Our Hour

Our Hour

In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death… (Hebrews 5:7)

This powerful statement underlines forcefully how close to our flesh, to our predicaments, to our fears, to our anguish God made himself in the flesh of his only begotten Son, Jesus. We must be heartened by Jesus’ loud cries and tears to ponder existential questions that we might ask ourselves only very rarely—if ever:

The inevitability of death; what anticipates us beyond the grave; whether we are making the right choices leading confidently to a life spent with purpose and meaning; how to handle our moments of darkness and severe losses; and so on.

These are unusual questions indeed. But they are questions that the Church leads us to ask as we enter the more intense second half of the Lenten Season, and we find ourselves walking behind Jesus shouldering a cross which gets heavier and heavier. We find Jesus troubled for his hour has come. It is the hour of menacing darkness, of his sharpest pain, the hour of his passion and death on a cross, the hour filled with the outmost horror of unspeakable tortures.

For some of us the hour of our trials and darkness can be simply scary because, at present, things are going relatively well for ourselves and our family. Although they admit that their pain cannot be compared to the pains of Jesus on the cross, for some it is such that it has pushed them to the very edge and, now, find themselves teetering over an abyss.

Fully aware of both cases, knowing that for some of us the prospect of the unknown is frightening and the experience of being at the brink is all that others can endure, Jesus doesn’t hide from us the full extent of his fear, all his human frailty, his pain and weakness. He shows his full humanness because we are one with him in Baptism and we feed on his Flesh and Blood in the Eucharist.

At this point, we should realize that this passage from the Gospel of John (12: 20-33) given us this Fifth Sunday of Lent is offering us more than sincere sympathy and genuine solidarity; it is showing us the only possible and proven path to glory! Kind and caring people can send us get-well or sympathy cards, bring us flowers, try to cheer us up, give us words of encouragement, offer financial assistance, things of that sort. Others will go through the perfunctory motions dictated by etiquette to appease their conscience; while still others will either ignore us or say: “that’s too bad!”

True, if Jesus had not risen from the dead, what we just read in that passage from John would have to be considered a crazy statement uttered by a deranged man. But for us living in the wake of the Resurrection, the hour of our darkness, passion and death can, MUST be seen also as the hour leading to our triumph and glory.

Yet it is more than reasonable for us, who feel close to God in his Son Jesus, to ask for time to ponder over it. So, Jesus repeats for our sake:“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.” 

Although we are troubled, we realize that it is only in Christ and with Christ that we can face the hour of our test, of pain, of loss, of perplexity. And it is from Jesus and in Jesus that we learn obedience to the Father’s will by accepting our share of suffering. It is imperative, though, that we renew our faith in him and remind our frightened heart that, against all indications and reactions, it can, it will also be the hour of our glorification and triumph.

The rest of our life’s journey in Jesus and with Jesus will make sense, Christian sense, because we realize that the Father is writing in our hearts the same law of love he wrote in his Son’s heart! It is, of course, the new commandment of loving each other the way Jesus loved us on the cross. That law of love, the new commandment, is powered by the Spirit that sustained Jesus on his climb to Calvary and that Jesus commended into the Father’s hands as his sacrifice on the cross was completed. 

That same Spirit turned frightened, sheepish disciples into bold witnesses of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. The same Spirit drove each one of them to embrace fully the mission and the purpose of a grain of wheat that must fall to the ground, rot, and die to bear much fruit. The same Spirit taught them to “hate” their life in this world the way Jesus did on the cross so that they could preserve it for eternal life. 

Thus, may the same Spirit shed enough of his light on us so that we will choose Jesus’ outlandish, most unreasonable offer over what the world proposes as safe and sensible. May the same Spirit give us sufficient courage to sacrifice our life with the same trust of a good grain of wheat falling to the ground. 

We shall let the new commandment be our guide and the law written in our hearts to inspire us. We cannot forget that, at every Holy Mass, we are representing for ourselves and living out the Last Supper and the Sacrifice of Christ Jesus on the cross. Hence, today could possibly be the beginning of “our hour:” the hour of our test, the hour of suffering, pain, darkness, and self-immolation. But also, the hour of a generous display of genuine love, of willing service of our neighbor and the hour leading to glory and endless joy as well. 

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Written by
Fr Dino Vanin