Some of the words we encounter in the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent are laden with ominous, scary sentiments as they expose raw emotions from the depths of the heart.
In the days when he was in the flesh, Jesus offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the One who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. (Hebrews5:7)
And, in the Gospel passage we have partial fulfilment of this prophecy: “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. (John 12:27)
Now, if we attribute these words to Jesus alone, we would miss the whole point of having them read, here and now, as part of this Eucharistic Celebration. We need to keep always in mind that awesome, supernatural reality in which we are immersed (e.g., the oneness of Jesus with the Blessed Mother, all the Saints, those who have died in the Lord and are being purified after death, and all of us). This tremendous group makes up the “Total Christ.”
Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me. (John 12:26)
From the Father’s perspective (the only fully “real” one) no one can separate Jesus, the Head, from the rest of the Body—from those who follow and serve him. Therefore, even 2000 years later, we can legitimately attribute to ourselves, individually and collectively, loud cries and tears and any feelings of being troubled; and realize how true and foreboding those same words still are!
Quite a large part of the “Total Christ” in the flesh is offering prayers and supplications with loud cries to the One who is able to save us from death.
Quite a large part of the “Total Christ” in the flesh is troubled at this very moment.
Quite a large part of the “Total Christ” in the flesh faces its hour with sheer fright and anguish.
Quite a large part of the “Total Christ” in the flesh is confused, disoriented, exhausted and wonders how long it would be before freedom, hope and serene living can be restored to them by the Father.
If, at the present time, in spite of the devastation caused by the pandemic, we live without major issues confronting us, and have no reasons to complain, we can look around and, immediately, we would find evidence that tears and sighs are issues with which many are still too familiar.
I just pick one case to give you an idea without intending, thus, to diminish and lose appreciation for the pain of so many others. A very devout couple, whom I know, had a son and a daughter and their lives were filled with gratitude to God and with much hope for the future. Last year, they lost their son to a traffic accident and, recently, their daughter lost her baby due to pregnancy complications. Those of you who are parents are the only ones who can come close to imagining how, each day, each night, are marked by anguished sighs and bitter tears with the knowledge that relief, any relief, even a small one, is so slow in reaching their hearts.
Extending our gaze past the boundaries of the area with which we are familiar, beyond the borders of our state, of our country, we would encounter heart-wrenching similar occurrences, crippling losses of all kinds and even unbelievably numerous cases of severe persecution against Christians with confiscation of property, burning of homes and churches, imprisonment, torture, and violent deaths.
Even in our country, we realize with disbelief, apprehension and, more recently, also with indignation that the Catholic Church, in particular, is targeted for subtle forms of persecution besides overt censorship and rabid criticism of her moral standards.
With every passing day even those among us who feel secure, hopeful, able to make a decent living enjoying family and friends amid many sacrifices, might sense that their hour is approaching.
Hence, we wonder why God is allowing all this to happen.
To the pain that we have to endure personally due to the way life unfolds on this earth, to the pain that we witness near and far, we have to add now the onerous task of making serious, costly choices.
Aware of our situation, the Church reminds us of our oneness with Christ: Son though he was, Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8)
The Church reminds us that we, too, must learn obedience to the Father’s mysterious plan from what we are suffering and will suffer in the future. The message that she wishes to convey to us in earnest is that the only way for us to endure any trial is by embracing, with unwavering faith, the Father’s perspective of seeing ourselves as inseparable from His Son, Jesus Christ.
For us disciples of the Lord Jesus, the Father’s is the only fully “real” perspective. According to the Father’s mysterious plan, it is necessary that we, like grains of wheat, let ourselves fall to the ground and die in order to bear the good fruits that He knows we can bear if we remain one with Jesus. It is not a pleasant prospect by any stretch of the imagination. Actually, it is quite scary and daunting. Yet, this is the way which the Father deems most appropriate to sift those who truly take discipleship seriously from those who are content with nominal membership in His Son’s Body.
Acceptance of sufferings, including any about to befall us, will separate us from “smorgasbord” Catholics. In order to remain loyal to Christ Jesus in spite of anything that might befall us, without delay, even before the hour designated by the Father comes, we shall rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to make stronger and more intense our love for Jesus, to give us solid knowledge of the Gospel and steadfast courage in bearing witness to Christ at any personal cost.
We shall never forget what he keeps telling us:
“I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”(John 16:33)