20th / 21st March 2021

posted 22 Mar 2021, 02:13 by Parish Office

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year B (20 & 21/3/21)

This Sunday we move into the last part of Lent, also known as Passiontide. The focus moves much more now towards the Cross. In this church, the statues and crosses have been covered up, making the church more plain in appearance, as we move deeper into the depths of Lent, depriving ourselves even of the legitimate delight of the beauty of the church. It is then only on Good Friday that a veiled cross is solemnly unveiled, as we adore Christ on the Cross.

So our Gospel today points towards suffering and the Cross as well: “unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest”. No pain, no gain. Just think for a moment if Christ had managed to avoid the Cross. He might have had more time to convince people that He was the Christ (and also made a few more enemies). But the whole purpose of Him becoming man was so that He would suffer and die for our sins. Without the Cross and Resurrection, His life and mission would have been incomplete. And the same is true for us. “If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too.” We have to be there, not only at the rejoicing of the Resurrection, but also at the Cross as well. It’s difficult. Ask the Apostles and they will tell you – only one of them was there; the others had fled to save their own skins. If we remain at the Cross with our Master, there is reward: “If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him”. That’s better than having a bad conscience for having compromised with the world.

“Now sentence is being passed on this world;

now the prince of this world is to be overthrown.”

Who is the “prince of this world”? If God made the world and God is King, then who is this “prince”? Clearly it’s not Christ, because it’s Christ who is speaking and referring to “the prince of this world”. The prince of this world is Satan. He is the imposter. He is the usurper. We hear in Genesis how God created the world, but then Satan entered and deceived the human race. Adam and Eve were created for paradise, but they ended up having to leave paradise. It’s a bit like in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Narnia doesn’t belong to the Witch, but Narnia is under her spell. It’s when Aslan arrives that her magic begins to fade, and ultimately she is overthrown. Jesus is King of the universe, but Satan has usurped. (If you don’t know what usurped means, it doesn’t mean the same as slurped. Slurping is when you make a loud sucking noise when you eat your soup. Usurp means that you take power, or property, or the throne, when it doesn’t belong to you and you have no right to it.) God has created the universe, but Satan has come along as an architect, taking what was already there and re-

arranging it according to his own plan. So the Cross is now God’s rescue plan, to get things back to where they should be. We can’t undo the past, but we can move forward. Christ is going to reign from the wood of the Cross; from the Cross will flow the power of the sacraments, restoring supernatural life to souls. John chapter 1:

“But to all who did accept him

he gave power to become children of God …

Indeed, from his fulness we have, all of us, received –

yes, grace in return for grace,

since, though the Law was given through Moses,

grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ” (vs 12 & 16-17).

This is prefigured in the first reading, where it speaks about God making a new covenant with His People. But the new covenant is going to involve not only Jews, but also Gentiles. The Gospel today began with some Greeks, who were Gentiles, i.e. non-Jews, who approached Philip and asked to see Jesus. This would remind many a Jewish reader of Zechariah 8:23, a prediction of the messianic times: ‘In those days, ten men of nations of every language will take a Jew by the sleeve and say, “We want to go with you, since we have learnt that God is with you”.’ Jesus says, “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to myself”. “Lifted up” doesn’t mean His Ascension; it refers to Him being raised up on the Cross. But already, even now before His crucifixion, He is drawing the non-Jews to Himself as well. His mission is fruitful even now, but will be even more fruitful later on, through the Church.

What about the fruitfulness of the Church today? Maybe in two hundred years’ time, when secularism has burnt itself out, various inconvenient truths have been exposed about it and the mask has been pulled away, people might think back to the Church of today, and see this as another era of persecution. What great people they were, to remain faithful, to remain, like Our Lady and St John before the Cross, when all seemed to be in ruins. Some lived to see the dawn of the Resurrection, whilst others died still hoping for things to change. In the 20th century, communism rose and fell, by and large, but secularism, atheism and practical atheism took longer to defeat. Our task today is not necessarily to be fruitful, although we want that too; our task is to remain faithful, knowing that the grain of wheat has to die and be buried in the earth before it can yield a rich harvest. No sowing means no reaping; no cross for the Church means no resurrection.

As we move into Passiontide, then, we choose to suffer together with the Lord, because “wherever I am, my servant will be there too”.