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Gospel for Sunday, March 17: John 12:20-33

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20 Among those who had gone up to worship at the feast were also some Greeks. 21 These approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, “Lord, we want to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew, and then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Verily, verily, I say to you, if the grain of wheat, when it falls into the ground, does not die, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. 25 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone wants to serve me, let him follow me, and where I am, there he will also be my servant. If one serves me, the Father will honor him. 27 Now my soul is troubled; what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But for this very reason I have come to this hour! 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then there came a voice from heaven, “I have glorified him and will glorify him again!”29 The crowd, who were present and had heard, said it was thunder. Others said, “An angel spoke to him.” 30 Jesus said, “This voice has not come for me, but for you. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the prince of this world will be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate what death he was to die of.”

Jh 12:20-33

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather ( Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

Gentiles meet Jesus

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The context of this passage is that of the third and final Passover experienced by Jesus in Jerusalem, when by now the high priests had made the decision to condemn him to death (Jn 11:53), and after his messianic entry into the holy city acclaimed by a large crowd (Jn 12:12-19). As on the occasion of every great feast, Greeks (héllenes), non-Jews, therefore pagans, who were interested in meeting Jesus, had also come up to Jerusalem. They approached Philip, who came from Bethsaida of Galilee: Galilee was borderland, where there was constant contact with pagans, to the point that Mt 14:15, quoting Is 9:1, calls it “Galilee of the Gentiles.” The pagans ask him:

“We want to see Jesus” (Jn 12:21), that is, to believe in him, because “seeing Jesus,” in John, is synonymous with the adherence of Faith. However, if a rabbi encounters pagans, he does not abide by the rules of purity, he contravenes the Law. Philip, puzzled, goes to report this to Andrew: Philip and Andrew are the only disciples to have a Greek name. The two decide to present the request to Jesus: the entrance of the Gentiles to the Faith is prophetically mediated by the disciples, by the Church.

The seed that dies

Jesus’ “hour” (Jn 12:23) is his exodus to God, the paschal mystery of the passage to glory, through his Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension (Jn 7:30; 8:20; 2:4; 12:23. 27).

But there is one condition: “that the seed die, that it may bear much fruit” (Jn 12:24). Jesus immediately translates this concept: “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life…will keep it for eternal life” (Jn 12:25). “Hate” is a Semitism for “prefer” already used in Lk 14:26: “If anyone does not hate…his father and mother…and even his own life” (cf. Mt 10:37). Jesus says that those who put themselves first lose themselves. One is fulfilled only in giving, in service, in love. One possesses life to the extent that one gives it. This itinerary is proposed to all disciples, Jews and Gentiles alike (Jn. 12:20-21, 26). The “Simple Prayer,” by Brother Aegidius of Assisi, states, “For it is in giving that one receives; in forgetting that one finds; in forgiving that one is forgiven; it is in dying that one is resurrected to eternal life.”

A parallel of the agony at Gestemani

The synoptic evangelists recount Jesus’ agony at Gethsemane (Mk 14:32-42 and par.), where he “began to feel fear and anguish” (Mk 14:33), calling out, “Abba, Father! All things are possible to you, take away this cup from me!” (Mk 14:36).

According to some, John does not recount Jesus’ agony on the Mount of Olives, but here he probably refers to it. In John Jesus says, “Now my soul is troubled” (John 12:27); but he immediately adds, “What shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But for this very reason I have come to this hour!” (Jn. 12:27). “In a different way from the narrative present in the Synoptics, but in depth agreement with it, Jesus did not want to save himself from that hour, nor to be exempt from it, but he always remained faithful to his mission of fulfilling the Father’s will in the way of humiliation, poverty, meekness and not through violence, power, domination” (E. Bianchi).

A parallel of the Transfiguration

John does not recount the episode of Jesus’ Transfiguration, on which the Synoptics dwell abundantly (Mk 9:2-10; Mt 17:1-13; Lk 9:28-36). But here is a possible allusion to it: here, too, a voice from heaven descends on Jesus, as an approval and promise: “I have glorified him and will glorify him again!” (Jn 12:28). Thunder, in the Bible, is God’s voice (1 Sam 12:18): the Father confirms to the Son Jesus that that hour of the cross is the hour of glory. That is why Jesus can exclaim, “When I am lifted up from the earth,” like the serpent lifted up by Moses (Nm 21:4-9; Jn 3:14), “I will draw all to myself” (Jn 12:31-32).

Knowing how to listen to God

John notes, “The crowd, who were present and had heard, said it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel spoke to him'” (John 12:29-30). “These are the devastating effects of religion that prevents one from hearing God’s word and prevents one from discovering a God present in one’s existence. Those who think it was thunder refer to the terrible and fearsome image of the God of religion. A fearful God, the threatening God. Those, on the other hand, who refer to an angel refer to an image of God far removed from man, an unapproachable God. Both reactions, the thunder and the angel, point to the nefarious effects of religion” (A. Maggi).

Seeing Jesus

“What, then, does Jesus promise the pagans to see? His passion, death and resurrection, his lowering and his glorification, the cross as a revelation of love lived to the end, to the extreme (Jn. 13:1)… All, Jews and Greeks, all drawn to him will be able to see him, but on the cross, as he gives life to all mankind. This is Jesus’ answer to those who want to see him!” (E. Bianchi).

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at


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