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Gospel according to Saint John 12,20-33:

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.
“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

Two ways of dying

Luis CASASUS President of the Idente Missionaries

Rome, March 17, 2024 | Fifth Sunday of Lent

Jer 31: 31-34; Heb 5: 7-9; Jn 12: 20-33

 Today, in the Gospel, Christ speaks to us of dying, of losing one’s life. This reflection was already important for many spiritual masters. Even before the Christian tradition. Buddha advised us to meditate on death as a way of learning to live better, without losing ourselves in the worries, concerns and temptations that invade us without remedy. This is how he expressed it, with a typical oriental flavor:

Of all footprints, that of the elephant is supreme. Likewise, of all the meditations of deep attention, that of death is supreme.

Certainly, Christians have had a similar sensibility, though of course with a different perspective, advising since the Middle Ages to reflect on the so-called The Four Last Things: death, judgment, hell and glory. However, all this refers to a first type of death, the one that marks the end of our passage on this earth. This death, undoubtedly, has a profound meaning for those who have faith, both for oneself and for others. We all remember the ancient saying, referring to the first martyrs: The blood of the martyrs is the seed of new Christians (Tertullian, 197).

Above all, we must keep in mind that God the Father chose the death of his Son, not any other alternative, for our redemption. We cannot enter into the mind of God the Father, but of course, the death of Christ means that He held nothing back, He shared everything with us, making true what He had already declared: Now I call you friends (Jn 15: 15).

Of course, according to the Old Testament, the chosen people had shown a great lack of trust in Yahweh, as the First Reading says, many times they broke the covenant established with the one who delivered them from slavery, taking them by the hand. When we see today that human wickedness has not ended, but always finds new ways to manifest itself, in the world and in each one of us, we can imagine, as did the author of the Book of Numbers, the displeasure of the Creator:

And the Lord said unto Moses: How long shall this people vex me? How long shall they continue not to believe in me in spite of all the signs that I have done in the midst of them? (Num 14: 11).

The reality is that nothing was enough then, nor is it enough now, to bring about a change in the human heart.

Neither being freed from slavery, nor the Commandments that show the way to a fulfilled life, had any effect. But it is nevertheless true that history, the lives of the saints and our personal experience show us that giving one’s life, whether as a victim of violence or day by day, in a long, sometimes discreet and silent process, changes lives. It can transform them in an instant, or after many months… or centuries. As Jesus himself says today: When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.

Christ, as the Son of the Creator, knew well the meaning of the germination of a seed. It is an impressive process, as a biologist friend who devoted all his efforts to researching it told me. It is of unexpected complexity, he said, and the biochemical changes are fascinating.

It is not simply that the grain dies, but that it is resurrected as a form of life that is difficult to imagine, seeing the humble reality and temporary inactivity of a seed. But we all have experience that the virtuous people we have known not only “remain in our memory”, but take part in our decisions, preventing us from committing certain blunders and giving us impulse and confidence in some difficult actions, in which we know we can count on their smile and approval.

We sometimes speak of death in the material world, and we can say that death and new life have been part of this story from the beginning, when atoms, the smallest particles, gave up their independence to become molecules and increasingly complex structures. Later, stars died to give life to new generations of stars.

Even for a person who has no faith (or believes he has no faith) the awareness of giving his life for someone else keeps him steadfast in his sacrifice. When a soldier sets out to die on a highly dangerous mission, he does so not for an idea, or for a space of land or for a flag, but for the people who are represented in those realities.


If this is not the case, if we are not aware that we are giving our lives, in whatever form, we will tire of any project or task, and this will be visible to all. Sooner or later it will happen to us as it did to the French philosopher Sartre (1905-1980), who reached his famous conclusion: Man is a useless passion. When he spoke of “passion,” he was not referring here to something perverse, but to any initiative that we undertake with enthusiasm. Nothing can fulfill us but the certainty of giving our life for our neighbor.

One of the many stories of anonymous heroes. A father gave his life to save his son, holding the child above his head as he drowned in the sea.

The man went to rescue his son and daughter when they found themselves in trouble on a New Zealand beach. He and another person jumped into a dangerous current as the children struggled through the waves.

With the tide going out, there is a fairly large current flow there; the children had been swimming and got caught in the current, panicked and couldn’t get back.

The father caught up with his children and handed his daughter to the other man, who brought her safely to shore.

When that man returned to the water, he found the father below the surface holding his son above his head.

The father had drowned, but gave the rescuers enough time to save his son.

The other man pulled the child safely to shore, while others pulled the father from the water. They began CPR, desperately trying to save him, but to no avail. Police, firefighters and rescue paramedics were unable to save the father.

Undoubtedly, stories like this move us all, but our impression is not comparable to that of the two brothers, who will carry their father’s example and companionship in their hearts for the rest of their lives.

Did that father know the danger he faced? Of course, for he was a neighbor and an amateur fisherman in the area.

Was he a believer? It is not necessary to be one to be driven to an act like this. It is above human prudence, knowledge and our convictions.

But we, as disciples of Christ, cannot simply stand in awe of admirable acts such as this, which obviously cannot be done every day. In order for us to love with authentic evangelical love, the Holy Spirit continually lets us know two things:

* What does my neighbor need now. It can be something very simple, not indispensable, but enough to make God’s love visible in my small gesture.

* What should I leave to go to that person who needs help.

An unsurpassable example of this is Mary’s attitude when she went to visit Elizabeth. It was clear that she needed his help as a young woman and it was evident that she had to put aside her own need for rest, even though she was pregnant.

In any case, we must take seriously the words of Christ: I tell you the truth, whoever believes in me will do the same as I do, and even greater things (Jn 14: 12). That is to say, we are not able nor do we need to measure in any way the importance or the extent of our modest acts of generosity; it is enough to be sure that something of my life (time, comfort, habits, preferences…) I have left on the way.

In the book of Exodus, it is told that, while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving from the Lord the tablets of the Law, the Ten Commandments, the people, tired of waiting, decided to make a golden calf and worship it. When Moses came down from the mountain and saw the spectacle, he broke the tablets, stood at the gate of the camp and cried out: To me those of the Lord! And all the Levites gathered around him. And Moses commanded them, Gird on every man his sword, and go through the camp from gate to gate, and kill his brother, his companion, and his kinsman. The Levites carried out the orders of Moses and Moses, at the end, said to them: Today you have consecrated yourselves to the Lord at the cost of your son or your brother, and today you have earned his blessing (Ex 32:25-29).

Christ promises us that we are not alone in this struggle and indeed the Holy Spirit transmits to us the forgiveness, the light and the strength necessary to overcome the unending battle with sin.


Today’s Gospel text begins with an important fact. Some Gentiles, probably Greeks, wish to meet Jesus.

It might seem something unexpected for the disciples, who considered the Greeks, like the other Jews, cultured people, immersed in cults and beliefs very different from their own. But these Greeks were the first fruit among the Gentiles and were surely visiting Jerusalem to deepen their newfound faith. They approached Christ not directly, but through his disciples. Moreover, they choose Andrew and Philip, the only ones with Greek names in the Community of the Twelve.

Perhaps, these two disciples did not expect to be instruments to lead these Greeks to Jesus, but this episode teaches us that each one of us is mysteriously chosen to be a mediator between God and so many human beings who hunger and thirst for truth. In spite of your and my distractions, your and my infidelities.


In the Sacred Hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph,