Jesus is known for his “language”—his way of putting the reality of the reign of God into words. He does not use, as Bible scholar Gerhard Lohfink observes, an imprecise, vague, or bombastic style. His words and parables betray a deep love for reality; they reveal a careful observation of things and people. How the reign of God works in human hearts is shown in Jesus’ parables about growing.
In the parable of the Sower, the seed that falls on rich soil comes up and this seems very far from reality. They say Jesus was exaggerating, going into the realm of fantasy, to say that the reign of God, with its abundance, surpasses all human experience. But Lohfink notes that most of Jesus’ original hearers were small farmers, tenants, and day laborers in agriculture. If Jesus had told unrealistic stories about their realm of activity, his parables would not have any persuasive powers—which these had! Jesus told a realistic story. And by the parable of the seed that produced so much, he taught that despite the obstacles presented by the enemies, the reign of God would come to pass and produce a rich harvest.
Unlike the Synoptics, the Gospel of John does not carry parables. There are, however, similitudes (Greek paroimia) that function just like parables. However, the parables of the kingdom in the Synoptics become “parables” of Jesus. Jesus, the teller of the parables, becomes the parable itself. In the Gospel reading, Jesus is aware that the “hour” has lt is in dying that we gain eternal life come. It is the hour of his return to the Father, the hour of his glorification. Inasmuch as this will involve suffering and death, Jesus is troubled. But he knows exactly that this is the way, and so instead of praying that the cup of suffering pass him by, he says, “Father, glorify your name.” The Father’s glory will be manifested by Jesus in loving his disciples—in fact, all people—to the very end.
To reveal the mystery of his passion and glorification Jesus uses the similitude-parable of the grain of wheat: only until it falls to the ground and dies (buried in the soil) will it produce much fruit. Jesus is like the grain of wheat. In his earthly life, he is constrained by biological and historical limitations. But in death and in his resurrection, his life will have a universal dimension. He will effect the salvation of humanity. This is also the parable of human life. Nationalists and patriots turn influential when they die as martyrs. Tertullian writes that the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christianity.
Austin Coates, in his book Rizal—Filipino Nationalist & Patriot, writes that from the moment the authorities executed Jose Rizal at the Luneta on December 30, 1896, the Spanish rule in the Philippines was doomed. The death of Rizal produced revulsion among the Filipinos and strengthened their resolve to seek freedom from Spain. What Rizal had not done while alive was accomplished by his martyrdom. But Jesus is more than martyrs and heroes who conquered by their example.
These people continue to live—but only in memory. Jesus rose from the dead and as the glorious Lord guarantees that good deeds are not interred with the bones of the dead. He guarantees that the righteous are alive in him.
In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI writes that if the Resurrection never happened, Jesus, despite his failure, would remain great and could cause people to reflect. But he would remain purely human, and his authority would extend only so far as his message is of interest to people. But because he is risen, Jesus becomes the criterion on which people can rely.
Jesus is the guarantee that other seeds that fall on the ground and die in the name of love will produce an abundant harvest.
Author: Fr. Gil A. Alinsangan, SSP
Adapted from Sambuhay Online (published with permission)
Gospel Readings Fifth Sunday of Lent – Cycle B
First Reading [Jer 31:31-34]
A reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah
THE DAYS are 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 I made with their fathers the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt; for they broke my covenant, and I had to show myself their master, 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 place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives how to know the Lord. All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the Lord, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.
Second Reading (Heb 5:7-9)
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
IN THE DAYS when Christ Jesus was in the flesh, he of fered 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 reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
Gospel (Jn 12:20-33)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
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 preser ve 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.