CATHOLIC HOMILY FOR 5TH SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR B
THEME: THE HOUR AND THE GRAIN
BY: Fr. Johnbosco Obika
HOMILY: Jeremiah 31:31-34
Last Sunday we reflected on the unlimited love of God for the world to the point of sending his Son to die for sinner. We also raised the need for us to respond to God in this period when his love and grace are in overflow. Today, Jesus announces his hour and the inevitability of the grain to fall and die in order to accomplish the mission for which God sent him. What is the implication of the “hour” and the “grain” for us?
Jesus said to Andrew and Philip, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified”. The “hour” is very obvious in the Gospel of John. The “hour” (Greek: hora) in a literal understanding means a period of sixty minutes in a chronological order. But for the writer of the fourth Gospel its meaning goes deeper than this. It is a metaphoric reference to that decisive moment in the life and ministry of Jesus. Earlier in the Gospel, John and Jesus in some occasions stress that his hour has not come (See John 2:4; 4:21; 4:23; 7:6; 8:30). And in today’s gospel Jesus announces the hour has come.
Jesus is talking about the time when the Word of God spoken through Jeremiah (as we read in the first reading) over 600 years back shall be fulfilled. God sent his prophet to the exiles in Babylon to offer them a prophetic guarantee of deliverance from the hands of the oppressors and a declaration of a new and eternal covenant. Jesus fulfilled these promises at the appointed time through his blood of the new and eternal covenant shed upon the cross. On the cross he overturned the covenant of old through the sacrifice of himself as victim and priest.
Jesus approaches the hour when death leads to life; when the symbol of suffering and shame becomes an emblem of joy and glory. It is the hour of a reversal movement from defeat to glory; a time when failure leads to success and darkness breaks into light. To buttress this, he employs the parable of the grain- a grain must die to live. This spiritual analogy points to the kind of death Jesus was about to die and the glory that follows his resurrection. Jesus buried the grain of his flesh in order to fulfil the need of the time.
Each of us too has our own impending hour. The author of the book of Ecclesiastes writes, “There is a season for everything, and a time for every event under heaven”. For some couples, the hour has come to commit themselves in marriage while there are some who are at the verge of separation. Some young men and women have reached a decisive stage in their vocation to priesthood and religious life while some are facing crisis in vocation. Many have reached the hour of disbelieving in God due to challenges of life. Our country Nigeria has reached the hour, the most critical moment of our history as a nation as we embark on general election. We are besieged with confusion, not knowing what to do and what to say. Jesus Christ himself showing some at his hour said, “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? However, he did not derail. He directed all anxieties of the hour to God, God did not abandon him. Let us direct all our anxieties to God our critical hour and surely he will not abandon us.
A grain must be buried and die. If we bury the grains of pride, intolerance, disobedience, violence we shall definitely see new shrubs of love, tolerance, mercy and peace in our lives.