24 March 2012

'When I am lifted up from the earth . . .' Sunday Reflections for 5th Sunday of Lent Year B

From The Gospel of John (2003) Jesus Predicts His Death (12:20-36) Directed by Philip Saville. Jesus played by Henry Ian Cusick; narrator, Christopher Plummer.
Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

 Gospel John 12:20-33 (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. These approached Philip, who came from Bethsaida in Galilee, and put this request to him, 'Sir, we should like to see Jesus.' Philip went to tell Andrew, and Andrew and Philip together went to tell Jesus. Jesus replied to them:

'Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you, most solemnly, 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 it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life. 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. Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say: Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this very reason that! have come to this hour.  Father, glorify your name!'

A voice came from heaven, 'I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again. People standing by, who heard this, said it was a clap of thunder; others said, 'It was an angel speaking to him.'

Jesus answered, 'It was not for my sake that this voice came, but for yours.

'Now sentence is being passed on this world; now the prince of this world is to be overthrown. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to myself.' By these words he indicated the kind of death he would die.

An Soiscéal Eoin 12:20-33 (Gaeilge, Irish)

San am sin bhí Gréagaigh áirithe ar na daoine a chuaigh suas go Iarúsailéim chun adhradh a dhéanamh lá na féile. Tháinig siadsan mar sin go dtí Pilib, an fear ó Bhéatsáide na Gailíle, agus d’iarr siad achainí air: “A thiarna, ba mhaith linn Íosa a fheiceáil,” ar siad. Tháinig Pilib agus d’inis sé d’Aindrias é, agus ansin tháinig Aindrias agus Pilib agus d’inis siad d’Íosa é. D’fhreagair Íosa iad agus dúirt:

“Tá an uair tagtha chun go ndéanfaí Mac an Duine a ghlóiriú. Amen, Amen, a deirim libh, an gráinne arbhair a thit sa talamh, mura bhfaigheann sé bás, fanann sé leis féin amháin. Ach má fhaigheann sé bás, tugann sé toradh mór uaidh. An té a thugann grá dá anam féin, caillfidh sé é, agus an té a thugann fuath dá anam féin ar an saol seo, déanfaidh sé é a choimeád chun na beatha síoraí. Má dhéanann aon duine friothálamh ormsa, leanadh sé mé, agus an áit ina mbímse, is ann a bheidh mo fhriothálaí chomh maith. Má dhéanann aon duine friothálamh ormsa, tabharfaidh m’Athair onóir dó. Tá buaireamh ar m’anam anois. Cad déarfaidh mé? ‘ A Athair, saor mé ón uair seo’? Ach is chuige sin a tháinig mé chun na huaire seo. Athair, tabhair glóir do d’ainm!”

Ansin tháinig guth ó neamh: “Thug mé glóir dó, agus tabharfaidh mé glóir dó arís.”Arna chloisteáil don slua a bhí ina seasamh timpeall, dúirt siad gur toirneach a rinneadh; dúirt cuid acu: “Aingeal a labhair leis.”

D’fhreagair Íosa: 
“Ní ar mo shonsa,” ar sé, “a tharla an guth, ach ar bhur sonsa. Anois atá breith á tabhairt ar an saol seo. Anois atá prionsa an tsaoil seo le teilgean amach. Má ardaítear mise ón talamh tarraingeoidh mé gach duine chugam féin.”

Dúirt sé an méid sin á chur in iúl cén sórt báis a bhí i ndán dó a fháil.

The Venerable Matt Talbot (2 May 1856 - 7 June 1925)
When Fr Patrick Sheehy died suddenly at the age of 80 in the Columban retirement home in Ireland eight days before Christmas 1999 people began to notice that certain things weren’t being done anymore, simple things such as newspapers and letters being brought to men who weren’t very mobile.

Father Pat, from Union Hall, in west Cork, one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland, if not the world, was ordained in 1944 and went to China in 1946. He was expelled from there in 1951 and moved to Japan, where he was to spend the next 38 years, apart from a two-year break for health reasons. When he retired to Ireland ‘he quietly kept busy at many corporal works of mercy until his sudden death, as Those Who Journeyed With Us, the Columban book of brief obituaries, puts it.
When I read in today’s Gospel, when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to myself, I thought of Father Pat. He didn’t do anything to draw attention to himself. But in his death he drew the attention of those around him to the simple ways in which the Lord had been present through him in his thoughtful acts.

I thought of the Venerable Matt Talbot, - ‘The Workers’ Saint’ - whose sudden death in Granby Lane, behind the Dominican church in Dublin, where he was on his way to Mass on Trinity Sunday, 7 June 1925, led to the discovery of the extraordinarily ascetical life he had led for 41 years after giving up the alcohol to which he had been addicted. A penitential chain was found on his body. All the evidence later discovered pointed to the fact that this was something he wore only occasionally and with the permission of his spiritual director. But without that chain nobody would have known anything about this extraordinary man, with little formal education, living a profound life of penance and prayer while working as a labourer on the docks of Dublin and sharing the little money he had with those poorer than himself.

When I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to myself. Again, Matt Talbot never sought any attention for himself. As a poor, working man, he would have got little attention anyway. But in his death he brought many closer to the Jesus he loved, especially alcoholics like himself. He had to decide each day to live soberly. He had to decide each day to pray, to attend Mass, to fast, to give himself to his work, to give away what he earned.

Father Pat Sheehy had to give up his dream of spending all his life in China when, with so many others, he was expelled. He had to let go of Japan for two years in the mid-1950s because of poor health, though the Lord brought him back there. When retired he had to decide each day to do each act of kindness that he did quietly, many of which weren’t clearly seen until he died.

Each decision we make to die to self in some way is a living out of the words of Jesus 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. Very often it is others who reap this rich harvest.

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