Every Sunday morning in Lent you will receive, as you are receiving here, a Meditation to activate your prayerful interest in the Gospel text chosen in the Catholic Lectionary. What is offered you each Sunday follows the pattern that you see below: Text, Points, Quotation, and Habit to Practice. A “point” for Prayer is a “location” in the biblical text to perceive more attentively, or a single thought to consider arising from that text. A “point” is meant to slow you down, to pique your interest in an effort of attention to the scripture which the Spirit desires for you to be “living and effective.”
Text: John 12:20-33
20 Now there were some Greeks* among those who had come up to worship at the feast. 21 *They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 *Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 *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. 25 Whoever loves his life* loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me. 27 “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. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. 31 Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world* will be driven out.y 32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”z 33 He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.
First Point: At the beginning place of my Jesuit life (1973-1975), I was called a “Novice” (a “new one”). During those two years of Novitiate, set aside for the testing of a man’s vocation by Jesuits skilled at discernment, we twelve Novices began to practice the three Vows that we had not yet professed. I remember one particular day being “pierced” – not sure a better word to describe it – by Fr. Moreland’s teaching about Obedience. I remember grasping that religious Obedience was not about a Jesuit “doing what he is told” (though often one has to begin this way, because a Novice does not know nearly enough about Jesuit life). Rather, it is about a Jesuit learning to listen attentively to God, gaining over time the interior freedom necessary to take God’s lead – “I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts….”
Pope Francis to recently ordained Bishops (14 September 2017) – “Only those who are led by God have the title and authority to be proposed as leaders of others. One may teach and cultivate discernment only if familiar with this inner teacher who, like a compass, offers the criteria to distinguish, for himself and for others, the times of God and His grace; to recognize His passing and the way of His salvation; to indicate concrete means, pleasing to God, to accomplish the good that He predisposes in His mysterious plan of love for each and for all.”
But religious Obedience is “incarnate”; it is practiced in relationship. And so a Jesuit learns how to establish a relationship of love – a societas: “a fellowship with a purpose” – with one’s Superior who knows how to share his own love of, and deep knowledge concerning, the Jesuits’ mission in the world. Over time, a Jesuit can get to a point where he does not wait for the command of his Superior. The Jesuit already knows, and is already out in front of any command, meeting its purpose before his Superior commands it. When a Jesuit, then, has become a “subject”, not an “object” of his Superior’s will, he is beginning to grasp what Obedience is about, and the particular way it sets him free for mission. But most importantly by far, such a Jesuit “subject” begins to understand Jesus from the inside, and how Jesus experienced freedom in relation to the mission entrusted to Him by His Father. Jesus already knew what the mission was, making it His own – knowing it “by heart” – and with creativity He laid claim to that mission … and accomplished it.
Second Point – When we have come to this point in John’s Gospel (12:20-33), Jesus has just made His “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem (12:12-19) at the annual feast of Passover. I had thought that Jesus knew that His “hour” had come, that year and on that particular day, when He chose to enter Jerusalem. But it appears that He did not know. And then all of that praising of Him, the crowds cheering, the waving of palm branches and laying them before the donkey upon which He rode, likely felt to Jesus like a nightmare come alive. This kind of “fame” and “praising” and “amazement” about Him, and excitement – the “triumphal” procession – must have felt to Him that He had failed to get through to these people – “the Son of Man must be delivered up … mocked by the gentiles … murdered … and buried.” All of this hullabaloo must have left Jesus feeling, hiddenly, so alone (“I have failed”) and even mildly irritated (“What is the matter with these people?”). How could it be His “hour” when the people were acting in this way? Their excitement, He likely judged, was so “off”, missing the point – “I honor my Father, but you dishonor me. 50 I do not seek my own glory;…” Jesus might have been saying to Himself, “Well, I guess that it is not this year’s visit to Jerusalem that is the one. I have still so much to do with these people. But Father, when will my ‘hour’ come?” It was one thing for Jesus to know what the commitment of His life would entail – the so-called Passion Predictions of the Gospels make this clear. But it was quite another for Jesus to know His “hour” – to know when to act, which is as much a part of a successful mission as is knowing what the mission is and what it concretely entails. (The “hour,” I am convinced, He had left to His Father to indicate to Him.) From the very start of His public life at a wedding at Cana, Jesus was highly attuned to timing, and this sensitivity to timing reveals in Him a habit of discernment about context (when the situation and persons involved were ready).
