5th Sunday of Lent
We would like to see Jesus
Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. These approached Philip, who came from Bethsaida in Galilee, and put this request to him, ‘Sir, we should like to see Jesus.’ Philip went to tell Andrew, and Andrew and Philip together went to tell Jesus.
Jesus replied to them: ‘Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you most solemnly, unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest. Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life. If a man serves me, he must follow me, where I am, my servant will be there too. If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.’
Think of the good people who have done most for you and to whom you are most grateful. Looking back to your childhood, you may think of one or both of your parents, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, a sister or brother. From your teenage years you may have grateful memories of a few good friends. In later years you may remember your spouse, your children, a neighbour. As you think of these people, you may recall their kindness, their generosity, their wisdom, their honesty and integrity, their faithfulness in good times and in bad. And you may remember the sacrifices they made for you.
Our gaze firmly set
When Pope John Paul wrote his great encyclical ‘The New Millennium,’ inviting the whole Church to launch out into the future with confidence, he devoted several pages to a meditation on the Face of Christ. He said that at the end of the Jubilee Year ‘our gaze is more than ever firmly set on the face of Christ.’ With these words he gave us a glimpse of his own spiritual life; I would guess that in his own hours of prayer his gaze was often set on that same face. He was like the old man who used to sit for long periods in his parish church; when the parish priest, the Cure of Ars, asked him what he was doing, he said, ‘I am looking at him and he is looking at me.’
Pope John Paul recommended that we ponder the face of Christ as it is revealed in the pages of the four Gospels. The strange thing is: the Gospels tell us nothing about his appearance. They leave us free to imagine how he looked. If we are asked what the face of Christ looks like we may think of the pictures and paintings and statues of Jesus that we have seen. With these pictures in our minds we ponder Jesus in the pages of the Gospels, in the mysteries of the Rosary and in the Stations of the Cross. In these ways of meditation and prayer generations of faithful people have come to know Jesus and to love him deeply.
Christ in ten thousand places.
There is another way of knowing what the face of Jesus is like. It is a privileged way and it is available to everyone. We can look at the good people who have influenced our lives. When we look into their faces and see their love and understanding, we are seeing the love and understanding of Jesus himself. The poet Gerald Manley Hopkins understood this clearly. He said that the good and just person
‘Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is –
Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.
Prayer Psalm 26 (27)
O Lord, hear my voice when I call;
have mercy and answer.
Of you my heart has spoken:
‘Seek his face.’
It is your face, O Lord, that I seek,
hide not your face.
Dismiss not your servant in anger,
you have been my help.
I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness
in the land of the living.
Hope in him, hold firm and take heart.
Hope in the Lord.’