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Gospel for Sunday, March 21: John 12: 20-33

John 12: 20-33

20Among those who had come up for worship during the festival there were also some Greeks. 21They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him: “Sir, we want to see Jesus”. 22Philip went to tell Andrew, and then Andrew and Philip went to tell Jesus. 23Jesus answered them: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. 25Whoever loves their life loses it and whoever hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26If anyone wants to serve me, let him follow me, and where I am, there will my servant also be. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. 27Now my soul is troubled; what will I say? Father, save me from this hour? But this is precisely why I have come to this hour! 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified him and I will glorify him again!”29The crowd, who were present and had heard, said that it had been thunder. Others said: “An angel spoke to him.” 30Jesus said: “This voice did not come for me, but for you. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now the prince of this world will be thrown out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw everyone to me”.33He said this to indicate the death he was to die.

John 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.

The pagans meet Jesus

The context of this passage is that of the third and last Easter lived by Jesus in Jerusalem, when the high priests have now made the decision to condemn him to death (Jn 11.53), and after his messianic entry into the holy city acclaimed by many crowd (Jn 12,12-19). As on the occasion of every great celebration, Greeks (héllenes), non-Jews, therefore pagans, interested in meeting Jesus, had also gone up to Jerusalem. They approached Philip, coming from Bethsaida of Galilee: Galilee was a border land, in which there was continuous contact with the 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 adhering to Faith. However, if a rabbi meets pagans who does not respect the rules of purity, he violates the Law. Philip, perplexed, goes to tell Andrew: Philip and Andrew are the only disciples to have a Greek name. The two decide to present the request to Jesus: the entry of pagans to the Faith is prophetically mediated by the disciples, by the Church.

The seed that dies

The “hour” of Jesus (Jn 12.23) is his exodus towards 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, to bear much fruit” (Jn 12.24). Jesus immediately translates this concept: “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life… will keep it for eternal life” (Jn 12.25). “To hate” is a Semitic term for “to prefer” already used in Luke 14.26: “If anyone does not hate… his father and his mother… and even his own life” (see Mt 10.37). Jesus says that those who put themselves first lose themselves. We realize ourselves only in giving, in service, in love. Life is possessed to the extent that it is given. This itinerary is proposed to all disciples, Jews and pagans (Jn 12.20-21.26). The “Simple Prayer”, by Brother Egidio of Assisi, states: “Because it is in giving that we receive; in forgetting that it is found; in forgiving that one is forgiven; it is in dying that one is resurrected to eternal life.”

A parallel to the agony at Gestemani

The Synoptic evangelists recount the agony of Jesus in Gethsemane (Mk 14,32-42 and par.), where he “began to feel fear and anguish” (Mk 14,33), invoking: “Abba, Father! Everything is possible with you, take this cup away from me!” (Mk 14,36).

According to some, John does not recount Jesus’ agony on the Mount of Olives, but he probably refers to it here. In John Jesus states: “Now my soul is troubled” (Jn 12.27); but he immediately adds: “What will I say? Father, save me from this hour? But this is precisely why I have come to this hour!” (Jn 12.27). “Differently from the narrative present in the synoptics, but profoundly in agreement with it, Jesus did not want to save himself from that hour, nor be exempt from it, but always remained faithful to his mission of carrying out the will of the Father in the way of humiliation , of poverty, of meekness and not through violence, power, domination” (E. Bianchi).

A parallel to the Transfiguration

John does not tell the episode of the Transfiguration of Jesus, which the Synoptics dwell on extensively (Mk 9.2-10; Mt 17.1-13; Lk 9.28-36). But here there is a possible allusion to it: here too a voice from heaven descends on Jesus, as approval and promise: “I have glorified him and I will glorify him again!” (Jn 12.28). Thunder, in the Bible, is the voice of God (1 Sam 12.18): the Father confirms to his Son Jesus that that hour of the cross is the hour of glory. For this reason Jesus can exclaim: “When I am lifted up from the earth”, like the serpent raised by Moses (Nm 21,4-9; Jn 3,14), “I will draw all people to myself” (Jn 12,31-32).

Knowing how to listen to God

John records: “The crowd, who were present and had heard, said that he was thunder. Others said: «An angel spoke to him»” (Jn 12,29-30). “These are the devastating effects of religion which prevents us from listening to the word of God and prevents us from discovering a God present in our existence. Those who think that he was thunder refer to the terrible and fearsome image of the God of religion. A God who scares, the threatening God. However, those who refer to an angel refer to an image of God far from man, an unapproachable God. Both reactions, both the thunder and the angel, indicate the harmful effects of religion” (A. Maggi).

See Jesus

“What, then, does Jesus promise the pagans to see? His passion, death and resurrection, his abasement and his glorification, the cross as a revelation of love lived to the end, to the extreme (Jn 13.1)… Everyone, Jews and Greeks, all attracted by him will be able see him, but on the cross, while giving life to all humanity. This is Jesus’ response 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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