HOMILY FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT -YEAR B (21ST MARCH., 2021)

HOMILY FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT -YEAR B (21ST MARCH., 2021)

Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51; Hebrews 5:7-9; John 12:20-30

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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai:

The Critical Hour of Jesus Christ

Today is the fifth Sunday in the season of Lent. Lenten season is a special and sacred season in Church when we take out time to reflect on the suffering and death of Christ. Thus, today’s readings address the theme of Christ’s suffering and death. In fact, the gospel reading taking from John 12: 20-30 speaks of the “coming of Jesus’ hour”. What hour? The hour of His suffering and death. The “hour” of Jesus is a prominent theme in the Gospel of John. The word “hour sometimes refers simply and literally to a short period of chronological time. However, “Jesus’ hour” refers more broadly to the climactic event of Jesus’ death and resurrection, which the Gospel of John refers to as his “glorification” (John 12:23). Before this gospel Jesus had constantly said that his hour has not yet come (John 2:4; 7:30; 8:20). In fact all through the Gospel of John Jesus was conscious of his hour but from Chapter 12 without reference to other specific event Jesus said “the hour has come” (John 12:23;13:1;17:1).

Beloved, His hour came with basic lessons for us about life and death. His hour tells us of the critical moments of the hour of death. The reality of death may make us uncomfortable. In fact, some people struggle to write their last will and testament simply because they cannot imagine their death. Often, this creates more problems for the civil state and the court to determine the rightful survivors and heirs of properties. What then can we learn from Jesus’ hour?

Jesus’ hour tells us of the last time Jesus came into the Holy City of Jerusalem. Imagine if you are privileged to know the last time you will visit a place what will you do? In Jesus’ case he revealed himself to those who desired to see him. There are various kinds of people in a city: The bad, the good, wicked and dubious. In the city of Jesus; there were those who were singing Hosanna (John 12:13); those who were planning to eliminate him; those who were speaking ills of him and the Greeks who desired to encounter him. Again, which of these categories do we belong? The Greeks want to see Jesus – they want to have an encounter with him and so Jesus revealed his identity to them; Jesus told them of his suffering and death. Those who desire to see Jesus; will definitely find him. He says in Matt.7:7 seek and you shall find. Beloved, rather joining the crowd speaking ill and trying to kill him! Be among those who sought to see him.

Jesus’ critical hour makes us to understand that we must die in order to live:  At the coming of Jesus’ hour. Jesus himself says “unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.” If a seed does not die it will remain a single seed; if it dies then it will grow and yield more fruits. This natural truth is also a spiritual truth. If we must grow spiritually our body must die. This kind of death is an investment for fruitful and eternal life. If the body does not die we shall continue with the regular slogan that “the spirit is willing but the body is weak”. Beloved, the death of the body is a pre-condition of living a life of grace. Unless we share; our world will not be a better place. Unless we plant we cannot harvest; unless we read we cannot teach. Unless our pride dies we can never be humble, unless gossips die slander and character assassination will never stop. Therefore, if we must grow this Lenten season we must by way of fasting and self denial kill the vices and addictions we struggle with.

The critical hour of Jesus calls us to have a change of mentality towards life; Jesus himself says “Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life.” What the world counts as gain is not what God counts as gain. For the world a man his successful by the number of cars, houses and other properties he has; but for God, a man is successful by his relevance in eternity. Matt.16:26 says “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”. Thus, Success in the eyes of God is the salvation of our souls.  If we don’t know this we shall continue to struggle in vein. Men who know this have come to understand that beauty is the disposition of the soul and not the outward adornment with braided hair or gold jewelry or fine clothes (1Pet.3:3-4). These are men who can say to themselves that “For this cause we faint not, though our outward man perishes, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” (2Cor.4:16). Beloved, if our mentality towards life does not change our life cannot change.  Thus, to hate your life in this world is a call to sacrifice. Sacrifice the desire for the world to gain heaven.

