A reflection from Canon Judy for the 5th Sunday of Lent
Every once in a while there is a defining moment in most of our lives that usually pre-empts a change.
It may be an awareness that has been growing quietly and gently that suddenly cannot be ignored any longer; or maybe that doubts are swept away as the way forward is confirmed by another.
I’m sure you can all relate to that, at least once in your life.
Today’s Gospel reading gives us one of those moments in Jesus’ life, though of course this was not the first of such occasions.
At his baptism in the Jordan by John the same Gospel tells of John seeing the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and remaining of Jesus.
For John this was his defining moment. He knew he came to prepare the way for the Lord – he baptised with water; and his defining and confirming moment was that Jesus, the Son of God, was being revealed to Israel.
For Jesus it marked the beginning of his public ministry: A ministry so public and renowned that some ‘Greeks’ came wanting to be introduced to him. Whether they were Gentiles, or Greek speaking Jews coming to offer Jesus ministry opportunities in their community is a matter for speculation. Whatever their intention it confirmed to Jesus that his life would be entering another phase.
Our present reading is set in the days leading up to the 8-day Festival of Passover as the people were beginning to gather from far and wide. The Passover was a defining moment in the history of the people. Obedience to the instructions given through Moses marked the beginning of their freedom from slavery. It was one of the festivals that every devout Jew wanted to celebrate in Jerusalem at least once in their lifetime. [For more about Passover read Gen.12:1-28.]
The influx of people would, no doubt, want to secure lodgings in good time or meet with family and friends to prepare to celebrate so the population of Jerusalem and its environs was most likely greatly enlarged.
Perhaps Jesus was aware of the growing hostility of many of the religious leaders caused by his popularity. At Bethany, there were many witnesses when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and Mary anointed him (as King or for death?) with ‘a pound of costly perfume’; as he came into Jerusalem, riding on a beast of burden the welcome was ecstatic; with palm brunches spread before ‘the King of Israel’ it must have sent alarms bells clanging as the same leaders would be worried about Roman reprisals if there was an insurrection.
Each of these moments added to the growing awareness that the moment for which he had come was fast approaching. It seems the arrival of the ‘Greeks’ was the trigger. The hour had come.
Our defining moments may creep up on us; they may bring joy and fulfilment; they may bring sadness or loss. All may be greeted with a measure of trepidation, with a lack of certainty in our own ability or a sense of unease. It may be hard to embrace those moments, and the future they anticipate, with the confidence that
Mary showed when the angel approached her with news of the child she was to bear. Even Jesus himself struggled with his destiny as he knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane! ‘Not my will but yours.’
A somewhat gentler and favourite prayer of mine is from Reinhold Niebuhr and I share it with you:-
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.