Today's Sunday Mass for the Fifth Sunday of Lent allows us to contemplate on how our Blessed Lord gradually prepared himself to forfeit His life for us on the Cross. Christ’s immediate preparation for His death is put into context in this Sunday Gospel with the arrival of certain Greeks who approach Him. We are not told exactly what they said to Him, but one thing's for sure - Our Lord seemed, from our perspective, agitated. He then starts talking about a seed having to die in the depths of the earth in order for it to come to life, to grow and bear fruit.
Some have speculated about what the Greeks could have said to Our Lord. Maybe, because of the mounting political opposition to Christ and with His arrest imminent, maybe the Greeks offered Him asylum. Maybe they asked Him to return to Greece with them - that He would have crowds listening to him in Athens - He could dialogue with their great philosophers and wise men! He’d be safe in Athens. And even if He felt compelled to die for His beliefs, the Greeks would have reminded Our Blessed Lord that He could have a death like the great philosopher and wise man Socrates who, arrested for spreading new ideas and refusing to worship the Greek gods, he willingly accepted, even welcomed his execution and death.
And that Socrates was not put to death in a long, drawn out excruciatingly painful and barbaric execution, but instead was given the opportunity to die with dignity and respect. He was given a cup of poison to drink, then allowed to walk around until he felt drowsy. He was then given a comfortable couch to lay down and put his feet up, until he quietly slipped away in the gentle embrace of the sleep of death - beautiful and dignified!
How did Christ respond? He couldn't respond quoting Scripture. The Greeks didn't have the Jewish Bible. So instead, Our Lord used images from the language of nature. “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.”
Our Blessed Lord was not trying to be a philosopher. The prospect of the Cross does disturb Him greatly. He calls His approaching death by crucifixion, He calls it His “hour”. He says “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.”
But what was that final purpose. His final purpose was not to influence our minds, our to give us a new teaching or philosophy of life - or a school of thought, or a manner in which we can become all better people. As important as all that is - Christ’s final purpose is to save our souls and to help us to reach heaven. Because of His love for us, He will take upon Himself the price of human sinfulness and pay that price Himself.
Christ could have avoided it. He had the divine power to even prevent his body experiencing any pain whatsoever. But no. Because of His intense love for you and me so that we would not die in sin and lose the opportunity to reach heaven, He willingly, freely, He desired with every fiber of His being to save us, even though in justice we do not deserve it.
The horrific truth of Christ’s crucifixion, is that you and me are fully responsible for it. He bleed to stop us bleeding! But often, we try to be like the Greeks in the Gospel today and offer Him a “more comfortable” solution. We so often resist soul searching - so uncomfortable it is - it’s so much easier to present oneself refined and polished, sophisticated, ready in an instant to pose for the camera - anything to avoid looking interiorly, within the history of our lives, searching with for that old wound that still slowly bleeds.
This year, we have 25-30 men and women who will be coming into the Church at Easter, to be fully initiated into the life of the Church, through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist. Easter will be their sacred hour, as it is ours, as it is for us every Sunday.
Their journey, our journey, is not one that takes us to Athens where we can pose and philosophize, admire the museums and gaze at the pretty pictures. Instead, the journey always takes us to Jerusalem, into the very Heart of Christ, opened up for us on the cross and its power to heal harnessed through every Mass where we know ourselves to be forgiven, freed of our sins, strengthened by His love most pure, and fed by His glorious and Risen Body and Blood.
Let us pray, brothers and sisters, that we will have the strength and the humility to accept the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for our sins and respond by confessing our sins, professing our faith and living lives worthy of Christian discipleship.