John 12: 20-33
20 Among the Greeks who went up to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover in order to worship, 21 some went to find Philip, originally from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked this, "Mister, we would like to see Jesus". 22 Philip leaves to find Andrew with this request. And both go to Jesus and communicate everything. 23 Jesus answered them, "It is already the hour when the new Adam will reveal the extraordinary quality of his being. 24 Truly, I assure you, if the grain of wheat sown in the ground does not die, it remains sterile. But if it dies, it gives a lot of ears. 25 Whoever wants above all to protect his life will end up losing it. But whoever accepts to expose his life in this world will keep it in the form of an endless life. 26 If anyone wants to support me, let him follow me and how far I will go, there too he must go. If anyone supports me, the Father will cherish him.
27 And now I'm terrified. How could I say, "Father, spare me this hour", when I came to live this hour. 28 Father, reveal the extraordinary quality of your being". At that moment, there was like a voice coming from the sky: "Just as I revealed the extraordinary quality of my being in the past, I will do it again ".
29 The crowd that was there and happened to have heard, said to themselves, "There was a thunderclap". Others said, "It was an angel who spoke to him". 30 Jesus spoke again, "This voice did not speak for me, but for you. 31 From now on this world receives its sentence, from now on the one who leads the world will be eliminated. 32 And I, when I am lifted up and leave this earth, I will draw everyone to myself". 33 Jesus thereby revealed the type of death that he was going to suffer.
Gospel commentary - Homily
When we take the time to read or listen carefully to our story, its meaning becomes apparent fairly quickly. Greeks, half Jewish by their religious practice, are attracted to Jesus and seek to enter into relation with him through the intermediary of the most Greek disciples, Andrew and Philip, who came from the Hellenized region of Bethsaida. Strangely, Jesus first responds to the two disciples with a speech centered on the meaning of his imminent death, then begins a short prayer in which his anguish shows up and which ends with his consent to the ordeal, finally turns to the crowd to predict the failure of the forces opposing him and announce his triumph through all the believers who will be drawn to him. To sum up in one word the story: the entry into the believing community of a circle of believers that extends beyond the Jewish milieu constitutes the direct fruit of the unique action of Jesus who went so far as to consent to a tragic death before exercising his influence in the world after his death.
But I find that clarifying the words of the evangelist, far from putting an end to my reflection, raises innumerable questions. In particular this one: why does it take to die to bear fruit? The image in the mouth of Jesus is clear: "Truly, I assure you, if the grain of wheat planted in the ground does not die, it remains sterile. But if it dies, it gives a lot of ears". This image was applied to Jesus. But, in the fabric of our lives, to what truth are we referring to?
It is curiously the Gospel of John itself that brings me the beginning of an answer: it is the action of reviving Lazarus that explicitly leads the Jewish authorities to decide on the death of Jesus. Isn't it paradoxical? Bringing up life called death to him. And who has read the Gospel according to John knows how this theme of life, in particular this mysterious "endless life", is a common thread. So why does choosing life in all its fullness imply death?
My life experience provides a partial answer. Basically, I never stopped dying. On leaving the maternal womb, I cut my addiction to a very warm cocoon. When it came time to go to school, I said goodbye to those long hours of play and carefree in order to learn reading and writing. At the beginning of adolescence, I went to a boarder school and gave up part of my family ties, to work hard to acquire knowledge. At 18 I left my home town to enroll in academic institutions in the big city of Montreal. A lifestyle choice led me to university studies in Ottawa, then to Bible studies in Europe and the Middle East, constantly learning new cultures, new environments. The day came when I made the heartbreaking choice to partially leave what had been built for 20 years, including the security that was attached to it, to start a new life project, which involved dying in many beautiful realities, in order to be born into something else. What continuity can there be in all these deaths, if not the desire to be faithful to life, to the call of life in fullness and in all its truth? What meaning can our deserts have, if not reaching out the promised land?
It is my conviction that a human being cannot grow, stay constantly on the move, constantly open to the truth and the life that presents itself on his way, without agreeing to die every day to a part of himself. like the chrysalis which becomes a butterfly. We do not have access to the diary of Jesus, but I imagine this same reality in all its force, hence his call: How far I will go, there too will have to go whoever wants to support me" .
I spoke of a partial response, not a total response. Because a mystery remains: why these deaths which, at least in appearance, far from making them grow, on the contrary kill the soul and the heart of the person? I recently read again the story of the brothers or sisters or parents or colleagues of the 14 women killed in the shoot-out at the Ecole polytechnique in Montreal. So many broken beings who admit having lost the will to live since December 6, 1989, if they did not commit suicide thereafter. How now to speak of death that makes you grow? Without having a definitive answer, I see that I can only accept this mystery by looking in faith and love at the personal story of Jesus, who said: "And now I am terrified. How could I say : "Father, save me this hour", when I came to live this hour. Father, reveal the extraordinary quality of your being". In this faith and this love, I would like to celebrate the expectation that these foolish dead would give birth to a life that was no longer expected.
-André Gilbert, Gatineau, December 1999