Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 18, 2018
“Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” A simple enough request, but actually quite profound.
Here’s the recap. Some non-Jews have come up to Jerusalem for the Passover. They've heard about this controversial miracle-worker Jesus, heard that he's around. Like concert goers at a stage door, they sidle up to Philip: "Sir, we would like to see Jesus" (Jn 12:21). For some reason, Philip isn't sure they can; he checks it out with Andrew. Andrew doesn't know what to say, so he and Philip take it straight to Jesus himself: "Master, a group of Greeks are anxious to see you. No appointment. Not our kind, but seem like good guys, up for the feast. What do we tell them?"
Let’s bring this scenario closer to home. Imagine some visitors come to St. Charles for Holy Week. They’ve heard that Jesus is around here somewhere. They approach me, because they’ve been told I’m one of his followers: “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” What do I say?
Like Philip bringing the question to Andrew, I could take them into the Parish Center where, let’s imagine, the Multicultural Committee is meeting. Or, on any given day/night, it could be the Pastoral Council or Admin Council or Housing Justice Committee or Altar Society or St. Vincent DePaul Council or one of our faith sharing groups. “Hey folks, these visitors want to see Jesus, what should I tell them?”
Or, I could take them down to Room 13 where Gabe and Sylvia and Molly are gathered with youth, and ask the same question. Or to Room 3 where Mayra is preparing children for First Communion.
Hey, these folks would like to see Jesus. Is that possible?
Yes, you can see Jesus . . . here. How?
Well, as we just heard from the prophet Jeremiah saying,
I will place my law—my covenant—within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
I can say to our visitors: we carry Jesus in our hearts here, and every so often, quite often actually, you’ll catch a glimpse of him—mainly because many here have paid the full cost of keeping him in heart.
Last November I saw Jesus in the heart of Sandy Bossom standing right here in this spot and proclaiming the word to us. I was a several pews back, and my view was such that just over her shoulder was the scroll of those who have died, and Patrick Bossom’s name was right next to Sandy’s head in my view. What I saw was Mary at the foot of the cross. Yes, I saw Jesus.
I saw Jesus this last Wednesday in the radiant face of Mylie Madrid-Hommes as she presided over Lenten Evening Prayer. On the same day that nearly every school child in the country walked out of class in a unified voice crying out for the basic right to a safe, violent-free place to learn and grow . . .
On the same day that Mylie, herself, lead two workshops at her school talking about what it is like being a person of color in our society today . . .
At the end of that same day, Mylie joined us for Lenten Evening Prayer and claimed her voice as an advocate for those who are disadvantaged and outcasted. With strength and conviction in her voice, she said, “Jesus doesn’t want us to be outcasted. He wants us to have a voice. He wants us to have power. He wants us to be in community. . . . That’s why the resurrection story is so important.”
I think you’ll want to hear Mylie’s entire message. Go to Reflections on the Word on our website. You’ll see Jesus.
You’ll see Jesus here because you’ll have authentic encounters here, particularly with those have paid the cost, those who suffer. Later this morning at our GIFT session, four of our parishioners will share their experiences of standing with those who suffer. I have no doubt they will show how to see Jesus.
There is still another way of seeing Jesus: by focusing on yourself. Concretely, do you encounter Christ? You should, you must; for in the words of Walter Burghardt, “encounter with Christ is the bone and marrow of Christian living.”
Our staff took this to heart last week at our retreat day as we explored the theme of “Creating a Culture of Calling.” Some of you have heard me talk about this recently. Our parish has been selected to participate in an exciting, challenging initiative exploring how we can respond to Jesus’ call in our lives. We spent a good portion of our Staff Day sharing with one another our personal experiences of call anchored in childhood and adolescence, in struggle, hurt, and screw up, in extraordinary learning opportunities, and in experiences of authentic community. It was a rich and sacred time, and I got glimpses of Jesus. More to come for all of us on creating a culture of calling.
So I’ve mentioned there’s a cost involved. What does it cost to see Jesus?
Clue: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24).
So, I might say to our imaginary visitors: Do you really want to see Jesus, encounter him person to person, touch him? Then join us for the remainder of Lent in following him to Jerusalem. It is a journey that trudges to life, but through death.
You see, for us, these forty days of Lent are not an isolated episode in our lives, or an annual replay of past events. For us, Lent is today. Lent is interweaving our current life’s journey with Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, sharing his way of the cross, and crying aloud with him "Father, into your hands we commit our spirit" (Lk 23:46).
And . . . it is rising again with him on Easter Sunday morning.
Can you see Jesus? Sure. Hang with us for the next couple of weeks.