When Life Turns

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March 18, 2018 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

March 18, 2018
John 12: 20-33
Fr. George Smiga

Your cell phone rings, and you see it’s your brother. Funny, you think, he never calls me at this time of day. But when you answer, you find out why. He is in the emergency room, and he wants you to come. Your mother, now in her late 70’s, has just experienced a stroke. Now details are not yet clear, but already you can see before you months of family meetings, consultation with doctors, rehabilitation and perhaps a nursing home. In a moment, your life has changed drastically. It all began with that phone call.

You are having dinner with the woman you love. You’ve been dating now for two years, and you are convinced that the two of you are growing closer. You have even considered whether it was time to bring up the topic of marriage. At dinner she seems distracted. Halfway through the meal, she says, “We need to talk.” Your heart skips a beat, and your worst fears come true. She is not as pleased as you are in the relationship. She asks for some “time off.” By the end of the meal, the earth has shifted beneath you. It was signaled with her words, “We need to talk.”

We expect continuity in our lives. We expect one day to flow into the other. But we all know that there are moments when our life takes a drastic and negative turn. Looking back, we can even remember the phone call or the remark that signaled that change. Now we find our self in a place we do not want to be, in a place of fear, doubt, and pain. Our life has changed to a difficult place. Somehow we have to get through it.

Jesus experiences such a change in today’s gospel. He knows that his mission is to draw all people to himself. So when some non-Jews, some Greeks, come asking for him, Jesus sees it as a sign that now is the time to fulfill his mission. The gospel of John calls that mission “Jesus’s hour.” The arrival of the Greeks indicates that now his hour has come. The hour is frightening, because it is the hour of his death. But the important thing of today’s gospel is that Jesus does not call his hour the hour of his death. He calls it the hour of God’s glory. That is because Jesus is convinced that in the sudden turn towards suffering that his life has just taken, his Father will never abandon him. In fact, he dares to believe that, just as a seed that dies produces much fruit, God is able to bring life out of Jesus’s passion.

Our faith centers on the belief that God can bring life out of the most difficult periods of our lives. This faith does not promise that the journey will be easy, nor does it imply that the pain will be slight. But it dares us to hope that as we try to put our life back together after a disastrous breakup, we will learn things about ourselves that can deepen us and heal us. It asks us to trust that as we sit at the bedside of our unconscious mother, we can find thanksgiving or the forgiveness that we need towards the woman who gave us birth. Our life does not always flow from blessing to blessing. This is why today’s gospel assures us that when our life takes a sudden turn towards loss and suffering, we should not give up hope. Like Jesus we believe that our God is with us. And because God is with us, being lost can become being found and our hour of suffering can become the hour of God’s glory.

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