The critical hour of Jesus Christ also reminds us of judgment: Jesus says ‘Now judgment is passed on this world; now the prince of this world is to be overthrown.” Beloved, we must be conscious of this last moment when we shall face the judgment of God who is just. We cannot rub God – whatever a man sows he shall reap. Judgment is true and the seeming victor of this world shall be dethroned. Therefore, the only moment for repentance and forgiveness is now. Like the Psalm of today let us ask God to wash us more and more from our guilt   and cleanse us from our sins.

Again, the critical moment of Jesus’ death is also a moment of great decision. We must make that decision to follow him. Jesus himself says in the gospel  “If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too. If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.” God will reward all those who shall be faithful to the end. Your endurance he says shall win your lives. The kingdom of God has no place for wanderer – our souls won’t be wondering about for where He (Jesus) is there we shall be also. Thus, he says “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also.” (John 14:3). Therefore, let us follow him, if we follow him we shall not wallow, if we follow him where he is there we shall be. If we follow him surely goodness and mercy shall follow us and we shall dwell in his house forever.  

 The critical hour of Jesus speaks of our own last hour. At Jesus last hour he offered petitions to God (Second reading). What could be said of our own last hour? The bible says that Jesus spoke up and said “Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say: Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”. Beloved, the last hour brings us with so much trouble, we appear confused and frightened; it could be said that Jesus was soliloquizing – speaking his thoughts out irrespective of his listeners. Beloved, the hour of death brings us to that state where we soliloquize! Faced with anxieties; glance into the past quick and clear. If we must come out from this state with the words of Jesus “Father, glorify your name” ; then we have to prepare and pray for a holy death. Conscious of this hour of death – the Church gives us various prayers in this regard –commonest amongst them is the second part of the Hail Mary that says: “Holy Mary Mother of God pray us sinners now and the hour of our death. Amen. The scriptures also prepares us for this hour Eccl3:2  “A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.”; Psalm 90:12 “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Beloved, we must realize that out time is short so that the D-day whenever it comes will not be a shock to us. God bless you!

I need Thee every hour
Most gracious Lord
No tender voice like Thine
Can peace afford

I need Thee, O I need Thee
Every hour I need Thee
O bless me now, my Savior
I come to Thee

I need Thee every hour
Stay Thou nearby
Temptations lose their power
When Thou art nigh

I need Thee every hour
In joy or pain
Come quickly and abide
Or life is vain

 Fr. Peter Saliu:

Christ: the Price of our redemption

Today as we celebrate the 5th Sunday of Lent, we are drawing close to our destination and to the most important moments in our journey this season. This fact is reflected in all the readings of this Sunday. Christ is ready to offer everything for our salvation. So, we too must be willing to offer all for him and to give up our old ways of life.

The first reading of this Sunday is an assurance of God’s continuous presence with us.  It also reminds us of the new thing that God is about to do in our midst: “I will make a new covenant and never call their sin to mind…then, I will be their God and they will be my people.” God is ready to restore a broken relationship. On our own part, we must be ready to accept this new covenant with God which offers us salvation and life.

The second reading of this Sunday reminds us of the Gethsemane experience of Jesus. It reminds of the great sacrifice of Christ made to fulfill the promise of his father and to save us. “…He learnt to obey through suffering…he became for all who obey him the source of eternal life.” Christ is willing to pay this price of redemption in order to get us going in life.

The gospel message draws us closer to our Lenten destination. Christ himself tells us: “Now the hour has come for the son of man to be glorified.” What glory is there in suffering? He is about to be arrested, punished and killed, yet he talks about his glory. Jesus saw beyond the clouds of pains and difficulties in order to behold success and eternal life.

He knew that his suffering and death would restore life to many. So, rather than be discouraged by the temporary situation of suffering, he was encouraged and motivated by the honest reward of eternal life. Hence, Christ offered his suffering and life in order to restore a broken covenant and eternal life for all who believe in him. Hence, he says: “Unless a grain of wheat dies it remains a single grain, but if it dies it yields a rich harvest.”