Many a mission implodes not because it is the wrong mission, but because there was impatience around timing – not waiting for the “hour”, for a Sign from God given – and the ignoring of the significance of context. Remember that Jesus had waited thirty years even to begin His public work!
Third Point – The significance of our text here (12:20-33) is that it tells of the moment when Jesus knew, and was certain He knew, that His “hour” had come. A sign was given that He had been waiting to be given. (We are allowed here to see a moment of exceptional personal tenderness between the Father and His beloved Son – the moment the Father had to let go of His Son; the moment that the Son proved His willingness to give His own life.) What was the Sign? The sign was the coming to Jesus of Philip and Andrew, telling him that a group of non-Jewish, Greek-speaking men had asked Philip, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” (verse 20). Perhaps what Jesus heard was that “we”, in the sense of “we also” would like to know Jesus (not just the Jews able to know Him). We wonder whether the Father had communicated to Jesus something to the effect: “As you were visited by wise men, not Jewish, seeking you in Bethlehem in the days just after you were born (Matthew 2), look for the sign of wise men seeking you again, not Jewish but Greeks who ask for you by name (in the ancient world the Greeks were considered among the wisest of any people). That will be the Sign that your ‘hour’ has come.” We just do not know. But we do know how clearly Jesus perceived the significance of the message of Philip and Andrew (verse 22). It was the Sign for which He had been waiting. We can hear it in Jesus’ extraordinary, deadly serious pronouncement –
Yet, we must slow down here. Jesus did recognize the Sign, and He began to speak in a dramatically different tone with His disciples: “27 “I am troubled now…. 31 Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. (All those “now” adverbs!) Yet, knowing was not sufficient. He needed confirmation of that Sign from His Father, which He seeks, touchingly and revealingly – 28 Father, glorify your name.” Jesus understands that He Himself is the Father’s “name” – the inner meaning and fullest expression of the Father’s being. “Father, glorify your Son. And may what I now do, show the whole world Who you are, Who exceptionally you are, and why I love you as I do.” And His Father immediately replies – “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
Spiritual Exercises [231, Puhl translation] – “… love consists in a mutual sharing of goods, for example, the lover gives and shares with the beloved what he possesses, or something of that which he has or is able to give; and vice versa, the beloved shares with the lover. Hence, if one has knowledge, he shares it with the one who does not possess it; and so also if one has honors, or riches. Thus, one always gives to the other.”
Quotation: Karl Rahner, SJ (1904-1984)
“How can we approach the heart of all things, the true heart of reality? Not by knowledge alone, but by the full flower of knowledge – love. Only the experience of knowledge’s blooming into love has any power to work a transformation in me, in my very self. For it is only when I am fully present to an object that I am changed by meeting it.”
Habit to practice during the Fifth Week of Lent:
Pay particular attention to your experiences this week. Whether you notice it or not, you also have a “sense” of when it is time to do what you do, time to act in a particular way. What is that internal awareness, that “sense” you have? How did it get there? Can you “develop” such a capacity within yourself? Do you look for a “sign”? This week focuses on your own inner experience of timeliness – of recognizing your “hour” – and asking the Lord whether His “sense” was something like yours.
* Greeks: not used here in a nationalistic sense. These are probably Gentile proselytes to Judaism; cf. Jn 7:35.
* Philip … Andrew: the approach is made through disciples who have distinctly Greek names, suggesting that access to Jesus was mediated to the Greek world through his disciples. Philip and Andrew were from Bethsaida (Jn 1:44); Galileans were mostly bilingual. See: here seems to mean “have an interview with.”
* Jesus’ response suggests that only after the crucifixion could the gospel encompass both Jew and Gentile.
* This verse implies that through his death Jesus will be accessible to all. It remains just a grain of wheat: this saying is found in the synoptic triple and double traditions (Mk 8:35; Mt 16:25; Lk 9:24; Mt 10:39; Lk 17:33). John adds the phrases (Jn 12:25) in this world and for eternal life.
* His life: the Greek word psychē refers to a person’s natural life. It does not mean “soul,” for Hebrew anthropology did not postulate body/soul dualism in the way that is familiar to us.
* I am troubled: perhaps an allusion to the Gethsemane agony scene of the synoptics.
* Ruler of this world: Satan.
y 16:11; Lk 10:18; Rev 12:9.
z 3:14; 8:28; Is 52:13.
