Sunday Homilies by Fr. Rudolf V. Dí Souza

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5th Sunday in Lent
March 29, 2009 Year: B
Jer 31:31-34; Heb. 5:7-9; Jn 12:20-33
I will draw all people to Myself



First Reading...
"The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt - a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord.

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, 'Know the Lord, 'for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,' says the Lord; 'for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.'" [Jer. 31:31-4]

Second Reading...
"In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him." [Heb. 5:7-9]

Gospel Reading...
"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.'

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. 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. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.'

'Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

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. Father, glorify your name.'

Then a voice came from heaven, 'I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.'

The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, 'An angel has spoken to him.' Jesus answered, 'This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.' Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die." [Jn. 12:20-33]

There was a boy in India who was sent by his parents to a boarding school. Before being sent away this boy was the brightest student in his class. He was at the top in every competition. He was a champion.

But the boy changed after leaving home and attending the boarding school. His grades started dropping. He hated being in a group. He was lonely all the time. And there were especially dark times when he felt like committing suicide. All of this because he felt worthless and that no one loved him.

His parents started worrying about the boy. But even they did not know what was wrong with him. So his dad decided to travel to the boarding school and talk with him.

They sat on the bank of the lake near the school. The father started asking him casual questions about his classes, teachers and sports. After some time his dad said, 'Do you know son, why I am here today?"

The boy answered back, "to check my grades?"

"No, no" his dad replied, "I am here to tell you that you are the most important person for me. I want to see you happy. I don't care about grades. I care about you. I care about your happiness. YOU ARE MY LIFE."

These words caused the boy's eyes to fill with tears. He hugged his dad. They didn't say anything to each other for a long time.

Now the boy had everything he wanted. He knew there was someone on this earth who cared for him deeply. He meant the world to someone. And today this young man is in college at the top of his class and no one has ever seen him sad!

Thanks a lot dad. YOU ARE MY LIFE.



Today is Passion Sunday. A week before Palm Sunday our Bible Readings focus on the passion of Jesus. What was Jesus passion? What was the driving force in his life? What was Jesus passionate about? Intense about? Animated over? What gave him sleepless nights? What did he wrestle over in prayer? Lets find out. I want us to look at John 12:20-33 and notice three aspects to Jesus passion.

His Passion Announced: The Timing of the Cross (12:23)

His Passion Illustrated: The Necessity of the Cross (12:24-26)

His Passion Explained: The Purpose of the Cross (12:27-33)

1. His Passion Announced: The Timing of the Cross (v23)

Read John 12:23. Two keys words here - glory and hour. Glory first. This is not the glory of fame but the glory of shame. Not the glory of popularity but the glory of isolation. Glory because it was for us, because it was instead of us. Jesus knew that before the war would be over he must be taken captive. He knew that before victory would come defeat. He knew that before the throne would come the cup. He knew that before the light of Sunday, there must be the darkness of Friday. Before his ascension into heaven there must be a descent into hell. At the very moment when the crowds of people were cheering, smiling and waving their palm branches on Palm Sunday, Jesus was in agony. On the hill side half way down the Mount of Olives is the chapel known as Dominus Flevit. Itís the place where the Lord wept. It is a favourite spot in all of Palestine. This is what Basilea Schlink writes about this place.

"It waits for tears of repentance from each one of us, since Jesus has wept over us too, over our sins and unwillingness. Did He not weep over us, because we did not know the things that make for our peace, when He called and beckoned us, or intervened in our lives? How often did we resist when Jesus tried to draw us back to Himself? How often did we persist in rebellion and defiance. Like His people long ago we did not heed His beckoning and follow Him; we despised His way of lowliness and obedience."

Why was Jesus in agony? This was his glory. His hour. The hour to which every word and every act in Scripture pointed. Jesus was in agony because He knew from eternity past that this was indeed the time for the Cross. His passion announced.

2. His Passion Illustrated: The Necessity of the Cross (v24-26)

Read verses. Each little grain of wheat has a hard, glossy husk, within which its life is contained. But if it falls into the ground then its husk softens and rots and breaks open.

From inside the seed the power of its life begins to push outwards. The pattern of its life begins to unfold. Roots go down into the soil. A shoot comes up into the light where it grows stronger and taller and produces a single ear of corn. By harvest time there will be forty seeds where before there was only one. Next year if those forty seeds all fall on good soil they will produce sixteen hundred seeds. In the third year sixty-four thousand. In the fourth year over two and a half million. But only if that first seed falls to the ground and dies. So it is that Jesus offers bread to the whole world. He offers himself, his life, to come alive in hundreds, then thousands, then millions of others. But first he must die.

