DETAILED HOMILY FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR B
THEME: DYING TO LIVE – LOSING TO GAIN
BY: Rev. Fr Gerald Muoka
HOMILY: R1 – Jer 31:31-34
Resp Ps – Ps 137:1-6
R2 – Heb 5:7-9
Gospel- John 12:20-33
John Newton, was an eighteenth century notorious slave trader, who learned what there is to lose and gain. As a Captain of a trans-Atlantic slaving ship, he had everything this world can offer as he made a lucrative living from the brutal business of buying and selling human cargo. Infact, he was completely entangled and swallowed up by the ephemerality of this transitory world.
Eventually, he was confronted with Jesus Christ, and he was converted to the Gospel truth which makes us free (John 8:32). He spent the rest of his life crusading to abolish the very business which had proven so enriching.
To his credit is the life-changing song:
“ Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound!/That saved a wretch like me./I once was lost, but now I’m found,/Was blind, but now I see.”
Beloved in Christ, in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus gives us an oxymoronic paradigm of God’s kingdom, using metaphors of the sown grain to describe the paradox of God’s economy, viz: dying to live; losing to gain, giving to get, humbling to be exalted, etc. That is why he tells us in today’s Gospel: “In all truth I tell you, unless a wheat grain falls into the earth and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest” (Jn 12:24).
At the introit story, we see John Newton, who once thought that he was on top of the world, but in truth, he was wretched and blind in worldliness. He lacked the moral clarity to see that he was nothing more than a cynical businessman making money in an evil enterprise; he was allowing the agnostic’s law of supply and demand to separate him from his Christian conscience. Then Jesus came along and the old John Newton died. A new John Newton was born. An old life was lost and a new one was found, a new life whose melodic fruit remains with us to this day.
GOD’S ECONOMY: DYING IS LIVING-LOSING IS GAINING
It is important that we understand the economy of God. His economy does not operate by the same principles that the world’s economy does. The Lord’s economy operates according to His divine precepts. God’s economic principle says:
~gain often comes through loss
~Life comes through death
~Comfort comes through discomfort
~The way up is down (humility)
~We get more by giving
~We get exalted by being humble.
Those who are willing to lose what they consider precious and valuable actually gain much from the Lord. His blessings and benefits exceed any this world can provide as we see in the following instances:
(i) Abraham was asked to abandon his homeland to follow God unto a land that would be revealed in time. He left with only a promise from God. In His time, and according to His divine plan, God provided much for Abraham.
(ii) For Moses to be a veritable instrument in the hand of God, he needed to loose his Egyptian princely affinity.
(iii) St Paul is another great example of one who gained through losses. He was a Pharisee with much education and a position of prominence. He had all one could desire from a worldly perspective – wealth, status, prestige, and power. Paul decided to give up all that he had worked to obtain in order to follow Jesus. He had learned that loss was actually gain. Consider his perspective on this matter as he wrote to the Philippian church: “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ” (Phil.3:7-10).
And like John Newton, who counted every worldly gain as loss for the sake of following Jesus; What about yourself… myself? What have you got to lose? You’ve got to die to yourself in order to live with Christ! You’ve got to sacrifice and give up to gain! So what about it? What have you got to lose? What about selfishness? Shouldn’t we lose that narrow-minded little love which only extends to family and friends—or stops with our own selves?
The Lenten season is another great opportunity for us to allow the old sinful self to die, inorder to have a renewed life in the spirit; another opportunity for us to abandon the old abnormal for a new normal and Godly way of life. To realise this, we need to pay attention to the following lessons
(1) SEEK JESUS TODAY
The first step towards dying to live is to imitate and learn from the master himself, who gave up everything for our gain and who died for us to live. This is exactly what the Greeks who sought Jesus through Philip actualized. Jesus is all we need today… Even the grain, when planted, makes three movements underneath the ground: Hydrotropism-Movement to imbibe water, Geotropism-Movement towards the soil and Heliotropism-movement towards light. All these movements centre on Christ who is: (a) The living water (Jn 4:14) (b) The light of the world (Jn 8:12) and (c) The living stone for a firm foundation (1Pet 2:4).
(2) ENTER INTO A COVENANT WITH HIM
The decision to follow Jesus is often consolidated through hard decisions to allow the old self die for a regeneration, like David’s did in today’s responsorial Psalm: “pleading for God’s mercy and pardon” This decision is consolidated through a covenantal relationship. As described in the first reading, God desires to enter a renewable covenant with us
(3) IMBIBE THE SPIRIT OF SACRIFICIAL OBEDIENCE
The process of dying to live or losing to gain, is one that requires sacrificial obedience. Every sacrificial undertaking is usually graced with unabated obedience to the will of God.
The second reading equal describes sacrificial obedience as Jesus’ ultimate secret towards accomplishing the will of God. We too, should embrace the culture of sacrifice and obedience to the will of God.
Finally, a certain yound man was almost drowning at the middle of the sea, except by the intervention of a long wood he held tenaciously. He cried profusely for God’s help as he was losing his last breath. Lo and behold, he heard a voice, “leave the wood that I may save you.” He responded with fretting voice, “But I will sink if I remove my hand from this wood.” “I give you my assurance, you will not sink. I will lift you up. You cannot be holding both the wood and my hand. Choose between holding the wood and sink or risk grabbing my hand and be saved,” said the voice. The young man removed his hand from wood and Jesus held him up and saved him.
Beloved, we cannot both hold the world tenaciously and still hold God at the same ebb. You cannot gain the whole world without losing your soul. Jesus invites us to (haa) leave behind all those ephemerals that would lead us to perdition. Remember the scriptural “one million” question, “What gain, then, is it for anyone to gain the whole world and loses his life?” (Mk 8:36).
MAY GOD HELP US TO LEARN GAINING THROUGH LOSING AND LIVING THROUGH DYING FOR THE SAKE OF GOD’S KINGDOM. AMEN.
GOD BLESS YOU!
REV FR GERALD MUOKA