Today’s Gospel reading (John 12: 20-33) has echoes of the account of the Agony in the Garden as it is described in other Gospel narratives. It begins with an unexpected reply to a request from some Greeks who want to see Jesus. “Now the hour has come,” he says, “Now my soul is troubled.”  The reading gives insight into the real anguish that Jesus experienced at the prospect of his impending death.

There are times in our lives when we face very difficult situations, and we may have to ‘dig deep’ to respond in ways that are life-giving.  This might be when facing exams, dealing with relationship issues, or, most challenging of all, facing death, whether of a partner, a friend or, ultimately, facing our own death.

Some people face difficult situations by running from them, some by seeking support.  Sadly, some take their own lives.   Many of us have been inspired by people who have lived through terrible suffering, for instance, in concentration camps or in the aftermath of road accidents.   Through their suffering they have been strengthened and have grown in resilience and in faith.  Jesus’ response is to turn to his Father and reassert the reason he has come.  “Father, glorify your name” – “it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour.”

The gospel passage emphasises that for Jesus’ followers there is an invitation to new life but that the way will be challenging and might turn previous assumptions upside down.  To love my life will happen only if I am willing to lose it; true life in Christ will often contradict the values of society and challenge us to follow Christ by serving him as the One who gives real value to human endeavour.

As it happens, this Sunday – March 17th – is the feast of Saint Patrick.  As a teenager Patrick was captured from his home in Britain and brought to Ireland as a slave.   In his autobiography – his Confessio – he describes the 6 years he spent herding sheep on Slemish mountain in the north of Ireland before escaping and returning to his home.  During that time, he grew in love of God and prayed constantly.

He returned to Ireland around 462 as priest/bishop and spread the gospel there until his death.   One can imagine the many times when he faced difficulties which he had to overcome.  In his own words he describes how he found his strength in God:

“… So I’ll never stop giving thanks to my God, who kept me faithful in the time of my temptation. I can today with confidence offer my soul to Christ my Lord as a living victim. He is the one who defended me in all my difficulties. I can say:  Who am I, Lord, or what is my calling that you have worked with me with such divine presence?

 

This is how I come to praise and magnify your name among the nations all the time, wherever I am, not only in good times but in the difficult times too. Whatever comes about for me, good or bad, I ought to accept them equally and give thanks to God…

(confessio.ie par 34)

 

Christ beside us, through the intercession of St Patrick help us to trust in you when we meet difficulties and sustain us in our journey of faith.

Veronica Mc Cabe, OP