By Sr. Elizabeth Ann, SSJD
Are you familiar with the television game show, Jeopardy? Alex Trebek, born in Sudbury*, ON, was its host for 37 years until his death in 2020. In an interesting twist on classic games shows, contestants were shown an answer for which they had to supply the question. The show came to my mind as I read the gospel for today. All though there is a statement by some Greeks, and questions supplied by the crowd, Jesus’ answers seem to bear no relation to either of them. It got me wondering as I read the answers Jesus gives, what were the real questions being asked?
The passage tells us that it was some Greeks who came to Philip to inquire about Jesus. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, “Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, . . . 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor. 1: 22, 24). Jesus had berated scribes and Pharisees who had demanded of him a sign, saying that no sign would be given them beyond the sign of the prophet Jonah (cf. Matthew 12. 28-29, Matt 16. 1-4; Mark 8: 11-12; Luke 11: 16-30). It seems Jesus’ answer does not give the clarity or wisdom the Greeks were seeking either.
From the Greeks’ statement to Philip, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus,” Jesus responds, “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.”
I believe there might be several questions behind Jesus’ response. Who is this person Jesus? How might we gain eternal life? Can Jesus give us eternal life? What would we need to do to follow him? Keeping in mind, “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God,” Jesus’ answer begins to make sense, but not as a sign nor as a source of great wisdom, but to our hearts alone. Grains of wheat must be scattered for a fruitful harvest. Love must be given away and shared with others to grow and multiply. We have only one life, and if we hoard it for ourselves, its fruitfulness will be lost.
As the passage continues there was a sign given perhaps for the benefit of the Jews, in a voice from heaven that some described as thunder and others as an Angel speaking. Then the questions, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man? Jesus responds by saying, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” I think the question to get to this response of Jesus could be, “How do we become children of light? How do we know where we are going?” I believe that ultimately, we need to be seeking neither a sign nor wisdom, but following our hearts and simply asking the question, “Who are you, God? Who am I, God?” We must always be seeking the light of Christ in God, and that of God within each of us. We’ll find it in the love of Jesus, the light of the world, who draws us to himself, so that where he is, we may be also, for eternal life.
As you read and hear the gospel passages this week, I invite you to play Jeopardy and ask questions in response to the readings, especially when it involves Jesus’ teaching. Questions can be our entry way into intimate dialogue with Jesus as we meet him on the way to the cross and empty tomb. Your questions should not be simply an intellectual search for wisdom like the Greeks, nor a need for the certainty of signs like the crowds desired; instead, your questions must lead you back to your heart where only you and God alone may go. Ask the questions that draw your heart to the light and love of Christ that you may follow Jesus in loving service to all. What are your questions?
by Sister Elizabeth Ann Eckert, SSJD (*who was also born in Sudbury, ON, on the traditional lands and territory of the Wanapitei First Nation).