In the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews that we just heard, we are presented with one of the great ironies of Christianity. The letter states that “when [Our Lord] was made perfect, He because the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.” (Heb. 5:9) So when did Our Lord become perfect? He became perfect when He gave up His life on the Cross. He was glorified when He hung on the Cross, the most painful and humiliating form of punishment the Roman Empire ever used. He became perfect when he glorified the Father's name through His sacrifice.
This is the great irony of Christianity. Those who are greatest in the Church are not those with the most money, the wealthiest in the Church. It's not those with the most power in the Church. It's not even those with the most authority in the Church. The greatest people in the Church, the ones we hold up as the examples to be followed, are the Saints, those men and women who humbled themselves and were willing to give of themselves for Christ. Those who are given as the highest examples for us to emulate, the martyrs, were willing to give up their lives for their faith in Christ. People who would use the Church as a vehicle for gaining power and authority are often quickly forgotten, brushed away as another unpleasant aspect in the Church's history.
This reversal of importance within the Church causes no end of confusion to those who are firmly entrenched in the world. They can't understand how Catholics can celebrate someone like Mother Teresa, who was very poor and humble. Someone might say, “Why is she so important? All she did was take care of a bunch of poor people. She didn't do anything that mattered.” They can't understand how we can respect and want to emulate someone like her, while refusing to listen to celebrities and politicians who have the power and prestige that the media grants them.
Those who are entrenched in the world can't see why we would shun wealth, power, and authority to live a humble life. They can't see that when we cling to this life to the exclusion of anything and anyone else, we lose in the long run. In fact, Our Lord tells us in our Gospel passage today who will have eternal life. “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” (Jn 12:25)
As Christians, we are not to use this life it's own sake. We are not to hang on to our life in this world merely to get the most out of it, but we are to live the most out of this life for Christ's sake, for the sake of the Kingdom. We are to live for ourselves to grow closer to Him and to bring others with us through our living out the Gospel.
Jesus tells us that “whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.” (Jn 12:26) As Christians, we are called to follow Our Lord's example. Our Lord went around preaching the Gospel, lifting up those who were lowly, those who sick; who were poor and downtrodden; who were looked down upon by the culture. He lifted them up, and brought them to the Kingdom.
That's what we're called to do as Christians. We're all called to follow that example, to humble ourselves and give of ourselves for the service of the Kingdom, to help spread the Good News of Christ throughout the world and to bring others to know and love Him. This Good News was given to us by Our Lord, and is why He died on the Cross. He tells us, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (Jn 12:32)
Jesus suffered and died so that we might gain eternal life. May we live that message, and bring others into His Kingdom.