5TH SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR B ON MARCH 21, 2021 (R. 1: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15; R. 2: Hebrews 5:7-9; Gospel: John 12:20-33)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
WHICH OF THE HOURS?
Is today’s Gospel passage as confusing to you as it is to me? Philip and Andrew went to tell Jesus that some Greeks wanted to see him. In response, Jesus said, “The hour has come…” And he continued with a long speech. Which hour is Jesus referring to here? What is the connection between the Greeks looking for Jesus and the long speech he gave? Did Jesus let the Greeks see him as requested? Did he give this long speech in their presence? Was the speech prompted by something the Greeks said when they arrived? What did they say?
Two Sundays ago, we read about the cleansing of the Temple. On that day, Jesus emphasized that the Temple is the house of prayer for all peoples. Some suggest that the Greeks must have been impressed to hear Jesus say that everyone was invited to pray in the Temple. It must have meant a lot to the Greeks to know that they are not second-class citizens in the Temple, for in the Temple, everyone is equal before God. That declaration by Jesus must have provoked their curiosity, so they came to see him.
Remember that Ancient Greece was the birthplace of Western philosophy. So, when the Greeks came to see Jesus, he knew that as deep thinkers, as philosophers, they were not just there to see how tall Jesus was, or to see the color of his eyes, or the length of his beard. He knew that the Greeks loved to go beyond the surface, and so Jesus took his time to use this speech to give them the summary of his life, his mission, and his purpose.
Jesus began by saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” This is not the first time, and not the last time that we hear about “the hour” in John’s account of the Gospel. When he began his public ministry at the wedding feast of Cana, in response to his mother’s request about the lack of wine, Jesus said, “My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). Twice during his public ministry, John tells us that no man could lay a hand on Him because His “hour had not yet come” (John 7:30; 8:20). But in today’s Gospel passage, he says, “The hour has come.” The arrival of the Gentiles was a sign that he had come to the beginning of the end of his public ministry. The reason for which he came was to draw all people to God. But he began with the Jews. When he discovered that the message had gone beyond the Jewish territory, and that even the Gentiles had come to seek him, he knew it was already a job well done.
In verse 27 of today’s passage, he sees the agony of the hour, and he begins to dialogue with himself, “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say – ‘Father save me from this hour? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.” What is this hour? It is the hour to accomplish what he came to do in this world: to reconcile humanity to divinity through his passion, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. So, at the beginning of the next chapter (13:1), John says, “Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father.” Later, in Chapter 17:1, “After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you.”
The hour refers to the proper time, the appointed time, and the expected time of an event. The Book of Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” The way to live a happy and fulfilled life is discerning, recognizing, respecting, and making the best of each time, each hour, and each season for what it is. One thing Jesus clearly demonstrated during his public ministry on earth is that, even as God, he was attentive to each hour and what it was meant for. He was not out to twist the hands of the clock; he was not out to twist the arm of God. He humbly submitted to the will and plan of God for him, and that led to his glorification.
Now, my dearly beloved in Christ, which hour are you at this moment? What is your divinely assigned mission/purpose? What are you doing to know your purpose in this life? When is the right time for it to be accomplished? Are you rushing into it when it is not yet the hour? Or has the hour arrived and are you running away from it because of the difficulties involved in it? Remember that apart from the general calendar, God has designed a customized calendar for each person. Each person’s calendar is designed to achieve God’s best purpose for that person. Just as there are different time zones for different places, just like the sun rises and sets at different times for the different time zones, so are our individual lives. Don’t feel inferior or defeated when your neighbors seem to be doing better than you. It is always dangerous to live by other people’s divinely assigned calendars. Let us pray that God may grant us the grace to focus on our own divinely assigned calendar, and make the best of each hour so as to attain God’s ultimate purpose for us in this life and the life to come, through Christ our Lord. Amen.