5th Sunday of Lent (Jn 12:32) “My Favourite Verse in Holy Scripture” PDF Version
Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent, Year B (2018): Jn 12:32
I was once asked what my favourite verse was in all of Holy Scripture. I realized right away that I could not provide an adequate answer until I had taken some significant time to make my selection. Many verses came to mind from both the Old and New Testaments, but I finally decided on John 12:32 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”
The reason I choose this verse is that it summarizes the entire sacred drama of our salvation in Christ. St John tells us that Jesus spoke these words as an indication of what kind of death He would suffer. “This expression recalls the opening line of Isaiah’s fourth Servant Song, which is a prophetic description of the suffering of the Messiah, who will be exalted and lifted up in the sight of the nations, but only after He is cast down by His own people. Isaiah interprets the humiliation and death of this Suffering Servant as the redemptive sacrifice for sin.”
Though few would have seen in the Crucified Saviour the one who reigns as the King of all realms, both visible and invisible, it was only upon the Cross that Our Lord would usher in the Kingdom of God, where to be given admittance must come at looking upon the One who was pierced, to weep for one’s sins and accept in faith that Jesus Christ is the redeemer of the world.
But this verse of Holy Scripture does not only speak of our Lord’s death on the Cross. It also offers a veiled foreshadowing of the Resurrection and Ascension. Few would have seen our Lord’s ignominious death the beginning of the reign of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Defeat, disappointment and scandal reigned on Good Friday and the promise of Christ drawing all men to Himself as He was raised upon the Cross seemed to be lost cause. Maybe if He had come down from the Cross at the prompting of the High Priest, then all the world would have believed He was Messiah and Lord and worshipped Him in fear and trembling?
But after His glorious Resurrection, when He rose from death’s dark bonds and was exalted by the angels of heaven and feared by the demons of hell, and as the Apostles witnessed as He ascended to His Father and Our Father, then what had begun on the Cross of drawing all men and all of creation to Himself, had achieved its promised fulfillment.
With the coming of Paraclete at Pentecost, the Apostles and all who would bear the name of Christian would now begin the work of drawing all things to Christ, proclaiming His gospel to the Four Corners of the Earth and not being satisfied until all nations had come to know that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This verse can also be seen as having a permanent place in the life of Catholic Christians for it is a succinct yet rich description of what we celebrate at each and every offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. During Mass we make present once again the Sacrifice of Calvary, witnessing as our Lord is lifted up from the earth in the re-presentation of His Sacrifice and visibly when the Host and Chalice are raised above the altar of sacrifice and we behold the Pierced One who is once again lifted up and drawing us closer to His Sacred Heart.
We also believe the Holy Mass is a re-presentation of Our Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension, allowing us to mystically behold Jesus rising from the tomb and ascending to the Right Hand of the Father, in both instances witnessing as He is lifted up and exalted high above for all see and once again experience as we are drawn closer to Him and the hope the eternal life.
And there is yet a final way in which we can interpret this wondrous verse of Holy Scripture. Our Lord proclaimed that when He was lifted up, on the Cross, at the Resurrection and during the Ascension, He would draw all things to Himself. But we know that this has not yet reached it ultimate fulfillment. Many have not heard the Good News of Salvation, while others have chosen to reject our Lord, through ignorance or spite, and many, most especially the Jewish People, have yet to embrace Jesus as their Messiah and Lord.
It is for this reason that we can also see in this verse a prophecy of what will take place at the End of Time, when Christ will once again be lifted up for all to see, not upon the Cross nor in the glory of His Resurrection and Ascension, but now as the dread king and judge of the Living and the Dead! It is then that finally all men and all of creation will be drawn perfectly to Him, giving eternal life to those Blessed by His Father and eternal death to those who will endure the weeping and gnashing of teeth.
It is then that we will witness the Jewish People fulfill the prophecy of the Prophet Zechariah, looking upon the one whom they have pierced and weeping for Him as one weeps for an only son, weeping they did not shed on Good Friday but can now shed tears of remorse and joy for their Messiah has come and has not forsaken His people.
On this 5th Sunday of Lent, often known as Passion Sunday, we are reminded that in these final days of Lent, we are to turn our eyes to the Crucifix and prepare ourselves to see as Jesus is lifted up in the Holy Week Liturgies.
Let us then prepare ourselves well for the most important days of our Catholic lives. Let us pray with more fervour, perhaps offering the Stations of the Cross or making a good and perhaps overdue confession.
Let us fast with greater devotion to make room in our hearts and minds for the spiritual food that God provides to those who deny themselves and like the grain of wheat fall into the earth and die so that we might bear much fruit.
And finally let us give alms, in both the monetary means that assists the poor whom Our Lord has a special love and by rendering those acts of charity to others that help to diminish our self centeredness and make us more powerfully resemble the merciful face of Jesus Christ.
 Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, New Testament, Gospel of St. John. Pg. 186