Monday, January 11, 2021

ST. JOHN 12: 21-25


                                                       ST. JOHN 12: 21-25

It is now 2021!

We have entered the second year of the global covid pandemic which continues to surge and, as viruses do, is mutating.

The strain, on people’s faith and trust in God, among other stressors, has become intense.

These words from St. John Paul are a comfort: The reality of faith, of hope and of charity. The reality of suffering sanctified and sanctifying. The reality of the presence of the Mother of God in the mystery of Christ and His Church on earth: a presence particularly alive in that portion of the Church which consists of the sick and the suffering. [1] On this reality of the presence of Our Blessed Mother in these days of suffering and spiritual warfare Pope Francis reminds us: Monks of old recommended, in times of trail, that we take refuge beneath the mantle of the Holy Mother of God: calling upon Her as “Holy Mother of God” was already a guarantee of protection and help, this prayer over and again: “Holy Mother of God,” Holy Mother of God…..the Mother protects the faith, safeguards relationships, saves those in storms and preserves them from evil….Where our Mother is at home, the devil does not enter in. Where our Mother is present, turmoil does not prevail, fear does not conquer. [2]

The above from the two Pontiffs, as with the writings of the Fathers of the Church down to those of the Saints such as St. John of the Cross, St. Therese of Lisieux, even the great monastic rules of St. Benedict and St. Basil, the Canons and Prayers of Holy Mass/the Divine Liturgy, all are rooted in, trace back to, Sacred Scripture through immersion in Lectio Divina, in English: Divine Reading.

It is called divine reading because Sacred Scripture is not to be approached like reading any other text, our ‘reading’ should be prayerful, attentive, the source of inspiration for daily life.

The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God's word and of Christ's body……. For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life. Consequently, these words are perfectly applicable to Sacred Scripture: "For the word of God is living and active" (Heb. 4:12) and "it has power to build you up and give you your heritage among all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:32; see 1 Thess. 2:13). [3]

Given the length of time since last a meditation was posted, best to begin with the last verse immersed in and continue from there.

Now there were some Greeks among those who had come up to worship at the feast. [v. 20]

We owe much to the Greeks, such as the roots of philosophy. The Greeks were great searchers for answers to all life’s questions, hence they also sought for faith, exploring many religious traditions, seeking to appease their innumerable gods, and this led many to seek the knowledge faith in the One True God, many converting to Judaism. Some while believing in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, did not embrace the fullness of Judaic practice. It was of these Greeks, known as proselytes, who approached Philip: They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. [vs. 21,22]

Jesus having previously told His disciples not to go to the Gentiles [cf. Mat. 10:5; 15L24], among whom were the Greeks, it is understandable Philip would have conferred with Andrew and they decided to approach Jesus on behalf of the Greeks. St. John does not indicate if then the Greeks were invited to speak with Jesus, however His words certainly are a powerful teaching for the Greeks, all others present, and for us in this immediate moment:  Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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. [vs. 23,24]

So crucial are these words of Jesus regarding why He must die and what results from His death that the Synoptics quote it as well: (Mk 8:35; Mt 16:25; Lk 9:24; Mt 10:39; Lk 17:33).

We ourselves are plunged into the depths of this teaching through sacramental Baptism wherein we are plunged into Christ’s death and brought forth as a new being in His Holy Resurrection.

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves Me must follow Me, and where I am, there also will My servant be. The Father will honour whoever serves Me. [vs. 24, 25]

Here we have both an admonition and a promise.

The first is a warning that if we prioritize a life lived outside of union with and fidelity to Christ we may well die unrepentant and suffer the loss of the life we have been created for, an eternity of communion of love with and in the presence of the Most Holy Trinity, whereas if we prioritize a life of fidelity to Christ and live the Gospel with our lives, loving one another, therefore loving and serving Jesus in everyone, then indeed, in this and in eternal life as faithful servants of Christ we shall be with Him forever, this being the honour the Father will lavish upon us.

Commenting on the above passage Archbishop Fulton Sheen notes succinctly: No real good is ever done without some cost and pain to the doer. [4]

[1] PRAYERS AND DEVOTIONS, 365 daily meditations; Pope John Paul II; edited by Bishop Peter Canisius Johannes Van Lierde, o.s.a; pp.86,87; Viking, 1994

[2] POPE FRANCIS~REBUKUING THE DEVIL; p. 138; United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; 2019

[3]  see chapter VI, para. 21

[4] LIFE OF CHRIST, Fulton Sheen; p. 267; Image Books, 1990

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph


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