 The name “Jesuit” is a shortened/shorthand form of the full title of a Religious Order in the Catholic Church, founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) and his college roommates, St. Francis Xavier (b. 1506) and St. Peter Faber (b. 1506), and six other of their University of Paris friends during their studies there in the 1520s. The full name is “the Society of Jesus.” That noun “society” stands in for the Latin noun societas meaning “a fellowship”, implying not just the fact, but also the purpose for which a group of individuals becomes a “fellowship” or a “circle of friends”.
 A “novice” is a person; a “Novitiate” is the place, and the Program of Studies, in which a Novice lives and is tested and works for two years before being given permission to profess his or her Vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience.
 The Oxford English Dictionary at the noun “vow” defines this Anglo-Norman word (c. 1290) – “A solemn promise made to God, or to any deity or saint, to perform some act, or make some gift or sacrifice, in return for some special favour; more generally, a solemn engagement, undertaking, or resolve, to achieve something or to act in a certain way.” The three Vows that men and women in (mostly Catholic) Religious Orders are “poverty, chastity, and obedience,” and are sometimes referred to as “the evangelical counsels.” See a contemporary thought about these Vows: https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/383/columns/virtues-vows.
 Fr. Gordon Moreland, SJ was our Novice Master (the Head of Program at the Novitiate: our Teacher, Spiritual Director, and our example of a Jesuit of deep learning and with a profound love of God) during the two years of our Novitiate. I call my dad the father of my life; I call Fr. Moreland, SJ the father of my soul.
 I capitalize the noun “Obedience” to specify that I am talking here about a Vow of Obedience within a specific Religious Order – the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) – and that Order’s specific way of describing what they mean by it.
 The Latin, fourth conjugation verb, oboedio -ire -ivi- itum is constituted of the prefix ob– meaning “facing towards, facing in the direction of” and the verb –audire means not just “to hear, or to listen to” but it implies that a person’s hearing or listening has also understood the speaker. So, “to obey” means that I give my full attention to the one speaking – that ob- prefix suggests a physical action of turning towards and leaning in toward the speaker – with the result that I really hear what the speaker has said … and I understand him or her. Is it not quickly clarifying how far the religious Vow of Obedience is about “doing what one is told” and much more about a growing capacity in a “subject” both to listen to (leaning in) and to understand not just the command but most importantly knowing the Superior’s “heart” as it relates to the mission of the Order.
 The verb “to discern” means “to distinguish”. The Oxford English Dictionary at the verb “to discern” in its intransitive form – “To perceive or recognize a difference or distinction; to distinguish or discriminate between.”
 The same is the case with married life under Vows.
 A “Superior” is a fellow Jesuit entrusted for a time (a “term”) by his Superiors and according to the Rule of the Religious Order, to lead men who by vow allow him to “stand in” for Christ Himself, especially when he deploys each of them with a mission to fulfill for the Order and for the sake of the whole Church. A man can surrender no greater gift of self to Christ, and giving himself to accomplish a particular mission by a Superior, than his own freedom.
 A Jesuit can never let his freedom be instrumentalized by anyone (an object to be used by another), even a Superior. Instead, he gives himself freely to the mission in the mutual submission expected of both Jesuit “subject” and his Superior to the will of God and to the mission of the Jesuit Order. This is why a deep pondering of how the Trinity acts – all three of them act – in the actions of One of them. I have always particular loved
 This is of greatest importance for any Jesuit to grasp. Keeping the Vows is not about “being a good Jesuit.” For one who merely “keeps” his Vows could be a very bad one – unfree, servile, externally motivated only. Rather, when a man works with (better than “keeps”) his three Vows, they over time and through many mistakes and embarrassments, begin to open up in a Jesuit – but only by the free grace of Christ – an experience of what Jesus was like on the inside. He grows into a “sense” of the inner life of Jesus who was apostolically poor, unmarried, and obedient to His Father.
 I love that phrase, which we usually associate with the work of memorizing: “to learn it by heart.” But what I am indicating here is that Jesus knew His Father … by heart. In English we think of “heart” as something to do with one’s affections, the alignment of my love and its desires in relation to someone or to something else. But biblically “heart” was not solely about the affections. It was about affections as directed towards values, and how one’s affections aligned to those values (or affections evoked in us by things we feel are value-able) led to decisions taken for the sake of those values. The “heart” in the time of Christ meant the “seat of decision-making” in a person. So for Jesus to know His Father “by heart” meant this alignment of His affections with the values of His Father and His habit of deciding always for those values. He already knows what His Father will decide. Fr. Moreland, SJ had another word for this alignment. He called it gaining familiarity with God.
