We hear in our Gospel today about some people who have come to Jerusalem for the Passover. They have heard about this miracle worker, Jesus, so they approach a friend of His, Philip, and they make a request: “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” What would you do if someone made that request of you? We want to see Jesus, we want to know Him; what would you say?
First, you might have to ask yourself a question, “Why are they asking me?” Probably for the same reason that those strangers asked Philip because they think that you know Him, that you have seen Him.
Can you see Jesus? Yes, you can. Oh, you cannot see him exactly as He was back then. Not the compassionate healer, the great teacher, because that is history. But you can see Him. You see, He did not become human that you might see Him only after you die.
He did not sweat blood in a garden only that you might know about Him, like a smart theologian. He lived and died that you might know Him, love Him, have a direct experience of Him…. Now!
And you see Him or know Him, the way He told you to: in your sisters and brothers. This is not just pious talk to keep us from beating up on each other. He meant it when He said: when you take care of the hungry and thirsty, when you clothe the naked, when you visit the sick and those in prison, you are not just doing something nice, you are doing it to Me.
But it would be a mistake to identify Christ only with the disadvantaged or see His face only in the crucified. All of us reflect the face of the Lord because God’s own book tells us that we are made in His image and likeness. At this moment the living Christ, the Lord who died for you and rose for you, this risen Christ is alive, in you. Do not take my word for it, listen to His words the night before He died: If anyone loves Me, My Father will love them. And We will come to them and make Our home with them.
More than that, in a little while you will welcome the same, risen Christ, His body, and blood, and when you do your body becomes a tabernacle. To know Christ, to see Christ, does cost because it means that you must journey with Him to Jerusalem, and share His way of the cross. And here our Gospel is plain, it links encounter with Christ to the experience of Lent. The clue: I solemnly assure you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone. Just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Scripture tells us that to be a disciple of Christ you have to lose your life in order to find it. As time goes on, you experience increasingly some of what Christ went through in His passion. And you find, for all life’s joys and occasional ecstasies, human living can tear you apart. The question is, how does this affect you? What does it do to you?
Does the pain that life can bring lock you into yourself? Make you captive to your own misery, so that nothing matters save your loss or your loneliness, your insecurity? Or does your hurt open you to others? Because we are beset with weakness, do you deal gently with the weak? When you watch the news, do you ever stop to think what it is like for the mother of the child who has just been shot? Caught in the crossfire?
Can you experience the emptiness of some of the elderly in our land who live in nursing homes? Who have no future, no present, only memories?
To feel hurt is to be human. To link that hurt to others is to be Christ-like. Lent, Holy Week, have an aura of sadness because it is centered on suffering and death. But there is also joy because we know that all of His suffering and death was for one reason only, it was for you! Our Lord did not simply die, He died for you. If He loves you that much you must be quite extraordinary, very special. The least, no, the best you can do in return is do not simply live, live for Him. Make Him part of your life so if anyone wants to see Jesus, you say, here He is.