Free but not cheap
5th Sunday in Lent

Al Cariño
April 6, 2003
Reproduced with Permission

Jesus' prediction of what would befall Him in Jerusalem, namely, that He "must suffer greatly and be rejected,... be killed, and rise after three days" (Mk. 8:31), must have come as a big shock to His disciples. They all expected a triumphant Messiah in whose kingdom they would all play a prominent role. A messiah who would suffer and die was just beyond their comprehension. No wonder Peter reprimanded Jesus for saying so. But this was not how God planned things to be. No wonder Jesus responded to Peter's reprimand thus, "You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."

To ease their pains, Jesus invited the leaders of the apostles -- Peter, James and John -- up the mountain of Transfiguration and gave them a glimpse of the glory which would be His after His prediction had became a reality. This would also be their lot -- and all of Jesus' followers -- after undergoing their own passion and death in faith and love.

In all these, we can see one very profound but simple truth: Salvation (which includes our own glorification) is free but not cheap. Not for Jesus who would bring it about with His blood. Not for us who would be its beneficiaries who must do the same. This was expressed in action when Jesus told them to go down from the mountain of bliss to the lowland of struggle of daily life.

Shortly thereafter, Jesus "set His face towards Jerusalem." Now, as the gospel tells us (Jn. 12: 20-33), He was in Jerusalem. He timed His arrival on the Feast of Passover (the most important Jewish feast) when Jews from all over the world were there to pray, offer sacrifice and pay their temple tax.

Some Greeks were also there. The Pharisees interpreted this for us -- "The whole world is running after Him." The Greeks were known for their hunger for knowledge. They questioned all aspects of life to discover new truths. Having heard about what Jesus said and did, including the miracles he performed, they wanted to see and hear Him themselves. But Jesus had no more time for such things since "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified," that is, the time of His passion and death which would culminate in His rising to life again, had come.

Jesus had often talked about His "hour." When His mother told Him there was no more wine at a wedding feast in Cana, Jesus told her, "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come" Jn.2:4). Now His "hour" had come.

The other gospels speak of Jesus' agony in the garden, how Jesus anguished over His approaching passion and death, hoping and praying that it might not come to pass, "yet not my will but yours be done" (Lk. 22:41). But not so John's. Yes, Jesus was troubled but He rejected the temptation to ask the Father to save Him from what was to come: "I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? 'Father, save me from this hour?' But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour." As one writer puts it, "The pain and loss cannot be avoided if the Father's name is to be glorified. There is going to be gain from the pain; there is going to be glory from the way of the cross." So in one great affirmation of love, Jesus exclaimed, "Father, glorify your name."

With this, Jesus was now ready to make real in His own life the short parable He uttered earlier: "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit." He Himself was going to be that seed. He must die in order to bear much fruit. The same writer adds, "The pain will still be acute: the loss will still be crushing. But the Father's solidarity with His Son will keep Jesus going to the end. Only that gives the point to it all."

After Jesus first predicted His passion and death, He made public His doctrine of the Cross: "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me," (Mk. 8:34). As we have seen, Jesus' way to His own glorification was through the way of the cross. So is ours.

Daily, we are all confronted with trials which give us much pain. Pain is evil and we all avoid it. But whether we want it or not, it is an integral part of our human condition. It is one of the consequences of the sin of our first parents. Without the Cross it is impossible to imagine what good can come out of pain. But with the Cross everything falls into place. In short, pain can only have meaning when it is united with the passion and death of Jesus which led to His resurrection. Then it becomes our way to our own glorification. As it was for Jesus.

During the remaining days of Lent, let us spend some time for reflection on the reality of our human condition, namely, "no pain, no gain," and view it from the perspective of God. Which Jesus did. Which me must also do.