St. Patrick shows us the way to see Jesus

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HOMILY FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY OF LENT

            Readings:  Jer. 31:31-34/Heb. 5:7-9

            Psalm:  51:3-4, 13-15

            Gospel:  Jn. 12:20-33

 

There is a tale in Celtic Folklore of two sisters; the daughters of the Irish King of Connaught.[1] They were no more than children and spent their days laughing and playing throughout the castle grounds. It was their routine every morning to go to the nearby pond hidden in the woods so they could bathe.  One morning, the two girls started hearing strange voices outside of their window.  When they looked out, they saw a number of tents pitched in the direction of their pond.  Those strange sounds that woke them up were coming from those tents.  The sisters were confused and slightly upset.  So they got dressed and made their way toward the encampment. When the sisters came to the camp, the voices that they were hearing were coming from the center tent.  They had not heard these strange sounds before.  Being pagans, the girls were not familiar with the Latin language nor the Divine Office prayers being said inside that tent.

Once the voices stopped, a man came out of the tent and looked at the two girls.  After a few moments, the older girl asked him “Who are you and where do you come from?”  The man that she asked turned out to be St. Patrick.  Patrick stood there for a moment.  Then he said to the two, “We have more important things to tell you than just our names and where we come from.  We know who the one true God whom you should adore is.”  At once the faces of the girls lit up and began to ask Patrick all sorts of questions, and Patrick answered every one.  When all the questions were answered, Patrick led them to that pool where they bathed and gave them their baptism.  After their baptism, the two girls were very still and began to pray while Patrick began to prepare to say Mass.  Just before Mass began, the elder sister said to Patrick, “I want to see Jesus Christ now!”  The younger sister agreed, saying “I want to be with Him in His home forever and ever.”  Patrick did not expect to convert anyone, but when one requires to see Jesus, a true disciple of Christ cannot say no.

As much as the sisters desired to see Jesus in the presence of Patrick, the Greeks in the Gospel proclaimed today from St. John desired to seek Jesus when they approached Philip during Passover.  Like the sisters, the Greeks were new to their belief of Jesus and desired to see him face-to-face.  The faith of God was spreading beyond those who had been chosen, it was now going out beyond their world to touch those who were once known to be undesirable.

If someone came to me and said that someone wanted to see me, I think the last thing I would say would be, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”  What do you think he meant by this?  What was so important about the Greeks that Jesus would act like this?  This moment signified that God’s message had gone beyond the Jews and to those who were never part of the Chosen People. Like the two sisters, the Greeks wanted to see the Jesus that they knew but never met.  Once his message went out beyond the border walls of their society, Jesus knew that it was time for the final moments of his life to begin.  In order for his message to spread further, he had to be that grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies so that it will produce much fruit.

It is not so much his duty to his Father, but it is our mission to do the same in our lives:  to allow our current selves to be no more and produce the fruit of our new lives so that others may be fruitful as well.  He could have said no.  He could have just given the company line like all the other rabbi’s in the area.  But he knew that this was not why he was on earth.  But he was still scared.  “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?  Father save me from this hour?”  Paul tells us his decision in the Second Reading today from the Letter to the Hebrews.  “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”  That decision came from Jesus’ loyalty, his obedience to his Father and their combined mission.  Jesus said that “it was for this purpose that (he) came to this hour.” So he cries out “Father, glorify your name.”  And God responded. “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”

Jesus was fulfilling the new covenant that was mentioned in the First Reading today from Jeremiah.  This would not be like the covenant God made with Israel before.  It would not be an external covenant but an internal one.  “I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives how to know the Lord.  All, from the least to greatest, shall know me, says the Lord, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.”

To be in covenant with God means that you are ready, willing and able to be his disciple throughout the rest of your life, no matter how long or how short that can be.  When the two sisters asked to see God and be in his home right then and there, Patrick had to tell them they could only see God after death.  Yet if they lived a good life, then they would be able to see God in Paradise.  Once they got done talking, Patrick got ready to say Mass.

And what a lovely day that it was.  As the Mass went on, the birds were singing, the rushing of the water in the stream seemed louder than usual, and there was a breeze rustling the branches.  It was about a perfect a day these two girls could have had to be at their first Mass.  When the time came for communion, Patrick asked the two girls to come forward first so they could receive Jesus, where he would reside in them for the first time, just as his words were written upon their hearts.  After a few moments, when Patrick was clearing up the altar, he turned around and saw the two girls lying on the grass with a look of joy on their faces.  For they were no more with Patrick and his disciples; God had heard their pleas to be with him and his son.  He gathered them up to himself in Heaven.  The girls who longed for God died of longing.  They are the examples of God’s new covenant with his people.  Not a people of culture but a people of faith.  If we are not a people of faith, then our covenant with God has been broken, again.  Jesus knew it.  Jeremiah knew it.  Paul knew it.  Patrick knew it.  And now we know it.

As we come to the end of the Lenten Season and move on to Easter, let us keep that in mind whenever we go about our lives; not just here at Mass or coming before God in the sacraments, but every moment of every day.  Sometimes we win; sometimes we lose.  But when there are those moments when we turn away from God, we know that God does not turn away from us.  Scriptures say, “If we remain faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot betray himself.”[2]  Let us do what we can to be as faithful to him as he is to us.

MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK

[1] Curtayne, Alice. Twenty Tales of Irish Saints. (Manchester, NH:  Sophia Institute Press, 2004), pp. 3-7.

[2] 2 Tim. 2:13.

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