sabato 17 marzo 2018

«Exauditus pro sua reverentia»

We have just heard the last of the three passages from John’s gospel about Christ’s coming glorification through his cross and resurrection. Unlike the two previous passages, which were taken from the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, this selection is taken from its end. The scene takes place soon after the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Passover is drawing near; there are many pilgrims in the Holy City; among these, some “Greeks,” that is to say, Gentiles who support the Jewish religion—those whom the Acts of the Apostles calls “God-fearers.” These people want to see Jesus. And so they go to Philip; this one tells Andrew, and together they go to Jesus. Notice, Philip and Andrew are, among the apostles, the only ones with a Greek name, since they were from Galilee, where many were bilingual.

Well, Jesus replies in a mysterious way, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” What does it mean? Jesus says that the hour of his glorification has finally come. We already know that the hour of glorification is the hour of passion. Practically Jesus is announcing that his death is drawing near, and only after his death Gentiles will be able to approach him. To explain this point, Jesus quotes a saying, maybe a proverb at that time, “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.” The meaning of this saying is apparent: in order to bear fruit, a seed must first die; life flows from death. Jesus applies this saying to himself; he compares himself to a grain of wheat: he has already fallen to the ground (with his incarnation he came down from heaven to the earth), now he has to die. His mission is not accomplished until he dies; only through his death he will be accessible to all. This is a general rule; it does not apply only to Jesus, but to everybody. If one wants to be his disciple, has to follow him on the same way, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.”

There follows a scene that could be considered the equivalent of the agony of Jesus at Gethsemane, which John does not relates. In front of death, Jesus, like anyone else, is troubled. His human nature refuses the prospect of death; he is tempted to avoid his passion, “Father, save me from this hour.” In the garden he will say, “My soul is sorrowful even to death … Father … take this cup away from me” (Mk 14:34.36). But, as in that case he will add, “Not what I will but what you will” (Mk 14:36), so now he says, “Father, glorify your name.” Jesus realizes that he has come into the world precisely for this purpose; now that the time has come, he cannot draw back. 

At this point, as it happened at the baptism and at the transfiguration, the Father intervenes to bear witness to his Son, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” The crowd does not grasp the meaning of God’s message; they mistake the voice of God for thunder. So Jesus has to stress his point, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” The evangelist explains, “He said this, indicating the kind of death he would die.” We already know what “to be lifted up” means: it refers to the rising of Jesus on the cross; but at the same time it hints that he will be exalted on the cross. The death of Jesus is the hour of his glorification. And it is exactly in that hour that Jesus will draw everyone—Jews and Greeks—to himself.

We find another allusion to the agony at Gethsemane in the second reading. Jesus “offered prayers and supplications … to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence” (exauditus pro sua reverentia). Pardon? He was heard? Yes, he was heard, not because he was spared from death, but because God transformed his death into glorification.