This weekend’s scriptures immerse us squarely in the very heart of the paradox of the Paschal Mystery of death and resurrection. Jesus talks about his glory in the context of his coming death. By God’s grace and power, through his dying Jesus entered resurrection life not only for himself but for all of us. Jesus explains: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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” (John 12:23-24). Precisely through the shame of the cross Jesus enters the glory of his resurrection.
The pattern of his death and resurrection becomes imitated in discipleship: “Whoevear loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be” (John 12:25-26). Jesus dying on the cross culminated a life of daily dying to self to serve and love others. In this daily dying to self, we imitate Christ. Hopefully we do not have to literally share a painful death on a cross, but the daily crosses of love and sacrifice accomplish for us the same reality of dying turning to life. In little ways and big ways through our daily discipleship we demonstrate the power of the cross working in us: our love and service in family life, our ministries in the parish, our outreach to the needy, our service in the community, etc. We replicate the dying of Jesus that becomes entry into life for all of us.
Jesus comments about his death: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (John 12:32). In one sense he speaks about the kind of death he will endure “lifted up from the earth” on the cross. Yet being “lifted up” carries a double meaning as it refereed to his being “lifted up” in glory. Humans lifted him up on the cross as the Father’s love lifted him up in the glory of his resurrection and ascension.
St. Paul understood this mystery of death and resurrection well: “But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). Death-resurrection has three levels of meaning. First, in the story of Jesus, his death turned into new life. Secondly, in the sacrament of baptism, we are buried with Jesus and rise with him. Thirdly, our daily moral lives embody our dying to self and rising to a new level of existence in Jesus. Saint Paul explained: “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me” (Galatians 2:19-20). What looks like tragedy, the cross, in fact becomes the triumph of God’s love in Jesus and in us. Great scriptures this week to set us up for Holy Week.