And if we his followers wish to pass on his life then we too must learn the pattern of life. We will bear fruit only when we die to self. God has given each one of us a passion. A unique combination of personality, experience and spiritual gifting. Therefore our place of service in the church is unique and irreplaceable.

Some people's passion seems to be to criticise the passion of others. For example, someone thought it right to phone a lady at Christ Church this week, anonymously, and criticise her for promoting her charity venture here in Church. A couple of weeks earlier another man thought it right to tell a young lad off for wearing a baseball hat in church. Listen, if the Bishop can wear a hat in Church so can you if you want to. Our mission statement as a church is to help people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Making them conform to our religious traditions is not part of that mission. Lets make sure our passion is shaped by Jesus own priorities. Lets get passionate about one another's God given passion.

His Passion Announced: The Timing of the Cross (12:23)
His Passion Illustrated: The Necessity of the Cross (12:24-26)

3. His Passion Explained: The Purpose of the Cross (v27-33)

Martin Luther said once, "No one ever feared death as much as this man." The Son was troubled and Heaven answered. God in heaven could not keep silence; Heaven answered the Son's prayer with an articulate voice. It was agony for Jesus to do the will of his Father. It was agony for Jesus to bring glory to his Father. It was agony for Jesus to drive out the prince of this world. It was agony for Jesus to draw all men to himself. But there was no other way. No other way. When you come face to face with a person in difficulty remind yourself of this picture. Read 12:32: If it were possible to get right with God on any other terms, then the cross of Jesus was unnecessary.. If you can help someone with a little amiable religiosity. With a smile and a sympathetic pat on the back then you are turning your back on Jesus. Point people to the cross, lift it high so that they see Jesus, and only Jesus. Asking God to glorify himself in us is a risky prayer. How do we respond when that glory is spelt agony. "Save me from this hour?" We should not ask to be saved from agony, but that we glorify God through it.

Christians are not protected from pain. We have no insurance policy against agony. Sorrow can burn up a great deal of shallowness or it can lead to bitterness. It all depends on our perspective, it all depends on our motive. Jesus was not saved from the hour. He was saved for it. And so are we. One of my favourite books in the Old Testament is Esther. It might be subtitled, "For such a time as this." It comes from the scene where Esther's life is at stake. She must plead for the life of her people before her husband the king. But for anyone including her to enter his presence unannounced could mean instant execution. Just as she was wavering, Mordecai reminds her,

"If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14)

For such a time as this. This was Jesus hour. Read 12:32. The Greek word for judgment means crisis or discrimination. Now was the moment of crisis. Decision day. The world today prefers to be inoffensively neutral. It does not like having to decide. Dorothy L. Sayers observed,

"In the world it is called tolerance, but in hell it is called despair... the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die."

How different with Jesus. It was judgement time. The Judge was about to take their just deserts upon Himself. Jesus was going to do three things simultaneously by his death.

3.1 Glorify the Father 12:27 - make him know

3.2 Judge the World 12:31 - pay the price for sin

3.3 Rescue People 12:32-33 - save those who turn to him

Jesus was making a decision that changed the course of history for the entire universe. The hour of his destiny and of his death would be like a flash of lightening suddenly illuminating the whole cosmos with God's love. As we shall see next week Jesus entry into Jerusalem was not in anticipation of being crowned, but crucified. It was the example of supreme courage, knowing He was going, willingly, voluntarily, sacrificially to his death on our behalf, as our ransom, as our substitute. Read 12:31-32. The phrase "lifted up" means two things. It means to be crucified, but it also carries with it the idea of glorification. The Son of God was glorified by being crucified.

His Passion Announced: The Timing of the Cross

His Passion Illustrated: The Necessity of the Cross

His Passion Explained: The Purpose of the Cross

When Joan of Arc knew that she had been betrayed and was to be burnt at the stake by the leaders of her own people, as George Bernard Shaw has it in his play, she turns to them and says,

"I will go out to the common people, and let the love in their eyes comfort me for the hate in yours. You will be glad to see me burnt; but if I go through the fire I shall go through it to their hearts for ever and ever."

What was the passion of Jesus? You are the passion of Jesus. Even if you were the only person in the whole world he would still have died for you. He would rather go to hell for you than to heaven without you. Such love, such passion. Let us pray.

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself

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