A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

Live or die?

According to the calendar, the season of spring has already begun.  Spring is usually the time when plants and trees, usually dormant in winter, begin to blossom.  We often see the cycle of life death.  Nature is very resplendent with this process.

In the gospel for the fifth Sunday of Lent (John 12:20-33), Jesus apparently focuses on the themes of death and life in the images that he uses when speaking to his audience who are  mostly farmers.

The story is that many Gentiles come looking for him during Passover because they wanted to learn more about his teaching.  He begins his conversation with the phrase, “The hour has come.”  This means that his public ministry is practically over, and it is now time to begin preparations for his death and resurrection.

To explain this, he uses the image of the seed.  The seed has to die before it can grow and bear much fruit.  “I solemnly assure you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat.  But, if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  (John 12:24)  Jesus was speaking of his upcoming death and resurrection.

He further emphasized his resurrection when he spoke of glorifying the Father.  The truth is, the Father is glorified by Jesus’ resurrection.  The resurrection is seen as a victory over the Prince of Darkness (Satan/devil).  We know that “darkness” is often used as a symbol of sinfulness and ignorance.  In addition, “light” is a symbol of goodness and knowledge.  The working out of this victory is the constant amount of service that believing Christians do to others, for example: justice, compassion, forgiveness.  And the list could go on.

Jesus also spoke about being lifted up.  “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32) Being “lifted up” refers to Jesus’ crucifixion.  And in his case the crucifixion is always followed by the resurrection.  It is important to note the parallels from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament).  [1]-Moses and the bronze serpent (Numbers 21:4-9); [2]-Isaiah and the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13; 53:5).  Salvation is provided by what was “lifted up.”

As the season of Lent is drawing to a close and we are in spring time, we would do well to focus on the issues of death and life.  Not only do we see it in nature, but also in ourselves.  “Death” can come through our sinfulness.  How aware are we of the harm we have done to others?

The resurrection of Jesus was a victory over the darkness of sinfulness.  How willing are we to see the resurrection as “Life” and light over darkness?  In other words, what role does the resurrection play in our lives? Namely, the good that we can to and for others.  In fact, how serious are we to see this shift from death to life in ourselves?  There is always the choice between life and death.  Better yet.  What are willing to do about it?  No doubt, the questions will have the possibility of being answered on Easter.




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