Fifth Sunday of Lent
Some of the strongest friendships I have today are those I formed with my classmates in college seminary, and I think this is primarily because we had more in common than our interests in playing sports or other games and hobbies—we shared a strong faith in Christ and a desire to serve the Church. Not all of my friends ended up being called to the priesthood, many of them felt called to marriage instead, but our friendship has remained strong because our love for God continues to unite us. Since being ordained a priest I have experienced this blessing of friendship with many people—I have had the opportunity to share with others in the difficult and beautiful event of their lives. If it weren’t for our faith in Christ, I probably would not have the opportunity to get to know so many wonderful people who enrich my life and have challenged me to grow.
Jesus Christ finds ways of uniting people together in His name, and it’s clear that our Lord was intent on this mission even to the end, especially when he said, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” Whether in life or death, Jesus sought to draw all people to Himself in love.
This is fitting when the Gospel recounts some Greeks approached Jesus’ disciple, Philip, with the simple request: “We would like to see Jesus.” Such a request wasn’t new for the Apostle Philip, for earlier in Jesus’ ministry, Nathanael had approached Philip inquiring about Jesus, and Philip simply invited him, saying: “Come and see.” We shouldn’t see this act of “seeing Jesus,” merely as a matter of coming to look at a person, like we might treat wanting to see a national landmark or a historic site, like “I saw the Grand Canyon or I saw Mount Rushmore…,” rather “to see Jesus” is to encounter Him and be changed by Him. It is the same disposition we want to have when we approach prayer—your openness to let God into your heart and direct your life.
One example of this encounter is illustrated by the conversion of the chief tax collector, Zacchaeus, who could not visibly see Jesus because of the crowd, so he climbed the sycamore tree for a better vantage point. Jesus looked upon him and the following dialogue led to Zacchaeus’ conversion where Jesus joyfully proclaimed, “Today salvation has come to this house.” More than catching a glimpse of Jesus, Zacchaeus desired a deep encounter with Him.
“We would like to see Jesus”—we would like not just to go by appearances, but comprehend the mystery of a person, we want to reach the depths of the heart in our relationship with Jesus. This type of encounter expresses something universal in every human heart, but the reality is that many people have heard of Christ, but have not yet encountered Him.
The full realization of who Jesus is and what He is about is revealed on the Cross—for there we see clearly the depth of His love for us. Jesus doesn’t tell us with words, but through suffering and death, He shows us the extent of His sacrifice and love.
Let’s never stop desiring to see Jesus, for whether we experience suffering or joy in our lives, trust that Jesus has the power, and the desire, to draw all people to Himself.
Reflection Question: What are the ways you are called to encounter the Lord and allow Him to change your heart?
Reflection by Fr. Paul Sheller, OSB