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All, from least to greatest, shall know me.

By 16 March, 2018January 3rd, 2023No Comments
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By F. Luis Casasus, General Superior of idente missionaries
Commentary on the Sunday Gospel of 18-03-18 Fifth Sunday of Lent (Book of Jeremiah 31:31-34; Letter to the Hebrews 5:7-9; Saint John 12:20-33).

This Sunday is the last Sunday of Lent before Holy Week. The readings are preparing us to understand the significance of Christ’s Passion. As Jesus explains us, his crucifixion entails the arrival of the hour in which the devil is truly defeated, when the new covenant age will dawn. In a nutshell, these are the two dimensions of Christ’s Passion:
On the one hand, with the culmination of His mission, He gives a visible and poignant proof of our Heavenly Father’s redemptive mercy and on the other hand, the passion of Jesus gives meaning and hope to all human suffering. We find in the passion of Jesus the ultimate meaning of human existence and Christian commitment.
Moreover, a synthesis and clarification of both is provided in today’s Christ’s words: The Father will honor whoever serves me. He makes clear that serving Him means following Him on the path of the Cross, dying to our self so that His life will be manifest in us. But He also demonstrated through his life what it means to be glorified and honored by our Heavenly Father: To be given the opportunity to do the greatest good to our neighbors, helping them to lead a full and fulfilling life and to approach God, even if this is not their explicit and conscious goal.
It seems therefore timely to reflect on two points: The meaning of being honored by God and the significance of suffering.
1. If we are going to be honored by God, it looks like…a perfect state, a state of perfection. Correct; but perfection is an action, an activity, not a static state. Jesus is not talking about a point, like a summit of a mountain, but a road, a lifelong path. With practice, a basketball player perfects his throw. And to what end is this practice directed? Toward the attainment of some goal, some cherished end. The athlete has in mind an image of an ideal throw which he strives to replicate or achieve with repetition and dedication. But no matter how skillful one becomes, perfection is never complete, there is always room for improvement.
Moreover, perfection is not limited to improve our performance or being more efficient in some technique or skill, rather it concerns all areas of our existence, both natural and supernatural We seek perfection because perfection is the ultimate aim and the goal of creation. Spiritual perfection has always to do with our fellowmen, not just with the level of my virtues.
Yes. Have you ever wondered what is the meaning of this today’s text: And when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him? Of course, this perfection has nothing to do with sins, temptations, vices or some “improvement” on Christ’s behavior. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews means that Jesus, on the Cross, fulfilled the authentic meaning of perfection with the total gift of himself to bring about the work of our salvation.
This idea of perfection as a complete donation of ourselves for the others is at the heart of all spiritual traditions. For instance, Mahatma Gandhi asked us to apply the following test:

Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, recall the case of the poorest and weakest man who you may have seen, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him control over his own life and destiny? Will it lead to swaraj that is self-government, for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then, you will find your doubts and self-melting away.

This, test is valid for our times, indeed for all times, it is valid for India and for the world.
It is not easy to formally define perfection, but we all have experienced moments where part of your life passes to another person, and you experience a well-defined cluster of impressions:
This is precisely what I had to do, even though I have not been able to solve all the problems. And it has been really costly. Perhaps I never had planned it. Now, I am not the same and my scale of values is not the same. A part of my life has been transmitted to my neighbor.

But remember that the perfection to which all are called is a mystical perfection, that is, the other side of perfection is a very precise and specific response of God: Our Heavenly Father testified that Jesus was His Son and gave us the instruction to listen to Jesus. Everything we could ever want or need is in Jesus Christ and the Word of God.

