March 21, 2021 at St. Peter the Apostle in Naples, FL
Jeremiah 31, 31-34 + Psalm 51+ Hebrews 5, 2-9 + John 12, 20-33
If you count yourself among those who want to see Jesus, I invite you to join me three nights this week and explore how Jesus is to be experienced through initiation into the Church and into the Body of Christ, how Jesus is to be experienced through the church in mission, and finally how Jesus can be experienced through healing and forgiveness just as he was experienced at the beginning of his mission.
Let’s get this Gospel set in place. The context is important. When this twelfth chapter begins, Jesus has already entered Jerusalem with that great crowd and their palm branches. On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus stopped in Bethany and raised Lazarus from the dead. In writing this Gospel, John leads us to believe that the crowds that met Jesus at the gate of Jerusalem were there because of this last great sign. The two verses before today’s reading say this: The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead bore witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see that you can do nothing; look, the world has gone after him.”
With that, we have these Greeks coming up to Philip asking to see Jesus. We must pay attention to what happens. Philip goes to Andrew and then Andrew and Philip went to Jesus. What we have here is John’s suggestion that access to Jesus is through the apostles, and introducing these Greeks and their desire to see Jesus sets the stage for the universalism that will be the world mission of the church. And so, Jesus says: “This is the hour.” The drawing of all persons to Jesus now begins. As he predicted, the other sheep not of his fold are beginning to come. But, we never know if that day the Greeks got to see Jesus. They simply fade away in the narrative because it is not clear that seeing Jesus is the same as believing Jesus, and Jesus has already expressed his frustration over people coming to watch him and not make the last step to believe in him which is going to involve dying to self and rising to new life.
So, rather than just say: “Come on in”, Jesus launches into a powerful and faith challenging discourse on his death which might put some of the spectators off if they are not ready or willing to go deeper.
There is something in all of us a little bit like the Greeks. We want to see Jesus. In fact, a lot of people, more than us, would like to see Jesus. Some just for the spectacle, the signs and wonders. Some would like to see Jesus because they want to believe and experience the salvation he offers and the new life he has promised. If you count yourself among those who want to see Jesus, I am here to suggest that it’s possible, but like those Greeks, you’re going to have to go through the apostles. In this case, the apostolic church. The way to see Jesus for us today is through the church and her sacraments. These are what he left us. These are the tools the church has at hand to lead us all to see and to believe that Jesus is among us.
For three nights this week, I have been invited to explore the Sacraments of the Church with you as we move into the final days of this Lent. Our annual parish mission begins on Monday evening at 6:00pm here in the church. Monday I shall speak about the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion. Tuesday night I will speak about the Sacraments of Service: Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony. Wednesday night I will speak about the Sacraments of Healing: Anointing of the Sick and Reconciliation.