Unfortunately, many of us do not want to follow or like this path. Jesus however, invites us to be strong along the path of life. He wants us to be where he is. So, we must be ready to endure as he did. We must find new courage to press on in the midst of trials, persecution, and even doubts. Also, we must learn from His experience, that suffering is necessary, and inevitable in life. This is because, just as Christ, we will be made perfect through it.

In all, we must at all times be ready to stand up for the truth and shun injustice, corruption immorality and bad leadership.

Fr. Paul Oredipe:

Choose today whom you will serve  –  ‘Unless wheat (we) die’ 

In today’s Gospel we are presented with the inevitable need to make a choice.  We have to decide to take it or leave.  Let me take out a line to begin our reflection: “If a man serves me, he must follow me.”  Christ is placing before us alternatives.  It is either we serve Him or not.  However, once we decide to serve Him, we can and should only do one thing then.  If we want to serve Him, we MUST follow.  To follow here is no longer an alternative.  It becomes an obligation.  The moment we have claimed our life for Christ, we have to come along in His footstep. 

In the words of the Gospel: WE MUST FOLLOW HIM.  We cannot claim to be a Christian and not walk along in the same path of Christ Himself who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  To follow someone, you need to keep them in view, go at their pace, and walk in their steps.  Above all, you have to believe that they know where they are going. 

The words ‘MUST’ here is imperative; not ‘he could’ or even ‘he should’ or ‘it is better’ but “he/she MUST”.  This is the wonderful challenge and inescapable mandate presented before us today the 5th Sunday of Lent.  It is an invitation and a promise together.  The conditions are the same, the urgency is the same, the promise is the same.  If we choose to serve Christ, the proof of that choice must be reflected in the way we live: by following Him.  The choice is ours – to serve or not to serve. 

This is certainly true in the life of any man or woman.  Today as we advance in our Lenten journey of conversion, reconciliation and repentance, we are presented with these inevitable tasks.  We have to make up our mind, we have to choose.  And once we make that choice we have to follow.  “If any man serves me, he must follow me” says Jesus. 

The words of Jesus have a similar resonance – YOU MUST FOLLOW.  Obviously, the following here goes beyond mere or passive imitation.  It involves a deeper and inner quality of faith and obedience.  In ordinary life, we expect and see the soldier following his general, the servant following his master, the sheep following its shepherd and also children (here I hope all children) following their parents. 

The following of Christ demands firm faith and complete obedience.  Such are the leading marks of real followers, and will always be seen in true believing Christians.  To follow Christ in name and form is easy enough and superficial, but to follow Him in faith, trust and obedience demands more than we often take for granted.  Among others, this involves a clear sight and understanding, dear love and closeness. 

In the same Gospel passage, Christ says, “where I am, my servant will be there too.”  To follow is to go the same way as the leader, and for Christ that way leads through (via) the cross and resurrection to the Father.  Christ himself came not to live a life of honour, ease and magnificence, but to die a shameful and dishonoured death.  The kingdom He came to set up was to begin with a crucifixion, and not with a coronation.  Its glory was to take its rise not from victories won by the sword, and from accumulated treasures of gold and silver, but from the death of its King.  From this it means therefore that following Christ also involves an indispensable paradox of life: that only by death comes life. 

To follow Christ therefore involves a radical death.  As He himself emphasised it in the gospel passage of today: “Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.  Anyone who loves his life loses; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life.”  The grain of wheat was ineffective and unfruitful so long as it was preserved, as it were, in safety and security.  It was when it was thrown into the cold ground, and buried there as if in a tomb, that it bore fruit.  It was by the death of the martyrs that the Church grew. 

In the famous phrase: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”  The death here is not simply the physical death but one of rejection of bad habits, renewal of intention and will and reconciliation with God, even with self and neighbour.  Put another way, it means that unless we die to our own will, we cannot bear fruit for God.  There can be no life without death, there can be no sweet without sweat or bitter, there can be no crown without a cross. 

