Fifth Sunday of Lent: Jesus speaks about his death
Why did the Cross become the symbol of Christians?
The Cross is first of all an instrument of death. It seems paradoxical that Christians proudly proclaim the infinite love of God and the life everlasting, but, at the same time, venerate the Cross of Jesus. St Paul is clear on this subject: “for Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1Co 1:22-23). For Paul, Christ crucified stands as the heart of the Christian faith.
These Jews and Greeks which Paul points at reflect the temptation of all humanity at all times to distinguish among men those who are pure with those who are impure, those who are elected with those who are not, those who have knowledge with those who have not.
In today’s Gospel, we saw some Greeks approaching Jesus, intrigued by this man who speaks with authority. Here is the Wisdom that Jesus teaches them: “ when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to myself” (Jn 12:32). Jesus teaches them about his death of the cross. The Cross brings a new dimension in his ministry. Jesus is a Jew, the Messiah waited by the Israelites. But, all people, Jews or Greeks, shall be drawn to him. Jesus, by his death of the Cross, is able to gather, join together and enrich by the gift of his grace the universal humanity. The Cross surpasses all division in humanity.
This has been highlighted by Irenaeus of Lyon, a doctor of the Church of the second century. Irenaeus claims that Jesus is the Head of all men and demonstrates therefore the redemption and the surpassing of all values and all hopes, the pardon of all failures and of all sins in Christ. The reconciliation of all humanity with God and among men themselves is the most powerful sign accomplished by Jesus and the deepest wisdom that he taught.
By this reconciliation, all humanity is able to have a glimpse of the true love of God. Actually, even more than a glimpse. Irenaeus indeed said that “the glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation already brings life to all living beings on the earth, how much more will the manifestation of the Father by the Word bring life to those who see God”. In today’s Gospel, we are told that “A voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’” (Jn 12:28). By the Cross, we have a true vision of God. We can see the glory of God, for the life and the reconciliation of all humanity. So the Cross is the instrument of reconciliation and unity. We can be proud of this symbol!