During the season of Lent, we are invited to dig deeper into some fundamental questions about our existence: life and death, identity, belonging, choices, and so on. Some of these issues are just too difficult and painful to contemplate but are unavoidable nonetheless. This week’s Gospel reading from John invites us to confront the meaning of life and death, not in a threatening way but gently, peeling off layers of fear and brokenness to reveal the light and hope hidden in one of the darkest moments in our life.
This week’s readings reveal the mission of Jesus; He comes among us not to gain praises or power for himself but to glorify His Father. He fully understands and freely accepts the difficult path that He must tread to fulfill His Father’s will: “‘I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’” (Jn 12:27). He willingly bears the entire weight of the anxiety and uneasiness in anticipation of “the kind of death he would die” (Jn 12:33). Jesus’ humanity may have weighed Him down but His divinity uplifts Him to acknowledge that, “But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name” (Jn 12:27). Just as the American poet, Robert Frost, reflects in “The Road Not Taken”, Jesus sees two paths diverge ahead of Him on the eve of the Passover Feast. Not without struggle, He braves the one less travelled by and “that has made all the difference” (Frost).
What does this less travelled path look like for Jesus? For each one of us? For Jesus, this path is full of heartbreaks, danger, and pain. His friends betray and eventually abandon Him; heavily armed soldiers arrest Him and bring Him before the Sanhedrin to be trialed; He is tortured and finally nailed on the cross, suffering a slow and painful death. Yet, He sticks to this narrow road, “he learned obedience from what he suffered” (Heb 5:8). Jesus explains the necessity of His sacrifice for our salvation, “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” (Jn 12:24). How shall we even begin to respond to such great love and sacrifice? Jesus shows us the way, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me” (Jn 12:25-26).
Therefore, the road less travelled for each one of us is the way of Christ. We must humbly ask God to “create a clean heart … a steadfast spirit renew within [us]” that we may know and love God “with all [our] heart, and with all [our] soul, and with all [our] might” (Ps 51: 10,12; Dt 6:5). With God’s Spirit dwelling in us, we are empowered to face difficult choices and all the hills and valleys along life’s journey. Though the path is narrow and full of obstacles, we tread with a confidence that comes from knowing God and trusting in His promise: “I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer 31:33). Just as the Son of God chooses to fulfill His Father’s will, we, too, pray that we will have the faith and courage to follow Jesus’ footsteps. Indeed, God has our back! He said, “do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Is 41:10).