Sheaves of Wheat, Van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]
Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24).
Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)
Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)
Gospel John 12:20-33 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
‘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.
The readings for Year A may be used instead of those above.
Christ in Agony on the Cross, El Greco [Web Gallery of Art]
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself (John 12:32).
Sir, we wish to see Jesus. This was the request of some Greek pilgrims to Jerusalem who spoke to Philip. Jesus when told of this said to Philip and Andrew, Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
The Lord was making it very clear that there are consequences to following him. Philip himself was to end his life as a martyr.
On 12 March 2015 Pope Francis addressed the bishops of Korea during their ad limina visit. He recalled his visit to Korea the previous year when he beatified a group of martyrs. The Bishop of Rome said [emphasis added]: For me, one of the most beautiful moments of my visit to Korea was the beatification of the martyrs Paul Yun Ji-chung and companions. In enrolling them among the Blessed, we praised God for the countless graces which he showered upon the Church in Korea during her infancy, and equally gave thanks for the faithful response given to these gifts of God. Even before their faith found full expression in the sacramental life of the Church, these first Korean Christians not only fostered their personal relationship with Jesus, but brought him to others, regardless of class or social standing, and dwelt in a community of faith and charity like the first disciples of the Lord (cf. Acts 4:32). “They were willing to make great sacrifices and let themselves be stripped of whatever kept them from Christ… Christ alone was their true treasure” (Homily in Seoul, 16 August 2014). Their love of God and neighbor was fulfilled in the ultimate act of freely laying down their lives, thereby watering with their own blood the seedbed of the Church.
The previous Sunday, 9 March 2015, there were attacks on a Catholic church and a Protestant church in an area of Lahore where many Christians live as my Columban confrere Fr Liam O'Callaghan, who is based in Pakistan, reports. Pope Francis expressed his grief during his Angelus talk later in the day and noted: Our brothers' and sisters' blood is shed only because they are Christians.
When we say, We wish to see Jesus we have no idea what this might entail. But we do have the assurance of Jesus himself today where our following him will lead us: Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.
Let us pray for the Christians of Pakistan, the Christians of the Middle East, the Christians in those parts of Africa where they are being persecuted simply for being followers of Jesus. May the promise of Jesus, Whoever serves me, the Father will honor give them courage and honour.
Responsorial Psalm (NAB Lectionary, Philippines, USA)