The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt; for they broke my covenant, and I had to show myself their master, says the Lord. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord. I will place my law within them, and write it in their hearts; I will be their God and they shall be my people. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and kinsmen how to know the Lord. All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the Lord, for I will forgive their evil doing and remember their sin no more.(P) The word of the Lord.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt, and from my sin cleanse me. (R)
A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not out from your presence. And your Holy Spirit take not from me. (R)
Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me. I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners shall return to you. (R)
In the days when Christ was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.(P) The word of the Lord.
Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.
Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, 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. Whoever loves his life loses it, whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me. I am troubled now, yet what should I say? Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it and will glorify it again."
The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered and said, "This voice did not come for my sake, but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the Earth I will draw everyone to myself." He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
In today's Gospel, we read about an episode that occurred during the last phase of Jesus' public ministry. Saint John recounts that some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem to worship at the Passover, approached the Apostles with a request to see Jesus. When they took the Greeks to see Him, Jesus responded by talking about the process of a grain dying in the ground in order to produce many more grains. But before we go any further, let me give a little background that might help in understanding who these Greeks were, why they wanted to see Jesus and why their visit provoked such a response from Jesus.
Throughout His ministry, many people came looking for Jesus for different reasons. For example, the synoptic gospels report of the time when Jesus' mother and his "brothers and sisters" came to see him while he was talking to the crowds, Mark (3:31-35); Matthew (12:46-50); Luke (8:19-21). The gospels also tell about a rich, young man or ruler who came to ask Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Matthew (19:16-23); Mark (10:17-22); Luke (18:18-23).
In another instance, Matthew writes about a Centurion, who approached Jesus for healing on behalf of his servant, Matthew (8:5-13). John records in his gospel the story of an official who came to Jesus begging Him to come and heal his dying son, Matthew (4:46-54). So, while some people came to Jesus for healing, miracles and wonders, some came to scrutinize Jesus as they tried to find fault in order to judge and silence Him and a few others came seeking answers to deep and puzzling questions.
As far as the Greeks who wanted to see Jesus is concerned, John does not mention the reason. But from his sequence of the story after Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem for Passover and before Jesus' prediction of His death, we can assume the visit had something to do with their search for truth and belief in God. The ancient Greeks believed in multiple gods and goddesses. So, the Greeks, who had come to see Jesus, were probably converts to Judaism: perhaps Rabbinical Judaism, which is not necessarily the true biblical Judaism. That is, they were not yet full converts to Judaism. They remained Gentiles, but they adopted some Jewish practices and the belief in the "Jewish God" without actually converting.
Along with many other pilgrims, this group of Greeks had come to Jerusalem to observe the feast of the unleavened bread and the Passover. While there, it is possible they heard about all that Jesus had been doing and, was happening in Jerusalem, such as the healing of the man born blind, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, the enthusiastic welcome which the inhabitants of Jerusalem gave Jesus as He entered the city, the fame of Jesus spreading as a result of all this, John (9, 11, 12:12-19), etc. So, the Greeks came looking for Jesus either out of curiosity or a desire to be instructed. Whatever the reason, these Greeks wanted to meet with Jesus. Yet, as far as we know, Jesus made an unexpected response to this request. Perhaps, Jesus wanted to use this opportunity to inform the Greeks and His disciples of the nature of their following Him.
He taught them four important lessons:
He said, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit", John (12:23-24). Jesus' audience which was mostly composed of Palestinian farmers, could have easily understood what Jesus was saying. By itself, a grain of wheat remains a single grain, but if it is dropped into the earth, nature allows it to multiply. Out of death comes life. One grain of wheat can produce a bountiful harvest. Jesus used the seed analogy to describe his own impending death and resurrection; He too must die to give new life to others.
Jesus further explicated the significance of sacrifice with a contrasting statement. He said, "The one who loves his life will lose it; but the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life", John (12:25). Here Jesus was not speaking about physical death but "dying to oneself", "dying" like a seed in order to sprout or rise and bear much fruit. That is, as Saint Pauls says, "one has to put to death one's human nature, with all its passions and desires", Galatians (5:24).
Jesus stated, "Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honour whoever serves me". Here Jesus wanted his followers to know that if they choose to serve Him then they should be willing to imitate His example; to die to themselves; to "hate" their life, not in the literal sense, but in the sense of loving Jesus and His teachings more than what their own "self" wants, and desiring or choosing Him over everything and anything else and, as a reward, every true servant would be in the place where Jesus is, i.e. heaven, and ultimately be honoured by the Heavenly Father.
Jesus said, "I am troubled now, yet what should I say? "Father save me from this hour"? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name". Despite His willingness, Jesus was deeply troubled by His approaching death. These words speak of his full humanity. It is not natural for a human being to want to suffer and die. However, He resolved to move forward in accomplishing His purpose, and through it to "glorify" the Father's name. Then, there came a voice from heaven (as heard at His baptism and transfiguration and came from the Father, in an articulate way): "I have glorified it". The meaning refers to Jesus' incarnation, ministry, obedience, and miracles; "and now will glorify it again" refers to the Father supporting Him and carrying Him through His sufferings and death, then raising Him from the dead and ultimately seating Him at His own right hand.
Jesus said, "When I am lifted up from the earth I will draw everyone to myself". Lastly, Jesus was telling them that His death on the cross will have an astounding saving effect. It does not mean that Jesus would draw all individuals to Himself but rather His death on the cross will save all sinners, without bias to their ethnic distinction. Thus, Jesus made it clear that He came not only for Jews but also for Gentiles, including the Greeks who came to see Him.
What is the message for us?
God wants us to know Him well, to know Him personally, to know Him deeply, to know Him truly, as He is revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ. Let us, therefore, like the Greeks at the Passover, seek Jesus with a desire for intimacy and personal relationship with Him.
Like Philip and Andrew, we should be Jesus' disciples, who know Him and can show others the way that leads to Him.
Jesus submitted Himself to an undeserved death so that we could be saved, and so do we. We must die to ourselves in order to bear fruit. Only by spending our lives for the love of others do we save it. Only when we lose or give or spend life and die to our selfishness and desires, our life will become fruitful.
Being fully human, the thought of the cross deeply troubled and distressed Jesus. Yet, He surrendered Himself to the will of the Heavenly Father and prayed, "Father glorify your name", John (12:28).
I hope we, too, can approach our God the Father with troubled hearts and can find strength to say these words, "Father glorify your name".(P) Amen.
God Bless You!