Friday, September 13, 2019

Gospel text for Holy Cross Day, 14 September 2019

John 12:31-36a        Jesus said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”

Reflection        Let’s consider this gospel text in context. After raising Lazarus from the dead, and doing many other signs, Jesus enters Jerusalem in anticipation of the great festival days. A large crowd greets him, waving branches and saying, “Hosanna, blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” We memorialize this moment in the celebration we now call Palm Sunday. 

At the same time, tension is mounting among religious and political officials who are infuriated because, “the world has gone after Jesus.” (John 12.19) They are losing control and Jesus must be eliminated. Reading the handwriting on the wall, Jesus could run away, but instead he utters, “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say, Father save me from this hour? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. “ (John 12. 27) 

Then something happens that we tend to overlook. A voice comes from heaven. Some folks think it is thunder, others, an angel. Jesus explains, “This voice has come so you will understand my death.” Here we come face to face with the great enigma, the problem of the cross. 

Two thousand years ago in Jerusalem the most barbaric and humiliating way to die was to be nailed to a cross, lifted up and left to slowly suffocate. This dreadful fate was reserved for the worst criminals. Yet Jesus instructs the crowds to believe him, that he will be lifted up on the cross in glory. The instrument of inhumane death will be the means of glory. How can this be?

I believe the passage from An Ignatian Book of Days,*”  September 15th, “Suffering With Others” helps us understand the glory of the cross.

“When we cannot change a situation we are tempted to walk away from it. We might literally walk away: we are too busy to sit with a suffering friend. Or we walk away emotionally: we harden ourselves and maintain an emotional distance. We might react to the gospel accounts of Jesus’ passion and death this way. They describe something terrible and horribly painful, yet we might shield ourselves from the pain… Ignatius wants us to experience the Passion as something fresh and immediate. We learn to suffer with Jesus and thus learn to suffer with the people in our lives.” (266) 

Later in the gospel according to John we read, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.” (John 15.12-13) Saying yes to the present moment, no matter how grim it looks, suffering with others regardless of how much it costs, this is lifting up the cross, this is the means of glory. 

Please listen to Peter Gabriel's soundtrack (upper right corner of blog). It accompanies the Passion. Imagine suffering with Jesus or a friend.

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Manney, Jim. Loyola Press (Chicago, IL., 2014).