By Elizabeth Westhoff

 

 

 

“But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.” ~ John 12:20-33

 

Transition

Today is the Fifth Sunday of Lent, and today’s Gospel deals with transition. As women, we spend our lives in transition. We begin as our parents’ new babies; we transition into a child who must be helped and taught everything we need to know to survive, and then we transition into teenagers and stumble toward womanhood and new relationships. For most, we transition into someone’s wife with the new experiences of living in that role. We might transition into someone’s mother, raising our children. As we embrace the aging process, we might transition into the caregivers for our parents or spouse, eventually becoming cared for by our children or outside caregivers. Our final transition is from life to the afterlife. The series of transitions in our lives is unavoidable. As we all know, there can often be pain with change, the physical pain of childbirth, the hormonal upheaval that can accompany adolescence, and the emotional pain that accompanies the aging and death of our loved ones, and, eventually, ourselves. Transition is not an easy part of our humanity, but it is a necessary element at the very core of our humanity.

Pain in Change

John 12:20-33 is a complex and theologically rich passage that comes at a critical moment in the Gospel of John, marking the transition from Jesus’ public ministry to His path towards crucifixion. This passage is layered with themes of sacrifice, glory, and the nature of discipleship.

The passage begins with Greeks coming to Jerusalem for the Passover feast and expressing a desire to see Jesus. Jesus’ response to the Greeks’ request is not direct. Instead, He declares, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” This statement marks a pivotal shift in Jesus’ ministry. Until this point, Jesus often stated that His hour had not yet come. He acknowledges that the time for His ultimate mission—His suffering, death, and resurrection—is at hand.

Jesus uses the metaphor of a grain of wheat that must die to produce many seeds as a principle of the Kingdom of God, where life comes through death. This metaphor illustrates the necessity of Jesus’ own death to bring forth the fruit of salvation for many. It also extends to His followers, teaching them that true life and eternal rewards come from sacrificing worldly desires and following Jesus, even if it leads to suffering or physical death.

Jesus expresses a moment of human vulnerability, saying, “Now my soul is troubled.” He contemplates the natural human desire to avoid suffering but ultimately submits to the divine will, showing His obedience and commitment to fulfilling His purpose. Jesus’ prayer, “Father, glorify your name,” reveals His primary desire for God’s will to be done and for God’s glory to be manifested, even through His own suffering.

Sacrifice and Glory

Jesus predicts His death by crucifixion, referred to as being “lifted up.” This term is loaded with double meaning, signifying the manner of His death and His exaltation. Jesus indicates that His crucifixion will draw all people to Himself, suggesting the universal scope of His mission and the inclusive nature of His call to salvation. His suffering and transition are not simply empty gestures; they are efficacious and salvific.

John 12:20-33 encapsulates key themes of the Gospel and the point upon which we, as His daughters, should focus—sacrifice as the path to glory, the fulfillment of Jesus’ mission through His death and resurrection, and the invitation to follow Him through self-denial and to bear one’s cross. In this passage, Jesus presents a vision of the Kingdom of God, where life comes through death and glory through suffering.

 

 

Prayer

Gracious and Eternal God, as Jesus willingly faced His hour of sacrifice and glorification for our sake, grant us the courage to face our own hours of trial and transition with faith and trust in You. Help us lay our lives in love so we might find them anew in You, bearing witness to the truth of Your salvation. Amen.

 

Call to Action

As we reflect on the profound teachings of John 12:20-33, we are invited into a transformative journey that mirrors the path Jesus Himself walked. This passage is not merely a story from the past; it is a living call to action for us today. In the figure of the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies to produce many seeds, we find a powerful metaphor for the Christian life. It challenges us to ask ourselves: What must we let go of? What must we allow to “die” to truly live and bear abundant fruit?

 

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