Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year B)

Jer 31:31-34; Heb 5:7-9; John 12:20-33

An old woman, before she died, called all her relatives and asked them to grant her last two requests. The relatives unanimously agreed and asked the woman what were her last two requests. The woman answered: “Will you allow my right hand, whenever I’ll be inside my coffin, to hold a Bible? This is to remind me of the promises of Christ about eternal life.” The relatives replied with full consent to the request. And the woman continued: “Will you allow also my left hand to hold fork?” The family members were surprised for where in the world could you find a dead person holding a fork inside a coffin. They thought that she was just hungry when the old woman asked them: “Have you ever been invited to a banquet?” the relatives answered: “Yes, several times, during birthdays, wedding anniversaries and fiestas.” The woman continued: “Which part of the party that the best food is served?” They reflected and finally they answered: “Towards the end of the banquet when dessert is served.” And the old woman asked them again: “And what are you going to use when the dessert is served?” they answered, “A fork.” The woman said: “The same thing with life, the best part is towards the end, not in the beginning, when we will be together with our heavenly Father.”

The best part is towards the end. By mentioning this statement, I remember what Scot Peck had said in his book, The Road Less Travelled, that one of the techniques in developing discipline is delaying gratification. Delaying gratification is the process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with. The experience of dying or giving up a part of our own self, the end result is always rewarding and that reward is eternal life.

This dying to self or to put it in another way, unless we die to our own will, we cannot bear fruit for God is what Jesus is telling us in today’s gospel. He said that unless a grain of wheat dies, it couldn’t bear fruit.

Concretely, what does all this dying to self or dying to our own will mean for you and me everyday of our lives? It means dying to our pride and ask for help; admitting our problem and seeking help from others and God; forgiving the person from our hearts and treating her/him with love once again. I remember somebody who said: “We ask for health that we might do greater things but he gives infirmity that we might do better things. We ask for riches that we might be happy but he gives poverty that we might be wise.”

In addition, according to Mr. Ernest Tan in his book, Living Life Fully, he said: “Self-investment is a key to growth. The more investments we make in life, the more we gain.” Similarly, this is what we hear now from 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,” (v. 24).

Mr. Tan added that our lives give us different classes of investments like:

  1. The chance to meet new acquaintances and to develop deeper friendship among some.
  2. The opportunity of honing our skills and potentials by taking on new responsibilities, i.e. accepting position offered to me despite some apprehensions.
  3. The chance to speak out thoughts and feelings.
  4. The possibility of experimenting on new behaviors such as testing out new fashions in hairstyle and clothing, breaking out shyness and inhibitions by joining social gatherings.
  5. The excitement of getting involved in social issues via movements and organizations.
  6. The triumph of making personal decisions in life and making a difference.

In today’s gospel too Jesus is speaking of ‘hating’ one’s life. But we all know that life is sacred and no man can take it away as his own or another’s.  in the past those who committed suicide were not allowed funeral services in the church. The outlook on suicide has somehow softened not, because life has become less precious but because of some psychological findings which reveal that those who kill themselves are often mentally sick and therefore not fully responsible of their action. Does this mean that Jesus gives less importance to life?

The context of the gospel shows that to ‘hate’ is to give less preference. The comparison here is between life in this world and eternal life Jesus realizes that attachment to home, loved ones and possessions may prevent people from following Him and closing their eyes to the values of the Kingdom. He is telling us to yield up the love of life for the sake of the life of love.

If we are going to chose between life in this world and eternal life, which one we chose?

See Today’s Readings: Cycle B

Back to: Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year B)

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