lift up Jesus! Last week we heard Jesus say, "the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life." Today Jesus says "When I am lifted up from the earth I will draw everyone to myself." Early in the Second World War - England's Darkest Hour - Churchill spoke about how much so many people owed to a few brave fighter pilots. In the course of human history many, many people people - including you and me - owe everything to one man. So, lift up Jesus! That's what we do in the next two weeks known as "Passiontide." I encourage you this week to read chapter 11 of the Case for Jesus. Dr. Pitre discusses the meaning of Jesus' crucifixion and answers some tough question: Why did they accuse Jesus of blasphemy? Did Jesus feel God-forsaken? What's the meaning of the blood and water? Next week - Palm Sunday - we'll listen to St. Mark's account of Jesus' Passion. It coincides with spring - a time when seeds "die" for the sake of a harvest. The beginning of spring is a good moment to put our lives in order. That's today's invitation: Meditating on what Jesus has done, we ask his help to rightly order our lives. Stop procrastinating! "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies it produces much fruit." Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
5 Lent
Fifth Sunday of Lent, Classic John 12: 20–33
Gospel Summary

Some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover feast say to Philip, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus." Jesus responds, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified." He then says that in order to produce much fruit, a grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die; and only the person who "hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life." Those who follow him, Jesus promises, will be where he is, and the Father will honor them. Jesus, realizing that his "hour" will involve suffering and death, is troubled; yet, he entrusts his life to the Father. Through giving himself to his Father's will, the world will be judged, and the ruler of this world will be driven out. Jesus then reveals the purpose of the "hour" he is about to enter: "And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself." Life Implications The incident of the Greeks asking to see Jesus marks a turning point in the fourth gospel. Before, as at the wedding feast at Cana, Jesus had always said that his "hour" had not yet come. Now through the symbolic presence of the Greeks, Jesus will be able to draw everyone to himself—Gentiles as well as Jews, people today as well as people of the first century. We, too, would like to see Jesus.

One of the most elusive concepts in the entire bible is "glory." John uses the term to refer to the divine presence manifesting itself in the world, and also to the recognition of that supreme presence by a faithful person. In the hour that has come upon him, how will the Father's presence manifest itself to Jesus, and how will he honor that divine presence? It is clear from many incidents in the fourth gospel that Jesus loved and enjoyed his human life. He took part in a wedding feast at Cana. At the death of his friend Lazarus, Jesus was moved with the deepest emotions (anger or indignation as well as sorrow). He wept, so much did he love his friend. Now that his "hour" has come, Jesus is troubled at the prospect of losing his life. The Letter to the Hebrews states: "In the days when he was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death…." (Hebrews 5: 7).

Because human life is so precious, perhaps the deepest human instinct is for its survival. We seek power and possessions to secure it. We seek pleasures to enjoy it. We seek honors to assure ourselves of its worth. Jesus, too, faced the temptation to make the preservation of his own life his supreme value. In prayer, however, he recognized the presence of the Father's eternal life dwelling in him, and he committed himself to his Father's will even if it meant he would die. In this the Father glorifies his name by showing us in Jesus that divine life and love overcome death, not only in his beloved Son but in every human being who follows Jesus. When Jesus dies on the cross, it appears to be the "hour" when the "ruler of this world" has triumphed once and for all. However, the reality is that Jesus is lifted up not to end his life on the cross, but is lifted up to eternal life in the Father. The good news that John's gospel proclaims is that now Jesus draws everyone to himself. The Greeks and all who now "see" Jesus and follow him in faith will be where he is, with God.

The crucial "hour" when one must choose either to love one's life in this world above everything else, or to love one's life in God, of course, will come in the particular circumstances of one's own world. There are immediate implications of that decision. To define one's ultimate meaning in relation to any reality but God is to live in a state of anxiety because that finite reality, however precious, may pass away at any moment. On the other hand, to define one's meaning in relation to life in God brings peace beyond understanding. Even though, like Christ, we may experience the deepest emotions at the death of a loved one, or be troubled at the prospect of our own death, the final word is peace. "I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world" (John 16: 33). Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.

5th Sunday of Lent,
Modern Lectionary 35

Today I focus on the readings for the "B" cycle of the Lectionary; these passages will be read at most masses throughout our country rather than the optional texts for masses with catechumens. Before getting to the scriptures however, we note that the period of Passiontide begins today; this is a more immediate time of preparation for Palm Sunday and the remembrance of the Lord's passion during Holy Week. In order to move us into such a spirit of penitential reflection the covering of statues is allowed beginning today, representing a sort of "fasting" for the eyes. Later, this penitential sign of longing for renewal is deepened by the removal of holy water from churches on the days of the Sacred Triduum. Turning to the readings, we first behold a beautiful promise made by the Lord through the prophet Jeremiah: "I will place my law within them and write it on their hearts." This promise of a new relationship with God is perceived however as something which lies on the far side of a period of suffering, as witnessed first by Jeremiah: "this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord" (Jer 31:33), and as was made clear in the second reading from the Epistle to the Hebrews: "Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered" (Heb 5:8).

