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Thought for the week - 17 March 2024

Many people, maybe most people, spend their lives training, getting ready for a thing that may never happen, without getting ready for the one thing that surely will. Many athletes will never win a gold medal, many soldiers will never fight in a war, many political candidates will never win an election – but none of this matters, and certainly none of it cheapens or denigrates the efforts they put in to their work. In fact, we are a better society because of it, in one way or another. When the hour comes, they would have been ready and willing to step up to the mark, and that is what matters. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells His disciples that His hour has come ‘the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’ He has the sense of destiny that you would expect of the Messiah, forged in the desert and shown to people through His earthly ministry. However, this is not the first time that Jesus speaks of His hour. The first time is at the Wedding Feast at Cana, when Mary tells Jesus that they have no wine, to which Jesus says ‘Woman, what have you to do with me. My hour has not yet come. – but He still provides an intimation of His divinity as well as some powerful practical teaching about the keeping of covenants. Maybe this is the time we live in now?

We probably all ask ourselves, ‘what would it have been like to have been in the gospels, to have seen Christ face to face?’ Today we get our question answered to as full an extent as we are able to. We came to know Jesus not by having met him during his life on earth. Rather we were introduced to him by reputation, the ‘doxa’ I spoke about last week: those who formed us in the Christian faith told us about him. Having heard about him and having believed what we have heard, ultimately, we wish to see Jesus.

When Jesus hears that there are some Greeks wanting to see him, his reply is not directed just at them, but it is a reply to you, to me and to all who have idly wondered ‘what do they do in that building?’. Up to this point in St John’s gospel, we are repeatedly told, ‘his hour had not yet come’, even though there are plenty of signs of that hour coming. Now, things change. Now, Jesus says:

‘The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.’

And once the voice of the Father has thundered from heaven, the gospel seems to shift up a gear. After years of preaching and working of miraculous signs, the Passion of the Christ begins: the whole sequence of events that we commemorate over the next two weeks. That’s why we veil our images in church today, not because we want to make the place look gloomy – in fact quite the opposite, we want to see His glory, and that glory, that doxa, is brought in front of our noses, we want to see Him, and here He is, in the events of Passiontide and Holy Week which make us bear the name ‘Christian’, like Christ, if we actually believe.

But remember what it is that triggers this momentous change: the arrival of some unnamed Greeks, hiding in darkness and the seemingly innocuous request, ‘we wish to see Jesus.’ The Shepherds came to the manger to seek Him, the Magi were led there, now the Greek world, representing the rest of humanity, ask to see Him and that simple request is answered in the fulness of the plan of redemption. If you don’t feel your prayers are being answered, maybe just ask to see Him, to know Him, to walk these two weeks with Him. The consequences of such a simple request probably surprised the Greeks, and might surprise us when we ask as well, but the life of Christ, the discipleship of His Church, this way to life is one that must be seen by the whole world. Maybe we like singing the hymns, maybe we like the smell of the incense, maybe we like the social side of community, and there is nothing wrong in any of that, but the fact is that the mission of Christ is shown here to those who seek Him, and it requires change from us, and a missionary zeal like His. What do people see of Him in us when they seek Him in our hearts, in our building and in our manner of life?

Sometime later in St John’s Gospel, when Jesus’s disciples urge Him to go to the feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem to display His works, He again alludes to this hour when He replies to them ‘My time has not yet come’. When Jesus eventually goes to the feast, He proclaims in the temple ‘I have not come of My own accord; He who sent Me is true, and Him you do not know. I know Him, for I come from Him, and He sent Me.’ Because of this, we’re told that the authorities wanted to arrest Jesus, but no one laid hands on Him because His hour had not yet come. Then, on another occasion, Jesus tells the Pharisees within the temple treasury ‘You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.’ But again, Jesus is not arrested because His hour has not yet come. Now we know Him, now we see Him, now the hour has come for the Church of God to be like Him, so people can see Jesus in us. If we are Christians, they will see Him before they see us.


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