Reflection for the fifth Sunday of Lent, Passion Sunday
“Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
Jesus, in John 12:20-33, NIV.
Jesus, in John 12:20-33, NIV.
“Is there another life?….. There must be. We cannot be created for this sort of suffering.”
The poet Keats, dying of tuberculosis at the age of only 25, in a letter from 1820.
Today is the start of Passiontide, marking the remembrance of the suffering that Jesus endured in the days before his crucifixion. In the Gospel, Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover for the last time and some Greeks ask to see him. Although Jesus has so often responded to those who seek him, he doesn’t actually meet the Greeks but instead begins to talk about what lies ahead. Jesus is troubled and he begins to speak of death, telling them, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (12:24) That is Jesus’ reply to those who want to see him – to those Greeks then and to us today, echoed in his later words, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (20:29) Yet, to speak of dying being fruitful seems a strange response – or is it?
There are so many stories of loss and renewal in the Bible, such as Abram leaving his family and country to become Abraham the father of many nations, Hannah giving up her young son Samuel to be raised in the temple or the disciples forsaking their homes and work to follow Jesus. So it is for us, too, at those pivotal times when we also leave home or family, place or lifestyle as lives evolve and are offered in service to others. That has been evident particularly during the pandemic when so many people have put themselves at risk, in some cases laying down their own lives that others may live. But every life will experience the loss of a loved one, of dreams, relationships and opportunities or the need to let go of regret, bitterness, anger or whatever prevents us from fulfilling our potential. In losing his life as he is lifted up on the cross, Jesus is faithful to what God asks of him despite the cost – and a new way of life results on Easter Day at the Resurrection. The single grain of wheat that dies has become incorporated into the Bread of Life still feeding so many today and the cycle of death and life is commemorated in Holy Eucharist: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come in glory. That is the Christian hope – but first, there is great suffering and a terrible death.
During the pandemic, we have seen much of death. As Passiontide begins, the suffering caused by Coronvirus continues and the restrictions begin to ease, dare we find the courage to want to see where God’s love may also be at work and where resurrection, hope and new life too could be emerging too?
With my prayers,