5th Sunday of lent. March 22nd 2015
Jer 31:31-34; Heb 5:7-9; Jn 12:20-33
The forgotten benefits of Christ within
I was having my very first funeral service as a seminarian when what I then considered the unthinkable happened – I started to cry as I noticed the deep pains of the bereaved even though I knew nothing about the deceased during her life. I was thinking, “How am I going to be a priest if I get emotional at funerals when I have little knowledge of the deceased? Hasn’t it been drummed into my head in many ways that men do not cry, at least not in public? Isn’t there something wrong with me?”
Thanks be to God I had the grace to share my worries about crying in funeral services with a very wise priest who said to me, “If you share in Christ’s life, then you share in all that Christ has and all that He did and experienced in this life, including a share in His compassionate tears for those who mourn.” His words reminded me of Jesus’ reaction at the tomb of Lazarus, “He wept.” The words of this priest have been etched into my heart ever since then. Tears at my pains or the pains of others are but reminders that Christ lives and acts in me.
The letter to the Hebrews in today’s Second Reading gives us a description of Jesus’ prayer: “He offered prayers with loud cries and supplications to the one who was able to save Him from death.” These tears and anguished prayers were not for Himself; but for us all: “When He was made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.” If we bear this life of Christ within us too, and do so as fruits of the salvation that He was won for us, then we truly share in all things that Christ has, all that He does, and all that He experienced in this life. We share in His tears and pains because we bear His life within us.
“When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” Do we ever reflect that by our sacramental union with the crucified and glorious Christ, we share with Him in every single thing by bearing His life within us? Let us reflect on 5 of these things that we share with Him. Keeping these realities in mind will help us in facing the inevitable sufferings and pains of life.
First, by having the life of Christ within, we share in Christ’s own confident relationship with the Father in the Holy Spirit. Jesus deals with His troubled heart in today’s Gospel by making an act of complete surrender to the Father in unshakable confidence: “I am troubled now…Father, glorify your name.” He knew that “the Father was able to save Him from death.” The Father chose to glorify His Son by raising Him from the dead instead: “I have glorified it and I will glorify it again.” We too can pray and surrender with confidence to the Father in times of suffering and pain knowing that all will work for our good at the very end if we pursue the greater glory of God in all things.
Secondly, we share in Christ’s own mission to “serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.”(Mk 10:45) The life of Christ that we have within us is not for us alone but it is meant to be communicated to others. Jesus did not come to this world only to save us by shedding His blood for us, but to teach us by His example how we are to cooperate with Him in spreading the kingdom of His Father. He reminds us of this in today’s Gospel: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” As Christ as willing to make any sacrifice so as to communicate this life to us, we too communicate this life to others by our own sacrifices, humble prayers, good example, forgiveness and selfless love to others. We remain mere grains of wheat filled with life unless we are willing to share in His mission of redemptive suffering.
Thirdly, we share in Christ’s own power over the devil, temptations, and sin. Just like Christ who was “revealed to destroy the works of the devil,”(1Jn 3:8) and who “was similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin,” (Heb 4:15) we share in His power over the forces of darkness. By virtue of His passion and glory, “the ruler of this world has been driven out.” He has given us the power to face temptations and to prevail over them.
Fourth, we share in Christ’s own victory over suffering and the grave. Jesus Christ faced the suffering of His life with the certainty of victory over His suffering and the grave: “Now is the Son of Man glorified.” We too share in the Father’s promise to Jesus, “I have glorified it and I will glorify it again.” It is the will of the Father to share with us this glory too: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Lk 12:32)
Fifth, we share in Christ’s own glory in the world to come. We will not find our ultimate reward from this valley of tears. Jesus reminds us of the reward that we will receive from the Father by sharing in all things that He offers to us: “The Father will honor whoever serves me.” Our tears and pains in this life as we follow and serve Christ Jesus will never be in vain.
Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel, “Where I am there will my servant be” is a solemn reminder of the fact that we indeed share in all that He has, does and experienced in this life. We are with Him on Cross, in the temptations, insults, rejections, and hatred that He experienced; we are with Him too in His Father’s all conquering love here on earth and destined for eternal glory in the world to come.
The tears will inevitably flow from the pains of this life. It might be the death of a loved one or the loss of job or health. It may be the pains of a loved one or our utter helplessness to bring relief to them. It may be our struggle with sin or the difficulty to lift our hearts to God in prayer. It may be the hardheartedness of loved ones or a loved one abandoning the faith. There is no limit to the possibilities of pain and suffering. Asking the “Why?” question does not seem to bring any relief. Seeking to protect ourselves from being hurt or disappointed seems futile. Let our tears then remind us of the benefits of sharing in the life of Christ. Keeping these five realities in mind will help us look beyond the pains and sufferings of this life to connect with Him who lives and acts in us.
Jesus shares all with us things, even His own Mother on Calvary. He said to each of us, “Behold, your mother.”(Jn 19:27) His Mother is indeed our own Mother too for a special reason – to help us bear His life within us and keep always before us the benefits of having Christ within. Mother Mary shared so intimately in the Christ’s own relationship with the Father by her divine maternity. She shared in His mission to serve and lay down His life like no one else did by freely giving Him His human nature. She shared in His power over the devil by her Immaculate Conception and sinlessness. At the Cross, she too shared in His victory over suffering and the grave, always bearing in her heart the hope of future glory even as her tears poured forth. Our acceptance of Christ’s benefits is not complete without our acceptance of Mary as our Mother too. She will surely lead us in the life of discipleship under the Cross.
In this Eucharist, Christ raises Himself to the Father through the hands and words of the priest. He draws us to Himself and shares with us ever more deeply His own life as well as the benefits that flow from having this life within us. By having this life within, we too shall overcome sufferings, temptations, and death in this life and we shall enter into heaven if we let our tears today remind us of the benefits of having Christ within.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!