(John 12: 20-33)
A friend of mine tells a story about meeting Mother Theresa in 1990 in San Diego and witnessing a conversation between Mother Theresa and Tony Robbins, the motivational speaker who used to be on infomercials and tell everyone how to be rich, popular and successful. He is about 6’7″ and Mother Theresa was about 4’2″, and he towered over Mother Theresa and asked her: “How did you manage to become so successful and so famous?” And Mother Theresa looked up at him with a smile and said, “Jesus.”
And Tony Robbins said, “No, I mean, how is that you run such a huge religious institution, serve the most desperate people, travel constantly, and yet touch so many people?” “Jesus,” she said again, with a big smile.
“No, I’m asking how you do it,” he continued. “How do you carry on with this difficult, extraordinary life, how do you speak to millions, how do you win the respect of the world, how do you manage to be one of the greatest people in the world and in the history of the world?” And Mother Theresa looked up at him and said, “Jesus.” And Tony Robbins was totally mystified. He had no idea what she was talking about.
I think we are called to be that focused, that centered, that single-minded about Jesus. Jesus is the most loving, the most courageous, the most heroic, the bravest, the most nonviolent, the most compassionate, the most peaceful, the most prayerful, the most committed person who ever lived. He is the embodiment of love and peace, the standard by which we measure our lives, the model human being. So the spiritual life is the journey to live in the presence of Jesus, to walk with Jesus, to be with Jesus in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening, to eat and drink Jesus, to breathe in his holy spirit of love and peace, to enter his story, to become part of his life, to follow him on the road to peace and life.
In the Gospel today, just before the Last Supper, when these Greeks arrive and Jesus realizes his hour has come, Jesus offers a beautiful invitation which we might reflect on as we head toward Passion Sunday and Holy Week.
“Whoever serves me, must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.” We are invited to be servants and followers of Jesus, to be with Jesus. No matter what we’re going through in our lives, with our personal problems, our health, our family, our job, the church, and this horrific, immoral war, as Christians we try to serve Jesus, to do what he wants, and that means, according to John, we have to follow Jesus and following Jesus means living as Jesus lived, loving as Jesus loved, doing the things that he does–healing, serving and forgiving one another, standing for peace and justice, loving even our enemies, living in contemplative prayer with our God and carrying the cross for peace and justice. If we do these things and follow him, he says, wherever he is, we will be. So I hear the Gospel inviting us to live every day from now on in his presence, to try to be at his side, and to trust that as his servants and followers, we will be with him now, today, for the rest of our lives and forever.
As Jeremiah says, he will be our God and will be his people, and his law of love, compassion and nonviolence will be written in our hearts, so, like Jesus we too will give our lives for one another. We will be that grain of wheat falling to the ground, trusting that when we die, our lives of love, service, compassion and peace will bear good fruit.
Then Jesus says, “Now the ruler of this world will be driven out, and when I am lifted up on the cross, I will draw everyone to myself.” Jesus is driving out the ruler of this world, and that includes the rulers servants, the rich and powerful, the generals and presidents and dictators, all the powers of death and destruction and oppression. All of that will fall away.
As Jesus goes to the cross to be crucified, showing perfect love, forgiveness and nonviolence, yet insisting on the truth that we love one another and trust God, his innocent suffering and death will eventually melt every human heart. All will eventually turn back to him, beg his pardon, be converted to him and his way of love, peace and nonviolence. Everyone will renounce sin, evil, violence and war and in the end, he will win us all over, draw us all to himself, and take us all to live in his presence.
So our job is to get ready for Jesus, to keep our eyes on Jesus, to prepare our hearts for Jesus, to reform our lives for Jesus, to turn back to God for Jesus, to welcome God’s reign of peace and nonviolence for Jesus, to love everyone unconditionally for Jesus, to resist this war for Jesus, to serve Jesus, to follow Jesus and as he comes to us in this Eucharist, to welcome Jesus with all our hearts, and one day, when someone asks us about our lives and how we do the good things we do, we can answer like Mother Theresa and say, “Jesus.”