Gospel Reflection for  Sunday the  21st of March 2021

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Fifth Sunday of Lent

John 12:20-30

Although these are gospel reflections, we need to return to the first reading from the lectionary this week, albeit briefly, as it captures the heart of our faith. For the Christian recognises in the new covenant spoke of by Jeremiah as being none
other than the revelation of Jesus Christ. The prophecy that this new covenant will be written on their hearts, and that it will be built upon the forgiveness of their sins pretty much captures the essence of Jesus’ being and therefore the message of his church. The importance of forgiveness as being at the heart of our faith should never be underestimated, or overlooked, it is the thread by which Christian faith hangs. Forgiveness is what truly makes the Christian faith both rather unique and radical. Other faiths may value forgiveness, but it wouldn’t be their centrality. Again then, forgiveness is central to the Christian faith.

And central to this forgiveness is the cross. In the gospel we hear of how unless a wheat of grain dies it bears no fruit. This simple yet profound description points us toward Jesus himself who only in dying would give birth to the Christian faith with its message of forgiveness. I love it when Jesus uses the natural order to explain things. His understanding of nature and the cosmos both serves to highlight his divinity and our interconnectedness with creation. The grain of wheat is a pleasant image to sit with. That the more we give of ourselves the more that the creative order benefits from it. This is what it means to build up the kingdom of God that Jesus speaks of. Forgiveness strikes at the heart of self – sacrifice. We need look no further than the cross to recognise this and we will be exploring that passion story in depth in the coming weeks as we journey toward the cross, toward holy week. And of course, with forgiveness, with the self-sacrifice we have entered during this period of lent comes the fruit, comes the Easter resurrection. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

I would like to close then on another important thread from the gospel this week from which there are many! The idea of original grace. The only way we can talk about original sin in the Christian faith is if it points to original grace, the thing from which we have fallen in the first place. And talking about sin in turn points us toward the reality of evil and the evil one who is clearly identified in this week’s gospel by Jesus. I want to highlight this as we seem to live in a peculiar time when superstition and fantasy seem to be embraced and even celebrated in popular culture, while at the

same time to speak of evil and the devil as part of faith has become a non sensical comedic caricature. It’s bizarre how numb we have become to the presence of evil in our world. As we have become saturated in stories and images of violence, we appear to have become indifferent to the idea that evil exists and that there is a dark figure at the heart of it that we identify as the devil to give him one of his many names.

This kind of language, that has fallen out of favour, will most likely provoke one of two things in readers. The common snigger at such imaginations of the comic character of a devil and his wily antiques, or an un-comfortability at the presence of this pervading force.

For the Christian there is no dispute, the devil exists and it results in evil in our world.If this was not the case then there would be no need for the passion story, the cross and this need for forgiveness on which we stand. So, as we move toward Easter, let the cross be focused on our hearts, let the cross be a reminder of the centrality of forgiveness to our faith and let us work on growing this wonderful virtue through the practice of self-sacrifice.

– Fr. Frank Trias CP www.franktrias.com
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