Fifth Sunday of Lent: Reflections on the Gospel

This Sunday marks the beginning of Passiontide – the final part of Lent when prepare for our celebration of Jesus’ self-offering on the cross.  The Gospel reading is John 12.20-33 

Jesus said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. “

Facing our mortality helps us get life in perspective – what are the things that really matter? How much time do we devote to those things that are of lasting value?

There is a great freedom in facing death. For Christians, we face death in union with the risen Christ. Baptism unites us with Christ in his death and resurrection. We can have the courage to face, not only death itself, but also the ‘little deaths’ – the things we have to give up at different stages of life; the loosening of our grasp on the things of the world – because of the resurrection hope.

Lent is often seen as  turn inwards – and in a sense we are on an inner journey in this holy season.  We are  called to ask deep questions about our motivations and desires, and to face the realities of our sin and our potential with honesty and hope.  But this ‘inner journey’ should also lead us to turn outwards.  We are called beyond ourselves, to relationships of generosity and compassion.  Martin Luther described sin as “the heart turned in upon itself”. Today’s Gospel calls us to die to this self-obsession, and to find life in self-giving love.

Such a turning outward has implications for our common life – our economic and social order – as well as for our individual lives. 

This week, many churches will be finishing the Church Urban Fund’s Lent course – entitled Are we washing our hands of England’s poor?  This course provides both challenge and inspiration.  Its powerful testimonies call us to journey out beyond narrow self-interest.  They also show us how such self-giving love leads on to ‘life in all its fulness’.

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