A rich harvest for the Kingdom. JOHN: 12:20–30
By Leonard L Birmingham
This gospel, which is full of the richness of Jesus’ revelation of His being “lifted up” and its consequences, is made more compelling when we realise that the spark which lights His rather dramatic discourse, is the mere request “to see Him”, made by some Greeks going up to “worship at the festival”.
These are not Greek-speaking Jews, but rather Gentiles of non-Jewish birth: Jesus would have experienced a deep sense of fulfillment that God’s word of salvation, which He was sent by the Father to proclaim, was indeed reaching to “the ends of the earth”.
Accordingly, we understand why Jesus’ spirit soars and He exults as He envisages a “harvest” for the Kingdom, of both Jew and Gentile alike. The fruit of His impending death and resurrection; of the seed that would have fallen to the ground and died, had triumphed, and the Father thereby glorified.
When Jesus refers to the overthrow of the prince of darkness, we are reminded that the hard-won victory of the Cross, bringing with it the sure hope of salvation for all humanity, is to be contrasted with the deceptive threefold promise with which Jesus was confronted after spending 40 days and nights fasting in the desert.
The package of false promises comprised satisfaction of His appetite, the adulation of the crowd and the emotional ‘rush’ if He would only throw Himself down from a high mountain, and the promise of all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour which 1 Corinthians 7:31 reminds us, “is passing away”.
All these were directed at personal satisfaction. Thanks to Calvary, the sure hope of salvation for all humanity has triumphed.
The gospel also cautions us to avoid loving our lives in this world. In the First Reading, we are told by the prophet Jeremiah that God desires to enter a covenant relationship with each one of us. In so doing, He will write His law onto our hearts.
That law, which is the law of love, requires us to love God with our whole hearts (Mk 12: 30). It follows, that if we love God in this way, there can be no love set aside for anyone or anything else; it is a love exclusive to God.
We love our own lives more than we love God when we devote more of our time, talent, and treasure to carrying out our own purposes, than to carrying out His will. To the extent that our will prevails, we are in breach of our sacred covenant with Him.
Accordingly, it would offend against divine justice if in the exercise of our free will, we exclusively controlled our resources here in this life, and expected, without repentance and conversion, to be sharers in the eternal love of God in Heaven (Lk 16: 19–31, Mt 25: 31–46).
So as we return to the gospel, we are no longer onlookers, but are drawn intimately into the work of Jesus, as He invites us to follow Him and serve Him. We are given the assurance that those who respond to the invitation will be honoured by the Father.
Moreover, Jesus also assures us that when He is lifted up, He will draw all men to Himself. It is to the glory of the Father, and our own joy, that He has in fact already been lifted up.
The implications of becoming a follower of Jesus are that, like Him, we must be that seed that falls to the ground and dies. In Galatians 2:19 St Paul offers his own experience when he says “I have been crucified with Christ and I live now, not with my own life, but with the life of Christ who lives in me” (Jerusalem Bible).
May the Spirit of the living God, come to make His home in our hearts and impel us to become His followers; to be seeds that fall to the ground and die, so that men and women everywhere, might live.
The gospel reflections for March are by members of the Leadership Team of the National Catholic Men’s Ministry. Leonard L Birmingham and his wife Peggy of 55 years are the parents of four children, two boys and two girls. They have been blessed with eight grandsons and five great grands. “We are privileged to have been able to serve the Church since Labour Day 1973 when we were prayed with and received a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit.”