Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - March 21, 2021
The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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 it produces much fruit if it dies.
On the Fifth Sunday of Lent, we hear about the arrival of some Greeks who “would like to see Jesus.” Our Lord responds to the request by saying that the hour of his glorification has arrived. Jesus’ glorification or “lifting up” refers to his Passion and glorification that will take place through the cross. The climactic sign and revelation of God’s love are about to take place through Jesus’ life-giving death and resurrection. When Jesus is lifted up, he will draw everyone to himself.
The image of the seed that is buried in the ground and then bears fruit seems to have been a favorite one for Jesus, and we find it in all the Gospels. In the passage from John’s Gospel that we hear today, the image is more than a call to humility and mortification to bear the fruit of holiness. John wants us to focus first on the person of Jesus as the model and paradigm of our life. Jesus himself is the seed whose death gives life to humankind. The language of loving and hating life tells us that we do not really live if we cling only to our own personal existence instead of embracing Jesus, who reminds us, “Whoever serves me must follow me.” Disciples will serve Jesus by imitating his self-surrender. If they follow him in death to self, they also will be with him in the resurrection to eternal life.
As we come to the last week of Lent before Holy Week, our focus must be on our Lord. Whatever our Lenten prayer and works of penance have been, we do not want to lose sight of the One who leads us through death to life. The second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews directs our attention to the Son of God, who, always faithful to the Father’s will, “learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal life for all who obey him.”
As we move toward Holy Week, it is Jesus who continues to show us the glory of our forgiving God, who remembers the covenant he made with His people. The prophet Jeremiah today delivered God’s promise of a new covenant whose demands and expectations would be imprinted on the hearts of all God’s people. All would know God and God’s will directly.
We believe that Jeremiah’s hope for a new or renewed covenant has been fulfilled, at least in part, through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. All of the Scripture readings today remind us that the inauguration of the new covenant through Jesus came about in the midst of his suffering and death.
Today, we are encouraged and challenged to become single-hearted like the Son of God. With the Responsorial Psalm, we pray, “Create a clean heart in me, O God.” Our ongoing conversion is possible only with the help of God. For that reason, we continue to approach our God and strive to see his Son. In the words of today’s Collect for Mass, may God help us to “walk eagerly in that same charity with which, out of love for the world, [His] Son handed himself over to death.”