03.21.2021 Fifth Sunday of Lent

“The Melting Watch”

1954


Salvador Dalí

1904 – 1989

Museum of Modern Art

New York City


The ‘Melting Watch’ (also known as the “Soft Watch at the Moment of First Explosion”) is an example of the Surrealist Movement. Created in 1954, Dalí used a dream-like quality and ghostly appearance to accentuate the mysterious and the unexplainable in the painting. Surrealism rejects logic, reason and natural order. It uses techniques such as juxtaposition (a method for rejecting harmony in their work) and incorporates surreal objects and subject matter. Dalí uses these same techniques in his painting “Soft Watch at the Moment of Explosion” to intrigue his viewers and provoke their reflection.

In this painting, Dalí assimilates shadowy outlines of objects and uses a dream-like quality in the way the watch twists and its broken pieces unexplainably float above it. Note also the ‘ghostly’ way the watch drapes over one edge of the box as if it is melting away. The watch seems to be pulling apart and stretching. This may denote Dalí’s belief that with the passing of time comes eventual destruction.


Lectio


John 12:20-33

20 “Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him,

‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus’.

22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

23 Jesus answered them,

‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour. 27 Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say —Father, save me from this hour? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name’.

Then a voice came from heaven,

‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again’.

29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said,

‘An angel has spoken to him’.

30 Jesus answered,

‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself’.

33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die”.


Meditatio

Context

We are celebrating the last Sunday of Lent as next Sunday is already Palm Sunday. Today’s readings recount God’s promises to humanity, and those promises are fulfilled in the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour. Jesus, before going to Jerusalem, brought Lazarus back to life from the tomb. News had spread that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem[1]. It is in this context we find the Gospel of this Sunday.


Introduction

Jesus’ response to the request of the Greeks to see Him is found in the answer he gives to Philip[2]. Jesus announces that his hour has come, meaning his Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension, and what follows is an explanation of “the hour” for the world to hear. The Greeks represent people in search of truth and meaning in their lives. The raising to life of Lazarus in effect meant a death sentence for Jesus. If we want to truly see Jesus, then we need to look at him dying on a Cross in order that we might all live eternally.


The hour has come

The ‘hour’ in the Gospel of John is the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, in other words his glorification. John has prepared for this ‘hour’ from the beginning of his Gospel. It is the time for truth: the Passion and glorification of the Messiah. Jesus, fully aware of his impending death, says “unless the wheat of grain falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit”[3]. He freely gives his life for the world. True life is only found in freely giving one’s life for others as Jesus did. The passages in the Gospel that speak about losing one’s live as a follower of Christ are many[4].


Dying in order to live

The grain of wheat cannot bear fruit so long as it is remains out of the ground. Only when it is thrown into the soil does it bear fruit. It is through the death of the martyrs that the Church grew. In the famous phrase of Tertullian: “The blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the Church”. It is because men and women have been prepared to die, that the Church has flourished. On a more personal level, it is only when we bury our personal aims and ambitions that we are of real use to God and his Kingdom.


When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself

John describes, in an apocalyptic language[5], the victory of Jesus over his death on the Cross. He did not see any failure whatsoever in Jesus dying on the Cross, rather it is from the Cross that He will draw all people to Himself[6]. Death is not imposed upon Jesus. It is Jesus Himself who choses death and his death becomes a judgement on the falsehood of the world. It is now the time for truth, for a new life and a new humanity.

Conclusion

Often we want to see Jesus on our terms. We fear to face pain, loss and death in whatever form it comes in our lives. Sometimes we want something from Jesus more than we want Jesus himself. There is a real danger that we become consumers of God’s life rather than participants in God’s life. Being disciples and followers of Jesus means participating in his life, death and resurrection. This is what Jesus warns the Greeks who want to see him.


Oratio

“We thank You, Lord God, for all the benefits You have given us in your Son Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, Friend, and Brother,

and for all the pains and insults He has borne for us;

and we pray that we may see Christ more clearly,

love him more dearly,

and follow him more nearly;

who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever.

Bishop Richard of Chichester


Psalm 84: 8-12

“The God of gods will be seen in Zion.

O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;

give ear, O God of Jacob!

Behold our shield, O God;

look on the face of your anointed.

For a day in your courts is better

than a thousand elsewhere.

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God

than live in the tents of wickedness.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;

he bestows favour and honour.

No good thing does the Lord withhold

from those who walk uprightly.

O Lord of hosts,

happy is everyone who trusts in you”.

Contemplatio

Holy Week is fast approaching.

We remind ourselves that without Good Friday there can be no Easter Sunday.


In every death, there is life.

The grain of wheat dies, and through death will be transformed into life-giving nourishment. In the loss of relationships, health and of all that is dear to us, there is always a call to deepen our awareness of the true meaning of life.


We all face fear and apprehension.

Jesus underwent the experience of fear and apprehension when He exclaimed: “My soul is troubled … save me from this hour”. His life helped him prepare for this moment: “It was for this very reason I have come to this hour”. We learn from Him to say ‘yes’ to the many challenges of life with courage and strength.


Those who came from afar did not go directly to Jesus.

The Greeks asked Philip to see Jesus. Evidently, the Disciples were closest to Him and knew how to speak to Him. As we meet people who are searching for God, we should be aware that we can be instrumental in their encounter with the Lord.

[1] John 12:9: “When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came, not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, who he had risen from the dead”. [2] John 12:23: “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified”. [3] John 12:24 [4] Mark 8:35: “For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save It”. Matthew 10:39: “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it”. Matthew 16:25: “It us enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. It they have called the master of the house Be-elzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household”. Luke 9:24: “For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it”. Luke 17:33: “Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose his life will preserve it”. [5] John 12: 31-33 [6] John 3:14-15: “But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will never will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life”. John 8:28: “The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw water”.

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