By: Fr Christopher Maseko
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Whoever serves me must follow me, says the Lord; and where I am, there also will my servant be. The message we hear in today’s Gospel, this Sunday, will again help us to prepare ourselves for Easter. It will help us to understand more clearly what Christ did for us at Easter.
In the Gospel we hear of some Greeks who wanted to see Jesus. This was extraordinary. Greeks were not of the race as the Jews; they were regarded as strangers and heathens. Surprisingly, Jesus rejoiced that they wanted to see him. In his spirit, he saw himself dying on the cross, all races and nations assembled around the cross. Therefore he said: when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself. Jesus wanted to die for all races and nations and bind them to himself with bonds of love. For he once mentioned that there is no grater love than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
Jesus repeatedly mentioned the conditions of being his follower. To be a follower: that whoever wants to be a follower of mine, must first deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. And this following entails speaking as he speak, loving as he loves seeing as he sees, and to have compassion with the outcasts, those looked down upon – the invalids and lame. In order to achieve all these things, we ought to make a radical change in our lives and embrace the cross that comes with following him.
It’s a pity that we call ourselves Christians, yet at the same time we live a controversial life. We do not walk the talk and you find that we discriminate against other people of different race, religion or ethnicity. We have adopted the self-righteousness attitude towards those entrusted toto our care. We tend to be more like the Jews who always considered themselves superior of better than any other nation. There’s an urgent need to pinpoint that all this has been watered down by selfishness, Most of the time we use the pronoun “I” disregarding those around us.
In this passage, Jesus is in complete harmony with all that the Father desires. The word and actions of Jesus are perfect expression of the Father’s wishes. They are so aligned with one another that to see Jesus is to be in touch with God. Jesus’ hour is the moment of his death, which is at the same time, the moment of his glorification that becomes his way of saying that in death, community and unity with God will be fully accomplished in and through Jesus. It is the moment of his death as well as the moment o his glorification and exaltation of God. God is totally praised and glorified in Jesus’ action and love. The Father’s response to Jesus’ love and fidelity is the glorification and exaltation of Jesus through the Resurrection.
Jesus’s ministry in our midst, his fidelity to the Father, and his service to others in love, even to the point of death, gives a model of what it means to be truly human. To be human is to glorify God in and through our ministry of service to all we encounter. That ministry involves the total sharing with all of the many gifts we have been given. So the ministry, as it were, may take the form, for example, of ministering to the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the unborn, the most vulnerable in our world, an aged parent or child with handicap. It may be a call to minister to a hurting co-worker or a troubled teenager. To be the voice of the voiceless and be relevant at all times without expecting some kind of a reward. Nowadays, when we are called to minister to other people, we always ask ourselves. What am I going to benefit – ngitotfolani? It has become increasingly difficult to play our roles as Christians…you find that you seek help from a man of God only to be let down, you run to the police, you get abused and even to the hospital you are subjected to a litany of questions yet you are in pain and dying. All these things are done by the so called followers of Christ. People who happen to witness such, may be tempted to ask themselves ; What is the point of being a Christian? In our journeying, the point is to be relevant – to be with people where they are, not telling them where they ought to be.
Services of others is not easy and often challenges our willingness and determination to share what we have been given. This is difficult for us, especially where we experience rejection, lack of response, or lack of appreciation from those we serve. Yet, “unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” However, this is not an easy walk. Even Jesus reacts, “I am troubled now.” The temptation is strong to flee the “hour.” Yet Jesus knows that all he has been doing has led to this reality.
The question is, are we equal to the task or we are more than ready to find a short cut which is often a wrong cut. At the same time, we should be aware that quitters never win and winners never quit. Let us stick to following Jesus with our weaknesses and he will certainly strengthen us with all his graces we so much need.