Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say – ‘ Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.”
This morning we cleaned the garden from all the winter’s abuses. Twigs and branches spread everywhere, old yellowed grass, overgrown bushes, dead and dried flowers, everything seemed to need pruning and cutting. It is still March; all is still dead, at least here in Long Island, NY. Yet we can begin to feel the changes, the stirring of spring, around the corner. Robins are back, hoping on the lawn. We marvel at the tiny crocuses and snow drops, small touches of colors in a grey garden. It is so easy to see winter as death and spring as re-birth. Without the death of winter there is no spring, no re-birth. Exactly what today’s reading is telling us.
But is it true? Winter is no more death than spring is re-birth. It is all transformation. The seed does not die, it, as the song goes, becomes the rose. Is it what Jesus was saying? Death is not death as we understand it, and end, a sudden absence, but a becoming of something else, different, new. Spring in a garden is such a wonderful place to grasp this reality. In winter natures seems to abandon and let go of any purposes and meaning. Then, in the spring, all comes alive again full of purpose and driving life. Then summer and fall bring fruit. Death in nature is not an end but rather a letting go, a sort of temporary abandonment, a lapse.
I find this so difficult. Not to understand but to follow. “Now my soul is troubled” said Jesus as he saw his own failure as the Messiah, and his death close at hand. It was difficult for him also. The text seems to indicate that. For us it takes us a lifetime to learn to let go, and yet, at the end do we have any control? No, we must let go of everything we hold dear, because of age, because of death or because of whatever circumstances we have absolutely no control upon.
So wht let go ahead of time?
The clue comes in the next verse. Jesus says: “Now my soul is troubled..and what would I ask, God saves me from this? No, I have to go to the end. God, Thy will be done. Glorify thy name”
As soon as Jesus let go, not only of his own plans, but of owning his own life, the Voice was heard: I glorify it. It all comes quickly. You blink, you miss it. And there are probably all kinds of ways to understand this sentence. For me, the minute Jesus lets go of his own will, and does so into God’s hands, in that very instant there was a communion between him and God. As in doing God’s will is in itself a sacrament, a bringing about of God’s presence in the here and now. I believe that is the death and the bearing of fruit Jesus was speaking about in the readings today.