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Contemplating Passiontide

5th Sunday of Lent John 12:20-33

At the beginning of Passiontide we look at the last weeks of Jesus life up to his death on Good Friday in more detail.

The story begins with some Greeks who ask to see Jesus. A reasonable enough request, flattering even, and encouraging, a sign of interest. So why this strange reply? Jesus' next words came as a shock - "a grain of wheat has to fall into the ground and die." Of course we know that Jesus is speaking of his own death, and he is also speaking for each one of us. We are called to die to selfishness in order to bear fruit and be his messengers of peace, and sometimes we are called to die to things that may be good in themselves but hinder us on our path to God. Jesus told them how troubled he was; like any other human being he didn’t want to die; he was only 33 years old.

For grains of wheat to grow their burial is necessary. If we hide the grain in a box it will be useless. Only when it is put in the cold earth will it rise to new life. Only by giving it away into the earth can we receive anything in return. Jesus goes on to say, "Those who love their life will lose it and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life."

What is this life that Jesus is referring to that perhaps we hold onto so desperately? It is not just a physical life but our psychological life that he is talking about. The greed for wealth and power, our desires for success, to be loved by all, to be held in esteem – always one of the group, to have control., to be the most spiritual member of the church, to be seen as a good person. These kinds of passions of life are in each of us to varying degrees and come at different stages of our life – Jesus is saying if we want to inherit eternal life now we must die to the need for recognition, admiration and power. Humility is never easy.

The Greeks wanted to see Jesus, of course they did. He has healed the sick, fed multitudes, turned water into wine. Jesus is at pains to show them who he was, no superstar or idol but a man on death row calling us to follow him.

If we would really see Jesus we must take off our rose-tinted spectacles and see him in his passion – The true Christ is the Church’s best kept secret.

So often we are afraid of putting people off. They want to see Jesus, but we are scared to tell them how it is. That Jesus offers persecution – with blessing, tribulation with victory, suffering with redemption. He doesn’t call us to an armchair, but to warfare. Bearing in mind what the world did to Jesus whoever wants to follow him will not escape similar persecution.

As we now look back on this passion story, we can see that for over two millennia the cross has drawn nations to come to him, and that we can come to him who understands our suffering, who has borne our grief and our sins.

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