5th Sunday of Lent

We are all witnesses of the amazing advances in modern medicine. New drugs, new methods, new techniques; all these things make our human life easier, longer and more satisfactory. The power that drives this development is the desire to survive. A person will be willing to do many things to save and extend life – suicides are a sad exception.

We are truly fortunate to live now, with so many possibilities and chances to live longer. But when we listen to today’s gospel we might doubt it. It seems to go completely in the opposite direction: “anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life”. Some questions rapidly start to appear: Is eternal life more interesting and certain than our earthly one? Surely our earthly life is more real than the promised, but unseen life of heaven? And last but not least: do we really have to hate our earthly life?

The simplest answer to these questions appears to be: Yes. But we need to look more closely at the words of Jesus. Let’s take a wider look at the New Testament.

Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans writes this: “Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind”. Using different words Paul says exactly the same thing as Jesus. But Paul’s words offer us new light as we seek to understand the message of the gospel. Let’s look at another text, this time from the first letter of Saint John; listen: “You must not love this passing world […] because everything the world has to offer: the sensual body, the lustful eyes, pride in possessions, […] even the world itself, with all it craves for, is coming to an end.”

We could look at other texts, but the two we have used show us quite clearly, that the message of Christ in today’s gospel concerns an internal personal attitude. We are called to fight against the evil that would try to live in our hearts; we are called to fight against selfishness and egotism, and to re-model our hearts according to the pattern of Jesus. Fighting against earthly desires in ourselves is the road that leads to a new and heavenly life. So, you see we can achieve a foretaste of heaven here and now.