FR. MIKE’S HOMILY FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR B
THEME: The Kiss of Christ
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
HOMILY: Jn 12:20-33
A priest is walking around the neighborhood. From a distance, he sees a very small boy trying to press the doorbell of one house. But he is very small and he cannot reach the doorbell. The priest, out of pity, walks toward the boy, and stands behind him. Then, placing his hand kindly on the child’s shoulder, leans over and presses the doorbell long and hard. Afterwards, the priest smiles kindly and asks, “And now what, little guy?” With a mischievous smile, the boy hurriedly replies, “Now, it’s time to run!”
Much of the troubles in the world are caused by people who would rather run away than face their problems, difficulties and sufferings. Drug addiction, divorce, abortion and all vices are results of this desire to run away and avoid difficult situations. But we have to be constantly reminded that suffering is part of our human existence in this world. Problems and difficulties are realities in the world that we cannot avoid. It is utterly pointless to run away from them.
We see sufferings everywhere. For many of us, it is understandable if those who are suffering are the evil people. But that is not the case. What we see are innocent people and children who suffer the most. That is why we are tempted to complain to God. Why do the good and innocent suffer? If God is love and full of mercy, why does He allow these people to suffer? If God is all-powerful, why does He not put a stop to suffering?
The answer to all these questions is right in front of us: the image of Jesus nailed to the cross. God became man like us in all things but sin. Jesus is God in human flesh. It is God who is nailed to the cross. It is God who suffers and dies. And He never complained. He did not succumb to the temptation to use His powers to get down from the cross. He did not stop His own suffering. All these He endured so that we can be saved and have the fullness of life.
The image of Jesus on the cross simply tells us one very important truth: God has no intention of taking away suffering from the world. In fact, He, too, suffered, for in His unfathomable wisdom, He knows there is great value in suffering: “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” (Jn 12:24).
And if we are suffering in this world, the cross tells us that God is also suffering – for us and with us. We are not suffering alone; God is one with us in our suffering. The suffering and death of Jesus gained for us eternal life. He was the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies, and his death brought life and salvation to the whole world. This truth must give us inspiration and strength to bear our crosses patiently and follow Jesus to Calvary.
Unfortunately, many people still remain in the darkness of death due to selfishness and sin. Selfishness is what prevents us from living life to the full. Jesus reminds us: “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” (Jn 12:25). Clinging on to a life in this world, which ultimately is passing away makes us blind to the beauty and infinite goodness of eternal life. On the other hand, willingness to let go of this life for the sake of eternity helps us discover the fullness of life here and hereafter.
It is only in dying to our self that we begin to live. Like the bread that must be broken in order to be shared to others; and like the candle that must be consumed in order to give light, so also we must learn to give of ourselves, to die to ourselves, in order for others to live. In so doing, we make our own lives more meaningful and fruitful, for we are able to share fully in the life Jesus – a life of total self-giving. For truly, as beautifully put by St. Francis of Assisi, “it is in giving that we receive; it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
During the remaining days of Lent, let us seriously do some acts of self-denial: fasting, abstinence, almsgiving, sacrifices and acts of penance. These will surely help us practice dying. Saying “no” to our pleasurable vices, saying “no” to a comfortable and pampered lifestyle, saying “no” to selfish search for worldly gain and success will be very painful for most of us and could be tantamount to dying. But we have to, in order that we may be able to share ourselves with others – so that others may live. This is what martyrdom means nowadays, not anymore bloody martyrdom, but equally painful and fruitful martyrdom.
A fitting way to close this reflection is by sharing with you a very simple, yet profound poem by Caryll Houselander, entitled “THE KISS OF CHRIST”:
There he hangs — pale figure pinned against the wood.
God grant that I could love Him as I really know I should.
I draw a little closer to share that love Divine
And almost hear Him whisper,
“Ah foolish child of Mine!
If I should now embrace you,
My hands would stain you red.
And if I leaned to whisper,
the thorns would pierce your head.”
And then I knew in silence that love demands a price
’twas then I learned that suffering is but the kiss of Christ.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches