Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the 5th Sunday of Advent (Year B) – Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalms 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15; Hebrews 5:7-9; John 12:20-33. This series appears each Wednesday.

Photography © by Andy Coan

The hour has come… Father, glorify your name.

Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, 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. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me. I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:23-28)

When troubles arise

It is an all too often familiar occurrence… some difficulty arises in one’s life and the inclination of the believer is to turn to God and ask to be relieved of the difficulty. “Why does this have to happen to me right now? I am busy at work, the kids need my help with their school projects… this couldn’t be a worse time! Maybe the difficulty is a car needing repairs or a wisdom tooth that needs to extracted. Maybe a family member is ill and in need of care. The troubles might even be more serious, the death of a loved one or a personal and grave illness.

So we turn to God and ask for his help. But how often do we define what the outcome should be? Too often, perhaps.

But, are we not encouraged by the Lord to do so? He has taught us to go to the Father in his name… that if we as fathers and mothers on earth know the needs of our children, just think of how much the Father cares for us and stands ready to come to our aid, if we but turn to him.

Thanking God for our troubles

Yes, I wrote, “thanking God for our troubles.” It is appropriate to turn to God and ask him to come to our assistance, but do we thank him for allowing us to take up the cross with Christ, to cooperate with Christ’s work of redemption and to be open to his will for us in that moment?

The above passage follows the news that Philip brings to Jesus, that some Greeks are asking to see him.

“Now there were some Greeks among those who had come up to worship at the feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, ‘Sir, we would like to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.” (John 12:20-22)

Listen in faith

If we listen with the ears of this world, it seems a strange answer, but this is God who answers, so we need to hear with our spiritual ears of faith. What do his words say then?

  1. The Path to Glory leads through the Cross – Jesus has his sights on Heaven, even while walking in this life. First, from the context, we can surmise that Jesus sees that his mission to all the peoples of the world has already begun to show fruit. When he is seated at the right hand of the Father, he will draw all men to himself. But in order to ascend to Heaven, he must first suffer and die for us.
  2. Death leads to Life – Jesus let’s us know that he must die before he will be glorified. The imagery of the grain of wheat is absolutely clear. And he applies the lesson to his own path.
  3. We must identify with Christ – But he calls each of us to be grains of wheat as well. And the imagery is clear here, too. We are not to escape our own difficulties – the often little troubles that cause us so much anxiety and the grave ones too. But these are moments of grace. We don’t just know about Jesus, we actually identify with him, each of us called to bear our own cross to his and our glory and the grace of salvation for others. He teaches, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.
  4. The Cross has meaning – Jesus promises us, no matter what may come, if we are faithful, the Father will reward us. The Father will honor whoever serves me.
  5. Surrender should be our response – No, I do not mean that we should seek suffering or that when faced with it, we should not hope that it be alleviated. But the correct approach should be one of trust in the providence of God. Jesus gives us the words and our attitude, I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”

Do we want to know and serve Christ in perfect love? Do we not want to be that grain of wheat that must die to bear fruit? Each of the occasions of suffering that we encounter can be opportunities of grace from which much fruit shows forth, if we but surrender to Christ and trust in the Father’s love.

Into the deep…

Deacon Mike Bickerstaff, Editor-in-Chief for The Integrated Catholic Life™, is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization at his parish and a deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

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