Reflection for the fifth Sunday in Lent

Reading: John 12: 20-33

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour. ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say – “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

Reflection

At this time of the year, we see signs of new life and growth all around the countryside. For those of us who are gardeners, it is time to get planting and sowing. Through sowing seeds, we witness the true miracle of nature take place – the tiny seed, buried in the cold, damp earth, germinates, sprouts and, with the right attention, will eventually yield a crop of vegetables or flowers. It seems impossible that so much can come from one tiny seed.

Our Lord used the analogy of a single grain of wheat, which when sown in the ground dies, before remerging, producing a seed head of many grains. He said this to illustrate the effect of his imminent death and resurrection, through which many people would come to discover new life in God. He said this in Jerusalem, just after his entry on Palm Sunday, when his disciples Andrew and Philip came to tell him about some Greek people who asked to see him.

Jerusalem would have been thronged with pilgrims that week for the annual Passover Festival. Jesus had attracted a great deal of attention because word had spread that he had raised Lazarus from the dead and many wanted to see for themselves the man who had performed such a miracle. Among them were people whom John describes as Greeks and they came, asking to see Jesus.

In those times, Greek intellectuals travelled to different countries in search of new ideas and discoveries. The people who came to Jesus may well have come to learn about Judaism and what better time than their greatest religious festival. On hearing the rumours of a man raised from the dead, they sought to meet the one believed to be responsible for that amazing feat.

The timing of their approach to our Lord could not have been more significant. Jesus declared that the hour had come for him to be glorified. At different times in the gospel of John, Jesus spoke about the coming hour. He told his mother on one occasion: ‘My hour has not yet come’. Another time, he said the ‘hour is coming’, but now he declared that the moment had arrived – ‘the hour has come’. The conflict with the religious authorities in Jerusalem was about to come to a head; the forces of darkness were at work but through all this, Jesus was convinced that God’s will would be accomplished through his suffering, death and resurrection.

Knowing that it was God’s will did not lessen the pain and anguish our Lord endured in his last days in Jerusalem, which he expressed saying: ‘Now my soul is troubled’. He questioned if he should pray, ‘Father save me from this hour’. Yet he knew the reason that he had come to this moment – to accomplish the will of the Father and to glorify him. This awareness of suffering and his willingness to face it shows the depth of his self-giving love for humanity.

We do not know if the Greek inquirers witnessed the events of Holy Week and Good Friday. What we do know is that the whole purpose of our Lord’s passion was to draw people of every nation to God’s love and mercy. Jesus said: ‘When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself’. Through his death on the cross and resurrection, he opened the way for people everywhere to come to know God in a new way, which Jeremiah expressed in our first reading, when he spoke about God’s new covenant. ‘For they shall all know God from the least to the greatest’.

Our journey through Lent will bring us next Sunday to the beginning of Holy Week and those terrible, but amazing, world-changing events. In a time when the world seems to be crying out for hope, let us focus our attention on Christ, in whom we have every reason for hope. May our aim be like those who approached Philip to say ‘We wish to see Jesus’. And seeing the depth of his love for us, may we respond in renewed faith and devotion to him.

Collect for fifth Sunday in Lent

Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
Grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross,
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayers of intercession

Lord Jesus Christ,
We give you thanks that through your death on the cross
you have drawn all people to yourself.
We pray that you church may be faithful in proclaiming
the message of your love to all people.
May all who seek to see Jesus, find faith and hope in him.
We pray for this Diocese and for Pat our Bishop
and for the people of this parish.

Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer.

We pray for the leaders of nations
that they may lead with wisdom, humility and respect
for the rights and freedom of all people.
We pray for freedom and justice for the people of Myanmar;
We pray for an end to war and suffering in Yemen
and we pray for international cooperation in the battle
to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer.

We pray for our homes and families,
remembering all young people returning to school classrooms.
We pray that our schools will provide a safe
and healthy learning environment.
We remember all students who are studying remotely,
those who are working from home
and all who work in healthcare and frontline public services.
Guard and protect them in their work.

Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer.

We pray for all who are ill, at home or in hospital.
We remember all who are undergoing tests or treatment
and all who are recovering from surgery.
Grant them your strength, healing and peace.

Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer.

We remember all who grieve and mourn for loved ones.
Give comfort to the bereaved and courage to the dying.
We remember our loved ones who have entered your nearer
presence, where sorrow and pain are no more.
May we come with them to the light and joy of your eternal Kingdom.

Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer.

As we journey through Lent, we pray that we may know God’s presence.

Heavenly Father,
in whom we live and move and have our being:
We humbly pray that your Holy Spirit may so guide and govern us
that in all the cares and occupations of our daily life,
we may never forget your presence
but may remember that we are always walking in your sight,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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