5th Sunday of Lent 2018 - Homily - Bishop Donal McKeown

5th Sunday of Lent 2018 - Homily - Bishop Donal McKeown

Imagine the scene in today's Gospel. This 12th Chapter of St John's Gospel comes immediately before the Last Supper. Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem as a bit of a celebrity. Some foreigners come to Philip and say they want to 'see Jesus'. Clearly his fame is spreading and that sounds very promising.

But what is the response of Jesus to this request as he faces into his death?I hear Jesus saying that following him is much more difficult than seeing him! Believing in him is not a nice hobby, a two-way bet. Believing is not a luxury that the healthy and well-off can afford. It means taking a huge risk. If he has to die, believers have to be prepared to be born again. Like the clean seed that is sown in the damp dirty ground there is only one way to bear fruit.

Lent is not merely for losing weight or getting fit. Nor is it temporarily twisting God's arm to make him think that we are holy. Lent is the time of the year when we die to part of ourselves. Like Jesus, we learn to obey through suffering and prepare for the big leap of dying to ourselves with Jesus

Secondly, our readings also focus on the term Covenant' that will appear repeatedly in Holy Week. Jesus is not just dying to show how much he trusts the Father or because the authorities detest him. The Old Testament has various covenants. There is Noah and Rainbow, Abraham and circumcision, Moses and the blood of the Lamb that saved people as they prepared to leave Egypt. Jesus will speak of the new covenant in his blood, for he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It is only by dying to self that we will permit the Lord to 'deep within them plant my Law, writing it on their hearts'. The New Covenant comes at a serious cost to both Jesus and his followers.

Every Eucharist is a celebration, re-presentation of the New Covenant in His blood and we are invited to join the people who agree to this covenant. We are not just here 'to see Jesus'.

Thirdly, what might this 'dying to self' mean for Church? It meant different things in Patrick's time, in Penal times and in mission lands. Today it will involve dying to a model of church that merely makes us feel comfortable and doesn't too much. Faith in the Jesus of Holy Week is not a pick and mix approach as the Greeks in Gospel discovered. Faith in Jesus means walking with one who is weak and vulnerable, not with one who is strong and victorious.

Recent Popes have been clear about modern priorities. Pope John Paul II said that there is no church without contemplation of the face of Jesus. That means making all that we do into a school of prayer. To be like that will mean dying to some of our ways of being Christian.

Pope Benedict reminded us the Church is the 'home of the Word'. Do we love the Word, listen to it and pray with it? Following that advice will mean dying to some of our practices.

Pope Francis asks us whether we have the joy of the Gospel. Sometimes, he fears, we would rather be moaners who criticise others? The 'sourpuss' within us has to die, especially if we find that temptation very strong.

If we want to do more than see Jesus, we have to keep dying to ourselves. That will be the theme of the events of the next fortnight. Are you ready to hear it?

+Donal McKeown

St Eugene's Cathedral, Derry

5th Sunday of Lent 

18th March 2018

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