Christ's own acceptance of his approaching passion is clear, though colored understandably by human anxiety: "I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour'? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name." His angst over his own suffering is a powerful reminder to us when we are in distress that he has been there before us and knows our pain. We are able to find meaning in suffering, painful as it is, precisely because Jesus preceded us on this hard path, and our suffering is a share in his. Our participation in his Passion is plainly forecast in the verse that is sung as the acclamation before the gospel reading: "Whoever serves me must follow me, says the Lord; and where I am, there also will my servant be" (John 12:26). Lent and this period of Passiontide are indeed important annual reminders that we all experience a share in Christ's passion in life, though in different circumstances and to differing extents.

The story of course does not end there: Jesus first announces to his followers that the consummate moment of his ministry has arrived: "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified." He then instructs his disciples that they too must bear their crosses if they are to be faithful to him: "unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit." Finally he forecasts what will be accomplished through his own passion, giving meaning to ours: "now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself." As we enter the days of Passiontide, let us unite ourselves with Christ in his hours of darkness that we might find hope and light through him in our times of suffering. Doing so, we will be true to our Lord's words "Whoever serves me must follow me" and we can rejoice in his promise "The Father will honor whoever serves me" (John 12:23ff). Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
5 Lent
Fifth Sunday of Lent

In listening to the words of today's Gospel we see that Jesus realises he is coming very close to the cataclysmic events that were to become the hinge points of the whole of human history: his own death and resurrection. I think that we can never overstate the impact of his death and resurrection. Everything that existed before, everything that exists now and everything that will exist in the future depends upon and takes its meaning from these events. Many people live their lives quite oblivious to this fact and I suppose many more in the future will do the same. But if we are to make sense of the world and all that is in it then we must come to the realisation that what occurred on those three days two-thousand years ago is of absolutely crucial importance. Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified, says Jesus and he gives us that beautiful proverb about the grain of wheat. Unless a grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest. As we know, these words were uttered just a few days before Jesus himself was do die and rise again in order to bear the greatest harvest of all. He dies so that many might live; indeed so that all might live, all who chose his way of self-sacrifice. This is a harvest far greater than any mere sheaf of wheat. This is a harvest of souls, a bounteous harvest of souls won for eternal life. So we can see why Jesus calls his death a glorification.

That darkest moment of all, especially considering the circumstances, is turned into a victory not only for Christ but also for all of us. We spend this last week of Lent in what we can only call “The Shadow of the Cross.” As we approach Good Friday, each day we spend a little more time in meditation on the terrible events that unfolded all those years ago. As Christians our natural instinct is to accompany Jesus on that last journey and feel deeply for him as we witness from a distance the brutalities and indignities he experienced for our sake. The Cross does cast a shadow across the life of every Christian. We all experience loss, sorrow and suffering at one time or another but knowing that our Divine Saviour walked the same way before us gives us the strength to carry on. And we carry on full of hope precisely because of the victory he won for us on the Cross of Calvary. In the words of today's Gospel and in their echo in the Letter to the Hebrews we get some idea of the anguish Jesus went through. Unlike the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke there is no Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane in the Fourth Gospel. For John the garden is merely the place where Jesus is arrested.

The suffering of the Agony in the Garden is transferred to this scene before the Passover. John records the words: Now my soul is troubled. Jesus knows that his hour is at hand; that the time has come for all that was foretold to take place. The other Gospels, with almost the same words in each of them, record Jesus praying: Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let your will be done. Here in John the incident is formulated differently. There is no vigil of prayer and the words are posed as a rhetorical question to the disciples: What shall I say: Father save me from this hour? It's a rhetorical question because Jesus answers it himself by saying: But it was for this very reason that I came. This is quite a different approach, there seems to be almost no doubt at all. Jesus approaches his passion as if it were something for which he had long prepared. He then goes on to say: Father glorify your name. It is as if by asking the Father to glorify his name that Jesus wishes the whole thing to be brought speedily to a conclusion. This is no Agony in the Garden, this is almost exhilaration or an excited anticipation which is intensified by the extraordinary reply from heaven:

 I have glorified my name and I will glorify it again. As an aside, we should note that this is the first time in the Gospel of John that the voice of God is heard; because there is no voice at the Baptism and no account of the Transfiguration. With this announcement from heaven at such a crucial moment we see the extraordinary closeness between Jesus and the Father, their wills are absolutely united. The self-doubt that is expressed in the Synoptic Gospels is completely and totally absent. But John lets us know that facing his passion and death will still cost Jesus something, as he says: Now my soul is troubled. As a priest you see many people face their own death. It is one of the many privileges of this wonderful vocation. These days, however, many people are deprived of the opportunity of experiencing this sacred moment through coma or heavy medication. Some people are quite naturally very afraid and need reassurance, but you would be surprised at how many do face the prospect of imminent death with great equanimity and faith. They take comfort in the knowledge of the victory Jesus has won for them and in the promises of God. Jesus faced his death and because of this we can face ours.

Many years ago it was a common Catholic practice to prepare for sleep by preparing one's self for death. You made a careful examination of conscience and said an act of contrition for all the sins you had committed during that day and in this way you could sleep safe in the knowledge that if you died in the night you were as well prepared as you could be. Although it could be regarded as out of fashion, this is not a practice to be sneered at; indeed it is something we could all do well to imitate. It is true piety. But perhaps to conclude we ought to look at the words from the Letter to the Hebrews: 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. If the same could be said for us we certainly would have no fear when it comes to facing our own death.

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