5th Sunday B Lent – Drawn by God
St. Patrick’s Festival lists 176 items on its website marking our landscape of celebrations this week from March 12th to 17th. Every possible aspect of a celebration of our national saint is on offer, except for one: St Patrick himself is missing. The week looks like Hamlet without the prince! It’s like reading the gospels and never meeting Christ. One day, Jesus asked his disciples if they knew who he was, and they answered by saying ‘Some say you are Elijah, others that you are Jeremiah or John the Baptist or one of the prophets… Yes, said Jesus, but who do you say that I am? Jesus wanted Peter’s personal response, not what others were saying about him.
We are told in the Gospel this Sunday that some Greeks had arrived in Jerusalem for Passover. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we would like to see Jesus.’ John’s Gospel was put together by his followers some seventy or more years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. The narratives are based on what were the actions and words that most revealed Jesus to them and nourished their faith: light and darkness, blindness and seeing, water, life and faith. Today’s gospel hones in on the need to see Jesus. These Greeks wanted more than to lay their eyes on him. They wanted to know him better – more deeply and more personally. In John’s Gospel, ‘seeing’ is a key concept. It refers to faith, to nurturing our belief that Jesus is risen from the dead and is alive in all of us.
‘And when I am lifted up from the earth. I shall draw all people to myself.’ To ‘see’ Jesus is to be drawn to the cross, to sense his suffering while painfully owning up to our own daily wrongdoings, the shame we have brought upon ourselves, our failures and broken promises, our dishonesty and arrogance, and the hurts and wounds we have inflicted on others. To be drawn to Jesus raised up on the cross is to know with hope and joy the unconditional love of the God who raised him and raises us daily to newness of life. ‘Christ died for us,’ says St Paul, ‘and that is God’s own proof of his love towards us’ – Romans 5:8. God’s love far outweighs our sinfulness, and it is not dictated by anything we do even though we may sometimes feel our sinfulness is greater than his love.
The late Michael Paul Gallagher sj said ‘Faith is the vision arising from being loved.’ The Greeks came in search of Jesus. Many spiritual traditions stress the human search for God, that God is out there but hidden and waiting to be found by us. Our Christian faith is about doing this in reverse. We do not believe that God is out there like a mountain quietly waiting to be climbed by religious searchers. On the contrary, God is like the Hound of Heaven in Francis Thompson’s poem coming relentlessly in search of us. He is like the shepherd going out to look for a missing sheep, or the woman searching her house for a coin that’s missing, maybe lost. Our God is a searching God who so loved the world that he sent is only Son to come in search of us – John 3:15. It’s easy to wrongly assume that we earn God’s grace by our good works and that heaven is the reward for a virtuous life. We do not draw God to us; God draws us to himself. As John’s first letter says, ‘We love God because he loved us first’ – 1 John 4:19
Fr. QQ – 3/17/2021