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  • Writer's pictureDeacon Bob Evans

Dying to See Jesus

The votes were counted and by a margin of more than 10 to 1 the measure passed. In the past few weeks, France became the first nation in the world to guarantee abortion on demand in their constitution. Many are still shocked: “how could the most Catholic nation in the world in the 1950s become so morally lost today?” The vast majority of those in their parliament who voted for that constitutional amendment profess to be Catholics. What has happened to France?  The answer to that question can be found in the Gospel reading for the 5th Sunday in Lent this year [cf. John 12:20-33]. But it’s not obvious, so let’s turn to that passage in John’s Gospel.


“Sir, we would like to see Jesus.


It was around midday on what we would call Holy Thursday. Jesus and His disciples were in the large outer courtyard of the Temple know as the Court of Gentiles. Some Greeks were there to observe Passover. They approached Philip (and we need to follow the dialog closely here). They said to Philip, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus” [John 12:21b]. Philip relayed the request to Andrew, and they both went to Jesus expecting some answer like: “Sure” or “A little later” or something like that. But that’s not how Jesus responded at all.


Now the Court of Gentiles was so large it could hold about 40,000 people.1 So there would have been a huge crowd within earshot of Jesus. Jesus then spoke His last public words in His earthly ministry. He said to them all: “unless a grain of wheat fails to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” [John 12:24].  In other words, if you wish to see Jesus, you must first die – not die physically, but die to oneself that what God asks of you can be fulfilled.  How does this relate to what happened in France?


They extensively studied why Catholicism was so rapidly collapsing in France.


Well, beginning in the 1970’s, French historian Fernand Boulard, and more recently historian Guillaume Cuchet, extensively studied why Catholicism was so rapidly collapsing in France. They found that it had little to do with issues over Church doctrines or even the clergy scandal. What they found was that, beginning in the 1960’s, the French education system started focusing heavily on the subject of “freedom of conscience,” which had been widely spoken of in Vatican II. 2 But the French educators followed the lead of French philosopher, Theodore Jouffroy, who professed that if you control the education of the children, you will have shaped their perception of shared values and the public policies they will promote when they are adults.3 French educators have been presenting a seriously incomplete understanding of conscience ever since, in both their secular and religious schooling throughout France.


Man’s conscience must be well-formed, educated and guided by the will of the Creator.


The Church’s teachings on conscience have long been that “Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions.” But man’s conscience must be “well-formed, educated and guided by the will of the Creator” as expressed in the Word of God and the teachings of the Church [CCC 1782-1783]. A well-formed conscience does not operate on the basis of wants, but on divine-guidance. In the absence of such guidance, there is no dying to oneself as Jesus had proclaimed in His last public words. Rather, there is enshrining oneself as the authority on what is right and wrong. This is the path that took the soul of France to ruin. 4


Without dying to ourselves, we can’t see Jesus, the light of the world.

Children are naturally filled with curiosity. They want answers that address “Why” questions? And those answers need to form a framework for their decision making, particularly on matters of right and wrong. The lesson of this Gospel passage is that without dying to ourselves, we can’t see Jesus, the light of the world. Then, there is nothing to guide our conscience, no principles to rely on, there’s only the darkness of error.


So, this brings us to the question we must ask ourselves: “Are we dying to see Jesus?  Or are we, individually and collectively, making the same mistake the French did, putting personal will in place of God’s will?” Is our failing to die to self, making us part of the problem in our own country?


‘Till next time,


Dcn. Bob Evans



Scripture references

John 12:20-33


1.     Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: It's Ministry and Services as they were at the time of Jesus Christ, (London: Addyman Books, 1880).

2.     Guillaume Cuchet, How Our World Ceased Being Christian: Anatomy of a Collapse, (Paris: Editions Points, 2020).

3.     Bernard Plongeron, Popular Religion – Historical Approaches (Paris: Beauchesne, 1976)].

4.    John Pepino, “Anatomist of the Catholic Collapse in France and Beyond” in The Catholic World Report, Sept 13, 2022.  

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