In our case, we may think that being honored by God is taking on a lot of responsibilities or having a position as a leader. None of that. We know we are being honored by God when we see that our humble service helps people to be converted, accepting Jesus, changing the course of their lives. This is the honor of those who serve God, to become a humble beacon, but a credible one, pointing out the direction to His Son. And this is a continuous and permanent process; as St. Augustine taught, God gives us the grace to love Him, and when we love Him, He gives us the grace to love Him more. Perfection consists in gaining eternal life, the kind of life that God lives. When we serve God and die to ourselves, we will also be glorified with Him and share in the fullness of life.
Our Mother Mary is an outstanding example. She was honored by God as a mediator (mediatrix) because we received our salvation through the death and resurrection of her Son and moreover, She has the mission of preserving us in our vocation. God wishes human cooperation. As sinners, we are also invited to be cooperators to bring about the work of salvation.
Why did the Greeks say We want to see Jesus? It was not mere curiosity: They were looking for truth, life and everlasting love and joy. Anyone who is seeking for fullness of life, a richer and enriching life, focus his attention to actual and living examples, to the visible incarnation of some attractive idea or doctrine; the Greeks had a long, deep and well established tradition of theoretical reflection, but they suspected that something or someone really authentic and different was close to them. And Jesus did not despise their intellectual and vital concern, but took the opportunity to let them listen to the voice of His Father, not just His voice: This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.
The answer of Jesus is startlingly precise and goes to the heart of the problem: those Greeks and all of us need to make complete or to bring to completion our life, because we all, from least to greatest, know God; his law, the law of perfection, is truly written in our hearts. Perfection is the promise of the soul.
The plenitude of love has to be understood not in an abstract sense, but concretely in terms of commitment to our neighbors, particularly to our bitter and unsavory brothers and sisters. In the same vein, Jesus gave concrete examples of what charity is, namely, visiting the sick, those in prison, feeding the poor, etc. This is important, lest we fall into this abstract way of “loving”. Like a character in the popular Peanuts comic strip, when he says: I love mankind but it is people whom I cannot stand. True perfection must be concretely lived in our daily lives according to the situation we live in.
Perfection demands a fullness and maturity of self-giving to which human freedom is called. This explains why our Father Founder called Vow of Perfection to the offering of our Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, because without them, sanctity would not be possible while loving riches, impurity and rebelliousness (Apostolic Profession).
Saint John Paul II says in Veritatis Splendor that for the rich young man who approaches Christ, the question is not so much about rules to be followed, but about the full meaning of life.
Jesus himself is the living fulfillment of the law inasmuch as he fulfills its authentic meaning by the total gift of himself. Jesus invites the rich young man to enter upon the way of perfection by keeping his eyes on the suffering and the dreams of his fellowmen: If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions …give to the poor, …and you will have treasure in heaven.
2. If a grain of wheat dies, it produces much fruit. Again, it is important to remember that we have all had this experience: suffering is linked to fruit, even though sometimes we become stressed and immediately want to see the results of our sacrifice or unplanned purification.
Suffering, in many ways, remains a mystery. If God loves us, why do we suffer? In times of distress, we want to know that our suffering matters to God, that He cares about our pain and that our suffering is not pointless or in vain. Most of times we react to pain deep and suffering (of ourselves or our beloved ones) in a very poor form, particularly in these ways:

* God does not exist or, in any case, He does not care and He is not going to do anything.
* Depression and anguish. Perhaps we feel worthless and guilty.
* Irony and cynicism: Everything is meaningless.
But, at the same time, the life of Jesus, the saints and our little experience say that:
* Suffering produces intimacy with God; we experience God at a deep, profound level. Job, who endured unspeakable suffering, said: My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.
* Suffering allows us to comfort others, gives us compassion for others who are hurting, enabling us to serve them more effectively. Many of the volunteers helping cancer patients at the hospitals have also been previously struck by this disease.
People who suffer want people who have suffered to tell them there is hope. Those who have suffered make the most effective comforters. Jesus understands our pain because he, too, suffered.
* Suffering produces growth and maturity: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4). If we turn toward God in our pain, He can use our suffering to mature our faith.
* Finally, suffering conforms us into God’s image. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Rom 8:28-29).
Sometimes we are tempted to think that God sends us our trials and tribulations to test us and teach us. But the fact is that our trials and tribulations are already here.
A little girl who found a butterfly cocoon and she brought it home to take care of it and to watch the butterfly come out. Finally, the day arrived and the cocoon shook a little and a tiny head appeared. But it seemed that the butterfly was struggling and having difficulty to break out of the cocoon. The little girl grew impatient and she thought of helping. She took a little stick to open up the cocoon so that the butterfly could break out of it. Immediately, the butterfly was free, but when it tried to fly, it stretched out its wings but it fell and died. The girl was shocked and ran crying to her father, asking: What happened? I tried to help! The father gently answered: The butterfly needed to struggle. Without struggling, it would never be able to strengthen its wings to fly.
Struggles and tribulations, do not have the final word. The final word belongs to Christ as He tells us: In this world, there will be trials and tribulations. But do not fear. I have overcome the world.
In any case, as we already stated before, suffering is a mystery and we have to enter into it, rather than fully understanding it. Did God abandon His Son in His hour of need on the Cross? We find the answer three days later: God raised Him from the dead. Because of this reality, we have hope for our future.