CATHOLIC HOMILY FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR B
THEME: THE ROAD TO GLORY
BY: Fr. Gerald Musa
HOMILY: Glory is attractive, but the cross is repulsive; we love to arrive at a destination called glory, but we often reject the narrow and thorny ways that lead to glory. Therefore, we cut corners; we seek for short cuts in order to get it cheap and fast. Thomas á Kempis’ in his inspirational book, The Imitation of Christ says:
Jesus has many who love his kingdom in heaven, but few who bear his cross. He has many who desire comfort, but few who desire suffering. He finds many to share his feast, but few his fasting. All desire to rejoice with him, but few are willing to suffer for his sake. Many follow Jesus to the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the cup of his passion. Many admire his miracles, but few follow him in the humiliation of the cross.
There is no way we can talk about rising without talking about dying. In the Gospel Jesus speaks about a new life springing from death: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain, but if it dies it produces much fruit” (John 12:24). A major theme in the season of Lent is dying, and during the Easter season, rising from death becomes the primary focus.
Besides, another analogy that explains the mystery of dying and rising is the Greek Legend about a bird called Phoenix. This colourful bird has a life span of over 1400 years. An amazing nature of the Phoenix is how it receives new life from the ashes or decomposed body of a dead one. Reproduction takes place when a newborn phoenix emerges from the body of an older one. No wonder early Christians used symbol of the Phoenix to explain the cycle of new life, which emerges from death.
Old testament prophets also have graphic ways of explaining the process of dying and rising. For example, Prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of Dry Bones depicts the emergence of new life (Ezekiel 37:1-14). Prophet Jeremiah’s most famous prophecy on the new covenant (c.586 B.C.) indirectly points to rising to a new life. His prophecy points to a new covenant which offers hope to Israel about rising from the death of slavery, defeat, destruction and exile in Babylon. The people were in a very dark and uncertain period. Prophet Jeremiah offers them hope that they will rise up again through a new covenant that God would make with them (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
The death of Jesus became the fulfillment of the new covenant, which Prophet Jeremiah prophesied. Consequently, this death of Jesus marked the dawn of the new covenant between God and his people. Jesus established this covenant through his passion (tears and cries), crucifixion and death. These tears and cries were his path to glory.
Jesus knew the time of his crucifixion and death was coming close and he spoke several times about ‘the hour.’ First, he used this term ‘hour’ when he was speaking to his mother in Cana saying, “My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4); second, he used the term when it was getting close for him to drink the cup of sorrow. He says: “The hour has come for the son of man to be glorified (John 12:23). Jesus knew that the hour of his passion and death was going to be painful and bloody. He sincerely expressed how he felt deep inside: “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say–‘ Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour” (John 12:27). He voluntary accepted sorrow and death to show there is no other path to glory other than the path of suffering and sacrifice.
Added to this, his “tears and cries” (Hebrews 10:10) expressed his solidarity with all people in the world who, at the moment, are passing through dark and sorrowful mysteries of life. Paul clearly explains the meaning of affliction in the light of glory: “The affliction of life is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all compassion, because we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
We crave for glory while we detest and avoid any form of affliction that accompanies glory. We want to eat our cake and have it; we want omelets and we are unwilling to break egg, we want a full life and we are not ready to take risks; we want the crown, but we are unwilling to take the cross. Jesus says, “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:25). George Matheson, a blind preacher wrote:
My God, I have never thanked Thee for my thorn. I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my roses, but not once for my thorns. I have been looking forward to a world where I shall get compensation for my cross, but I have never thought of my cross as itself a present glory. . . Teach me the glory of my cross; teach me the value of my thorn. Show me that I have climbed to Thee by the path of pain. Show me that my tears have made my rainbow.
Can we relate with the Christ of Christmas without relating with the Christ of Calvary? The season of lent is a special season to reflect upon the mysteries embedded in the crown of thorns of Jesus; to reflect upon his agonizing pains in the Garden of Gethsemane and to contemplate on his death on a cross. If we must attain glory, we all must go through the way of the cross.
5th Sunday of Lent, Year B/ Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:7-9; John 12:20-33