Fr. Ron Bagley, CJM
In today’s gospel we hear about people being introduced to Jesus. Two Greeks (certainly not Jews) approach not Jesus but Philip, which by the way is a Greek name. Up to this point in Jesus’ ministry, according to the gospel of John, Jesus has never once interacted with a Gentile. (The gospel of Luke paints a different picture, but we are concerned with John’s gospel today.)
Philip listens to the request of these two Gentiles who want to see Jesus and, in turn, goes to Andrew (another Greek name!) to enlist his help with this unorthodox request. Together the disciples intercede on behalf of the Greek inquirers. Although these Gentiles meet Jesus and listen to him speak, the gospel does not tell us if they became disciples or not. The real intent of mentioning this encounter is to set the scene for the speech that follows.
Jesus rightly perceives this to be the conclusion of his ministry. If even the Greeks (that is, Gentiles) are now coming to see him, the end is near! His death is imminent. Jesus then begins an eloquent teaching on the necessity of death for bearing fruit. In the Semitic thinking of his time, lacking modern scientific explanations, a seed dies in order to give life. Following this metaphor, we learn that only by his death will Jesus’ ministry truly bear fruit. That is the necessary next step. His death is necessary because this is the purpose for which Jesus came. There is no sidestepping or dodging this inevitable end, which is ratified by a voice from heaven.
For the disciples of Jesus (you and me), the question presents itself: do we allow ourselves to die to our own desires, wants, and agenda? From today’s gospel reading, it seems Jesus was not quite ready for this moment. But the arrival of the Greeks was a clarion signal that the end was near. Even for Jesus there was no fighting this eternal purpose. This was the real reason he came into the world.
His example of letting go serves as a model for us. We are not masters of our own fate. We are not in ultimate control of our own destiny. The illusion that we are somehow planning our own destiny is simply that, an illusion. There are greater forces at work. We are called to discern those forces so we can recognize them when they face us.
For Jesus it was the request from the two Greeks. What are the signs that encourage us to let go of our own desires and submit to something greater? Are we ready to die to self for a greater good? When we die to ourselves we will see fruit that bears eternal life.