* This proverb or parable is taken from apprenticeship in a trade: the activity of a son is modeled on that of his father. Jesus’ dependence on the Father is justification for doing what the Father does.
k 3:34; 8:26; 12:49; 9:4; 10:30.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Jn 5:19. This “cannot” said of “a son” is the negative way of expressing how comprehensively such a Son both understands his Father’s purposes and also desires that those purposes get met. Such a Son is not asking Himself, “What am I to do with my life?” Rather, such a Son asks, “Father, how can I be of help to you?”, or “I see what you are up to, Father. I’ve got this.”
b 7:30; 8:20; 12:23; 13:1; Jgs 11:12; 1 Kgs 17:18; 2 Kgs 3:13; 2 Chr 35:21; Hos 14:9; Mk 1:24; 5:7; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23; 13:1.
 It think that it was the remarkable scholar, Fr. Raymond Brown, SS (1928-1998), in his magisterial commentary on the Gospel of John (two volumes in the Anchor Bible series), who referred to the first half of John’s Gospel as “The Book of Signs.” My concern is that such “Signs” in John’s Gospel get interpreted to mean the “wonders” that Jesus accomplished at particular moments, overlooking how the “Sign” might also have meant Jesus’ awareness of having received a “sign” from His Father to act now.
 This is very challenging matter to express correctly. The “work” that Jesus does is simultaneously the “work” of the three Divine Persons. It is not as if the Father is asking Jesus to do something that He, the Father, is not also doing. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are doing this, but it still is about love being expressed by each Divine Person, One to each of the Others. It is so difficult to know how to express how the Son is doing something for His Father, an act of love, when His Father is also so utterly giving Himself for His Son.
 In the story of Muhammad (c. 570-632 CE), the founder of Islam, we hear something of this same longing to know the “true God”, by which Muhammad as a young man meant, “the God of the Jews and of the Christians.” I remember reading how he wondered why God (of the Jews and Christians) had not yet appeared to the Arab peoples, longing for God to show Himself to them. How startled Muhammad was when it was to him that God chose to reveal Himself Muhammad had no doubt that “God” meant the God of the Jews and of the Christians. In the Encyclopedia of World Biography at “Muhammad” we find, “Friends helped to convince him that he was called to convey messages from God to the Arabs as Moses (c. 1392– c. 1272 B.C.E. ) and Jesus Christ (c. 6 B.C.E. –c. 30 C.E. ) had done to the Jews and Christians. He continued to receive such messages from time to time until his death. They were collected into chapters and make up the Koran (Qur’an). The Koran, though sent through Muhammad, is held by Muslims to come from God.” Read more: http://www.notablebiographies.com/Mo-Ni/Muhammad.html#ixzz59TznPPeq.
 My imagining of something actually “said” by the Father to Jesus is less like what the experience of receiving a “Sign” has been like in my own life. For me, all I know is that I will be given a Sign, and I wait for it. But as to the nature of the Sign, I have no idea in advance what it will be. But when it is given, even though I did not know what it would be, I know that that is what I had been waiting to receive. “That’s it. I know it.” Time and again it works this way in my experience. We wonder; we ask to understand; we submit our best guesses to God knowing that He will teach us when we are ready to learn.
* Ruler of this world: Satan.
y 16:11; Lk 10:18; Rev 12:9.
 This one line in John 12:27 appears to be John’s account of what Matthew and Luke record as a lengthy dramatic telling about an “agony” that Jesus endured in the Garden of Gethsemane. Why would John reduce to this single verse a scene that in the history of the great Tellings of the Passion of Christ has proven so important to Christians? In John’s account, Jesus requires only half a verse to go through his “Gethsemane” moment! My guess is that John understood Jesus’ greatest “agony” as happening during the Last Supper/Farewell Discourses, when he knew that both Peter and Judas, for different reasons, would betray Him, even though he vied with greatest love and effort that night to protect both of them from so devastating a mistake.
 The early Christian theologians would use the word “Logos” to capture the mission of the Son as the fullest expression, to human beings, of what the Father means, who He is – His reason. Thomas Aquinas speaks of the divine unity of Persons in the Trinity, but nevertheless of each Person as identifiable by each one’s specific “mission”.
 I was sent this quotation by Jim Emrich, a friend.