Saint John Ogilvie – Readings

Saint Dominic Savio – Commentary on Isaiah 50:5-9; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; John 12:24-26

The Gospel reading for today is a very meaningful passage from John’s gospel. It is an incident which takes place towards the end of Jesus’ public life when he is already in Jerusalem and shortly before the Last Supper. Just before today’s reading opens we are told that some Greeks had come up to Jerusalem for the celebration of the coming Passover. They were probably non-Jews who were sympathetic to Jewish beliefs. They approached the apostle Philip and told him that they would like to see Jesus. (Philip’s name is Greek, as is Andrew’s, and they may have been able to speak Greek.) Probably, since their arrival in the city, they had heard many stories about Jesus, about his teaching and his healing powers. They wanted to see this man for themselves. Philip then went to tell his fellow apostle, Andrew, and together they went to pass the request to Jesus. It is at this point that our passage today opens. It consists of the reply of Jesus to the request of the Greeks. If it was passed on to them it must have sounded somewhat enigmatic as an answer. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain. But, if it dies, it produces many grains.” But, on reflection, the meaning is actually quite clear. These men had asked to “see” Jesus. Probably, their desire was literally to see, to look at this man about whom they had heard so much. But to “see” involves much more than this. To “see” Jesus means to have a deep understanding of who he is, an understanding of his mission. And this means that one does not understand or “see” Jesus unless one realises that his coming suffering and death is an integral part of who he is. The words of Jesus, of course, are as much directed at his disciples (including us) as they are to the enquiring Greeks. Jesus goes on then to spell out the full meaning of his first sentence. “Those who love their life will lose it, while those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Jesus clearly was ready to surrender his life in order to win a life that would never end. And it is not only Jesus who must walk this way. All his disciples (including us) must also be ready to do the same. So he goes on, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant will also be.” So to “see” Jesus cannot be confined to watching from a distance or from the outside. It is only an “insider”, one who identifies totally with the dying to self and is ready to share it, who can really “see” and know Jesus. In giving up his own life for the defence of his faith, John Ogilvie showed clearly that he had this spirit.

The First Reading is from the prophet Isaiah and is part of one of the songs of the ‘Suffering Servant’, which is applied to Jesus in his Passion. “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting… He who vindicates me is near.” The similarity with the sufferings of Jesus is clear but it also describes the kind of physical abuse to which John Ogilvie was subjected.

The Second Reading is from the Second Letter to the Corinthians. Again it is a well-known passage where Paul describes God, the Father of Jesus, as the source of all comfort in our lives. In fact, the word ‘comfort’ appears at least nine times in this relatively short passage. ‘Comfort’ is only one possible translation of the word paraklesis (paraklhsis). This is the word from which ‘Paraclete’ also comes, a word which can be translated as ‘comforter’. It is a word also used for a defence lawyer in a court of law. So it does just not mean giving comfort, but also standing by a person and backing them up when they come under attack. God is all these things to us and especially in times of difficulty. It was this God who gave John Ogilvie the strength to maintain his faith under extreme pressure and to go with peace and confidence to his death. And, if we have to undergo trials, we might hear these words of Paul coming also from Jesus and John Ogilvie, who all gave their lives for the Gospel: “Our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in the our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”

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