Dear Friends in Jesus Christ…,
The hour has come! Jesus says in the gospel “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Why is Jesus troubled? Why is he Praying? To understand the Gospel passage we need to know the background of this passage.
Today’s Gospel reading is taken from the Gospel of John. We are reading much further into John’s Gospel than we have for the past two weeks. Chapter 12 of John’s Gospel is a preparation for the beginning of the passion narrative to follow. Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead—an important sign in John’s Gospel, which inspired many people to believe in Jesus. This event also marks the turning point in Jesus’ conflict with the Jewish authorities. John’s Gospel tells us that the Sanhedrin met after this event and made plans to kill Jesus. In the 12th chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus is anointed by Mary at Bethany and enters Jerusalem in triumph. We again see evidence of the significance of the raising of Lazarus to this event; John reports that the crowds also gathered to see Lazarus.
Following his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus predicted his suffering, death, and Resurrection and prepared his disciples to believe in the salvation that his death would accomplish. A voice from heaven speaks, as if in answer to Jesus’ prayer. This voice, like the one heard at Jesus’ baptism and at Jesus’ Transfiguration affirms that God welcomes the sacrifice that Jesus will make on behalf of others. All this happened to show us that Jesus is the source of our eternal salvation. Jesus says, “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. (John 12:24) And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself (John 12:32)”. Jesus is that grain of wheat that fell to the ground and died and produced much fruit and that fruit is the life of God in our souls, sanctifying grace. Jesus was foretelling the salvation and grace we would receive through his passion and death. All grace comes from the cross, because Jesus was lifted up from the earth. Every time we receive the sacraments, grace flows to us from Calvary. John gives a beautiful detail at the end of his account of Jesus’ death that we do not find in Matthew, Mark, or Luke. One of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a lance and immediately blood and water flowed out (John 19:34). The strange thing is that John then makes a big deal out of this blood and water flowing from Jesus’ side. John says an eyewitness he himself testifies to this and he writes this that we may believe (John 19:35). Why did John and the early Church consider it so important that we believe that blood and water flowed from the side of Jesus? Because the early Church saw the blood and water as symbols of the sacraments – especially the Eucharist and Baptism – and that Christ gave us the sacraments from the cross. The old covenant was written on tablets of stone. God offered us a new covenant as Jeremiah predicted, and the new covenant is written on our hearts with sanctifying grace through the Holy Spirit we know the Lord through faith. Sanctifying grace remains with us when we receive it at Baptism and we receive sanctifying grace in superabundance because we receive grace each time we receive the sacraments. Because of sanctifying grace, we are in friendship with God. When we have sanctifying grace we are in a “state of grace.” And all of this grace comes to us because Jesus was lifted up from the earth to draw us to himself, or like a grain of wheat, fell to the earth, died, and produced much fruit. The fruit is the life of grace in our souls. As we get closer to the Holy Week let us take time to meditate on the passion of Christ. And pray that he may give us a deeper understanding of the meaning of all what we celebrate in these weeks.
God Bless You,