Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent (B) (21st March, 2021) on the Gospel

Jer 31:31-34;

Ps 50:3-4.12-15 (R. v. 12);

Heb 5:7-9;

Jn 12:20-33.

A newly consecrated Bishop once asked during the Episcopal conference whether he could talk. Although it was not certain whether he asked that just to make them laugh however the question threw them into light mood after which the president of the conference asked him why he asked the question and he replied, ‘Because I am just a newly consecrated auxiliary bishop’. The president went further and asked him as ‘just a newly consecrated auxiliary bishop’ whether he is a member of the Bishops Conference and he said yes. And the president told him: “You are a member because you are a bishop. And every member can air his view”.

Topic: They want to see Jesus.

The first verse of today’s gospel reads, “Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks” (Jn 12:20). The festival in question was that one during which Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly. Those Greeks who were present at the festival were also the Greeks who came to Philip and made this request, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” (Jn 12:21). Although the gospel did not tell us why they wanted to see Jesus but meeting with Jesus could do much more than one could imagine. Hence the Psalmist said, “Come and see what God has done” (Ps 66:5). And when Andrew and the other disciple asked Jesus of where he lived he invited them thus, “Come and see” (Jn 1:39). Philip also invited Nathaniel to Jesus with the same words, cf. Jn 1:46.

In the gospel according to Matthew, while commissioning his disciples Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19). Often we see this and similar passages as directed to those who are called in a special way to serve God and humanity in various capacities in the church. A question came to me as I reflect on today’s gospel, ‘What about others?’ This is based on the fact that Jesus said to his disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In other words, the Holy Spirit gave the disciples the power to be Christ’s witnesses. And every Christian receives gifts of the Holy Spirit at Baptism and Confirmation, cf. Acts 2:38-39; 2Tim 1:6-7. What are they for?

Very easy for one to defend himself/herself by saying that nobody has approached him/her saying, ‘I or we want to see Jesus’. In the gospel according to Matthew we read, “... whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt 18:6; cf. Matt 18:14; Mk 9:42 Lk 17:2). Again, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:16).

Although no one may have asked us, ‘I or we want to see Jesus’ but certainly many look up to us to show them Jesus. We can either help them see Jesus or take them farther away from Jesus. Hence, in the first letter of Saint Peter we also read, “Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that in case they speak against you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1Pt 2:12; cf. Matt 5:16). Saint Paul extended this to what we eat, cf. Rom 14:15.

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, we all have the power to be Christ’s witnesses. Let nobody think like the newly consecrated Bishop we saw in our introductory story who thought he could not speak in the Bishops conference because he was a newly consecrated Auxiliary Bishop. We all are members of Christ’s body, the church, cf. Eph 5: 23, 30. Every member of Christ’s body has this special task of not just making people see Jesus Christ but also helping them to understand him better. Every member of Christ’s body can either help or hinder others in their search for Jesus Christ. Let us conclude with Christ’s own words: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matt 12:30; Lk 11:23). Let us gather with and for Christ for we have been bought at a price, cf. 1Cor 7:23.

Bible Readings: Matt 5:13-16; 28:19-20; Dan 12:1-3; Acts 1:6-11; Rom 14: 13-23; 15:1-6; 1Pt 2:11-17.

Thought for today: Do you take people to Jesus Christ or out of Jesus Christ?

Let us pray: Lord, forgive us for the many times we have led people away from you. Give us the grace to lead others to you – Amen.

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