5TH SUNDAY OF LENT: THE REAL PILGRIMS AND THE HOUR OF JESUS
Readings: 1st- Jer. 31:31-34; 2nd- Heb. 5:7-9; Gospel- Jn. 12:20-33
It is the Passover Feast and different categories of people are coming to Jerusalem. The Jews are ready for the feast, perhaps from the economic point of view, because they will make some money from tourists. Some visitors are part of the event as is customary. In this case, we see some Greeks whom Scripture describes as coming to worship in Jerusalem. These Gentiles go to Philip with the request to see Jesus. Philip goes and tells Andrew, then together they take them to Jesus.
The request to see Jesus opens a huge chapter on his imminent death and his mission of salvation for all mankind. Jesus declares that a grain of wheat must first die and germinate to bear fruits. This is a metaphor for his death, as well as a revelation of the meaning of suffering in the Christian life. Those who love Jesus must make their own sacrifice. They must carry their cross, hence, he says to them, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.” At this encounter, Jesus understood the imminence of his death. It is the hour of suffering and glory. So, Jesus announces his pains and sorrows and wishes that they be taken away. But he appeals to the Father to manifest the glory of this hour, the glory which comes from his death. Jesus’ crucifixion fulfills the “hour” of his mission, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”
The request by the Gentiles, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus,” stands out for several reasons. The first is that it is made by strangers, Gentiles, who have come from a different territory. The second is that it reveals a hunger for Jesus by a group of people considered to be outsiders in the Jewish context. The Bible does not state why these visitors are looking for Jesus, but it is obvious that they have heard about him prior to the Feast. Finally, their request becomes a link to understanding the mission of Christ, the revelation of the nature of his death. These are the real pilgrims.
What is it about the wish to see Jesus?
If we go back to the moment of his birth, it was the Magi that brought the awareness of the universal mission of Christ to the world. They came all the way from the east with enthusiasm, “We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matt. 2:2). Their hunger for Jesus brought them to see him, a privilege denied to Pilate who was close in proximity to the newborn king. Jesus says today, “What should I say, Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.” Jesus’ hour is the moment when those who search him find him as the prophets said, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2). The hour of salvation is for real pilgrims of faith.
In an encounter with the Samaritan woman, Jesus tells her the meaning of this hour, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (Jn. 4:23). Yes, God is today, seeking such people, people who worship him in spirit and in truth. The Father is seeking sincere believers who desire him with their heart, mind, and soul. The Father is seeking true pilgrims to journey with Jesus to this hour. The Father is seeking men and women who will lead others to Christ. The Psalm says, “Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you my God” (42:1).
We are getting deeper into the Lenten journey and the Church is focusing our attention on the mysteries of Christ’s death and resurrection. That’s our pilgrimage. In line with the Scripture, Christ learned to obey through his suffering and has become the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. We need to identify with Christ in a remarkably committed search. Think about what this pilgrimage with Christ means for you. At the Passover feast, several persons gathered for different reasons. Some came for sightseeing. Some came for business. Some came to socialize. Some came to check out and to explore Jerusalem. But the Greeks came to see Jesus. They came to witness, to embrace him in a unique way. Those attending the Passover represent different believers, those who bear the name Christians today. Everyone comes to the Church but we all have different reasons. The question is, “Do you wish to see Jesus? Do you have a burning desire for him?” Those Greek visitors go to Philip as an extra effort to reach Jesus.
This can apply to us as leaders in the family, social, academic, and religious settings. Do we have the Philip who can lead others to Jesus in moments of confusion? Maybe our parishioners are hungry and seeking to see Jesus. Maybe our children are yearning and asking, “Please, daddy and mommy, show us Jesus. We would like to see Jesus.” Maybe the homeless and the hungry see you and shout, “Please, show me Jesus. I would like to see Jesus.” Would it not be nice if there are several Philip’s and Andrew’s today, men and women committed to their faith and who can devoutly lead others to Christ? These are the real pilgrims, those who unite for the course of their faith.
We should indeed search for Jesus. Our families should search for Jesus. Our friends should search for Jesus. Our children need to see Jesus. Our nation needs to see Jesus. Our leaders need to see Jesus. People need us to lead them to Jesus, that is the meaning of the “hour.” Jesus came to this hour to draw everyone to Himself, the rich and the poor, the great and small alike. Let us join in this pilgrimage that focuses exclusively on the importance of knowing and loving Jesus in our lives. Once you become a true pilgrim, once you authentically search for him, you will find him. And when you find Jesus, like Philip and Andrew, you will lead others to Him. This can start with you right now.