It sounds incidental. Just a detail thrown in to add variety: ‘some Greeks’ appear at the Passover festival in Jerusalem (John 12:20-33).
They are curious and want to see Jesus. They go through Philip and Andrew, the very two who introduced Peter and the others to Jesus in chapter 1. Here, in chapter 12, they introduce the Greeks to him. ‘Greeks’ in the gospel refer to gentiles, pagans, outsiders – like most of us. Suddenly, it is no longer ‘just a detail’.
We have reached the climax of Jesus’ ministry, the moment when he says, ‘a grain of wheat must die.’ We are given John’s version of the agony in the garden, ‘now my soul is troubled.’ We are also made to understand immediately that this is a triumphal progress through his suffering: ‘Father, glorify your name.’ A reply is received, ‘I have glorified it and will glorify it again.’ The supporting second reading, from Hebrews (5:7-9), in the most poignant words in scripture, tells us of the intense suffering of Jesus and the ‘perfection’ it leads to.
And the short passage from Jeremiah (31:31-34), has, ‘Deep within them I will plant my law. Writing it on their hearts.’ They, that is us or we, will understand this mystery of God among us suffering with us and triumphing over evil and death. We will grasp it. It will make a difference to our lives. It is a treasure there before us ready to be laid hold of, unpacked, giving us courage and joy.
Sr Janice McLaughlin, who died on the 7th of this month, left a note that she only wanted known after her death. It read:
‘One night in September 1977, after my arrest and detention in Chikurubi Prison, I lay on my bed, feeling helpless, scared and miserable. I tried to recall what I had written in my diary that had been seized by the police. I worried that I might have got others into trouble through my naivety and stupidity. I started to cry, deep, wrenching sobs from the deepest part of my being. The tears would not stop.
‘As I lay there, I noticed a dim yellow light in the corner of the room. It moved closer to me and became brighter and I could feel a warmth and peace flowing from it. The light, a kind of misty, hazy golden glow shaped like a halo around a person, stopped by the right side of the bed. A voice came from the light, saying ‘You are the stupid, silly little girl whom I love.’ I did not hear the words spoken aloud but within me. I felt a great peace and comfort. All fear and self-pity left me. Gradually the light moved back until it faded away completely.’
This is the agony and the triumph of the passion which we now enter.
21 March 2021 Lent Sunday 5B Jer 31:31-34 Heb 5:7-9 Jn 12:20-33