Sunday Gospel Reflection for the 5th Sunday of Lent
It has taken me a while to feel inspired about what to write this week. I have read the Gospel over and over again trying to find the launching pad I was looking for. Instead, I just sat and soaked in each word. While glancing down at the title of the section, I read "Jesus Speaks about His Death." No wonder I wasn't sure what to say. Jesus said it all and I was just trying to listen.
Personal stories are powerful. Bo Eason, a master storyteller and coach that has influenced me in numerous ways, just had a workshop last week about telling the right story at the right time. Jesus was a Master storyteller and did just that, again and again. He was intentional about what details He revealed and when. He was always aware of who He was speaking to and what they needed to hear in that moment.
At the beginning of today's Gospel, Greeks represent people all over the world coming to seek the Lord. They told Philip, "We want to see Jesus!"
When was a time you were wanting to see Jesus? Why?
Who do you run to when you want to find Jesus?
Have you ever asked Jesus directly to let you see Him?
What do you mean when you want to "see" Jesus?
See (verb): 1) perceive with the eyes; discern visually. 2) discern or deduce mentally after reflection or from information; understand.
It doesn't say that Jesus was not in sight at the time the Greeks made their request. They came to the disciples to possibly draw nearer to Jesus with greater awareness and understanding of who this man standing before them truly was.
Jesus doesn't answer with a greeting. He dives right in to discussing the urgency and necessity of death and suffering. He doesn't talk about comfort, but consolation. He reminds us that though we may not feel good, we are never alone.
I used to really detest this passage in Scripture because I do in fact love my life and I found it confusing that Jesus wanted me to hate my life. Through years of life experience, I have grown to understand His message more deeply. In Luke 14:26, Jesus says we must hate our loved ones in order to be a disciple and follow Him. In 1 John 4:20, we read that if we say we love God and hate our loved ones, we are liars. So, there's some discrepancy in these passages. Early in life, I pushed the former passage away because I didn't like the way it sounded. I didn't listen to what Jesus was truly saying. Now, I've become a better listener and truly believe that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Jesus teaches that we must hate our lives on earth in order to enter into eternal life in heaven. This is because we are not to grasp onto anything besides the secure, salvific, rock of Christ. Talking about rocks, it is when we hit rock bottom in our lives that we begin to let go of our expectations and plans. We know we are so deep in the hole that we need help (*enter grace*) to be saved.
Jesus became man to save us.
It was through everything Jesus suffered, ultimately His passion, that God glorified His Son and the believers who drew near to His heart and flesh. Like all human beings, Jesus was not excited about suffering. Next week, we will be reminded of the fact that Jesus sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. Hematidrosis is a real, yet rare, condition. Leonardo Davinci wrote about soldiers sweating blood before battle. Jesus sweat blood before the biggest battle that would ever be fought. He would conquer death, evil, sin, and Satan in the hours following His agony and prayerful plea in the garden, "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will" (Mark 14:36).
Jesus would have preferred not to suffer, but He embraced God's plan. He didn't run from suffering. He wanted nothing more than to glorify the Father! When we start loving other people and things more than glorifying Our Father, we miss the purpose for which we were created.
God can turn our mess into a message. However, we can miss the message amidst the mess.
God shouted in the story, but some people interpreted it as thunder. How often does God speak in the silence, and we just hear white noise? The right question is not, "is God speaking?" but rather "are we listening?"
"Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." CS Lewis
One of my favorite processes to lead clients through is a narrative therapy technique that helps to externalize their problem. They draw their anxiety, depression, addiction, relationship, or other presenting problem as a villian. This could be a natural disaster, a monster, or anything they visualize. After naming it, I ask them about how it has helped them. If you watch the character development of any villian, you may notice that they have a soft underbelly. They are not 100% bad -- meaning that they have helped the hero in some form or fashion. Maybe it has taught them something, challenged them, or brought out a strength they didn't know they had.
God doesn't say suffering is good in itself. It is the soil from which God grows something good.
Mother Teresa said it beautifully when she said:
"Suffering has to come because if you look at the cross, he has got his head bending down—he wants to kiss you—and he has both hands open wide—he wants to embrace you. He has his heart opened wide to receive you. Then when you feel miserable inside, look at the cross and you will know what is happening. Suffering, pain, sorrow, humiliation, feelings of loneliness, are nothing but the kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close that he can kiss you. Do you understand, brothers, sisters, or whoever you may be? Suffering, pain, humiliation—this is the kiss of Jesus. At times you come so close to Jesus on the cross that he can kiss you."
The readings during this Passiontide (two weeks before Easter) do not shy away from the fact that Jesus suffered and died for us. We can't have Easter without Lent. We can't have the Resurrection without the Crucifixion.
Whatever trouble you are going through in your heart, your mind, your work, your home, or your life, tell Jesus that you want to see Him. Ask for wisdom. Ask for grace. He will answer.
The Greeks went to Philip and Philip went to Andrew. Both Philip and Andrew went together to talk to Jesus. Trouble and suffering are guarantees in this life and we are not called to journey through it alone. May we stay close to those people in our lives who point us to Jesus. If you do not have someone in your life who points you to Jesus, pray that He brings you someone. Ask and you shall receive.
The Church teaches us about the beauty of the communion of saints. We can find our story in the lives of the Saints and the lives of the Saints in our own story. We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who want to help us get closer to Jesus. If they can do it, we can, too.
Suffering is hard to endure and often lasts much longer than we would ever hope or expect. The weight of some crosses feels impossible to carry. We feel like we wait forever for the load to be lifted. Instead of being depressed about the past or anxious about the future, let us find peace in the present moment with Jesus. He says, "the hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified."
Let us not waste our suffering. Let us lean into the opportunity to glorify the Father. This is much easier said than done and it's hard to write this myself. I definitely do not handle suffering well. Please keep me accountable and let me know if you need someone to keep you accountable. Together, as God's children, we can give glory to the Father as we keep our eyes on Him. "And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
A couple of chapters following the Gospel passage today, Jesus goes into more detail about the "hour."
"Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy. When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world. So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. On that day you will not question me about anything. Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete." John 16:21
No matter what trouble we face, nothing can take away our joy. The suffering we endure in this hour cannot compare to the joy and new life God is breathing into us.
God is speaking to us with joy and in love every moment of our lives. Are we listening?
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