Without Christ’s death, there would have been no life for the world.  Unless we are willing to die to sin, and crucify all that is most dear, we cannot expect any benefit from Christ’s death.  “Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life.”  Losing our life does not always mean dying.  But it may mean losing some of the things that make life easy or pleasant.  We must be willing to die to our own will if we wish to bear fruit for God; willing to trust God and put ourselves in His hands if we wish to gain eternal life. 

Verse 4 of Hymn 109 ‘Sons of God’ in the Catholic Hymn Book reminds us: “If we want to live with Him, We must also die with him, Die to selfishness and sin, And we’ll live forever.” 

In concrete life, this means a lot.  Many of us have to pay a hard price for being Christians.  There are some who are not promoted at work because they are Christians.  Others are not given their due rights and privileges.  Some are laughed at and scorned by friends for not compromising; for not taking bribes or kickbacks. 

Dying to our will means dying to our pride and asking for sincere help from faithful friends.  It means admitting our problem; forgiving people from our heart and treating them with love.  We can list so many experiences of slow death undertaken by those who struggle to truly follow in the way of Christ, to speak His Truth and live His real Life in our midst today.  The list is by no means exhaustive.  These are the so many ways in which we have to be ready to follow as Christ asks us; to be faithful and to persevere no matter what it may cost us, even our life.  If Christ loves us enough to die for us, do we love Him enough to live for Him ? 

The important thing is to put our whole life in God’s hands in complete trust and faith.  To let go of our lives and let God do with them whatever He wishes.  The grain of wheat in us must first die before it can produce abundant fruits.  Dying to selfishness before we can start living the life of Christ.  One comes to a greater life only after dying to a lesser one. 

When Jesus calls, He bids us come to die and put to death within ourselves what is opposed to true life.  Christ shows us that death have a place in God’s plan for us.  To be buried in the earth means avoiding sin, accepting suffering and living for others.  As long as we live in this flesh, let us die with Christ by changing our conduct, so that we may live with Christ by loving rectitude.  Until we come to Him who came to us, until we begin to live with Him who died for us, we shall not possess the blessed life He won for us.  (John 10:10) 

If we have not been faithful enough, today is an opportunity.  In the first reading, we hear about the loving intention of God to make a new covenant with the house of Israel.  In spite of Israel’s infidelity, God is ready to make a new covenant with her.  From now, her sins are forgiven.  This covenant involves making a new heart and a new spirit, writing His law on their hearts and being their God.  In spite of man’s infidelity, God is ever ready to recreate us, to renew us if only we place ourselves completely in His hand.  He offers us a chance over and over again.  “I will be their God and they shall be my people.” 

In the second reading, we heard that Jesus took upon Himself our sinfulness and became the source of life for all who obey Him.  God is God; He remains the same faithful God.  Are we always His own people?  Are we even ready to follow His covenant of love and life ? 

On the whole, the following of Christ is not without its rewards, achievement and fulfilment.  “If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.”  The blessing of God awaits His chosen ones, it lies ahead a life of total trust and full faithfulness to Christ. 

We have to choose whom we shall serve.  Lent is a time for carefully discerning the choices we make in our daily life.  But once we decide to serve Christ, let us know that we must therefore FOLLOW HIM, follow in the footsteps He lived, joining in the death He died.  It is only by this that we can share in His glorious resurrection.  

Song: –  

            “I have decided to follow Jesus, 

 I have decided to follow Jesus, 

 I have decided to follow Jesus. 

 No turning back, no turning back. 

             The world behind me, the cross before me. 

 The world behind me, the cross before me. 

 The world behind me, the cross before me. 

 No turning back, no turning back. 

             If no one joins me, still I will follow. 

            If no one joins me, still I will follow.  

 If no one joins me, still I will follow.  

 No turning back, no turning back.” 

             It is our prayer today that all of us may be counted worthy of this crown of life through Christ our Lord.  Amen. 

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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Auchi, Edo State, Nigeria. He was ordained October 20th, 2018. He offers his daily homilies, talks and articles that bother on, faith, theology, morals and many other burning issues in religion and politics. Fr. Daniel writes poems, inspirational quotes and clips.

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