If someone were to tell you that they were a lawyer, a doctor, a mechanic. a dentist, a joiner, a painter, an engineer or a window cleaner – you would have no difficulty knowing what they did for a living. if someone was to tell you that they were a cosmologist, I am not sure that what they did for a living would come so easily to mind.
A cosmologist is someone who studies the origin, the evolution, the scientific laws that govern the universe. If you are still unsure what a cosmologist is, Stephen Hawkings who recently died was one. Copernicus was another, Kepler and Sir Isaac newton, Einstien would be other names you might recognise - these were all cosmologists. These people have helped us to understand the universe: that our world is not flat, that the planets in our solar system orbit the sun not the earth, what gravitation is, they help us to understand how the universe begins in a big bang, they tell us how we can explore the universe, send probes to other planets, how to explore other worlds.
Today in the Gospel reading some people want to speak to our Lord, these people are unnamed they are simply described from where they come, namely Greece. The Greeks, like those Cosmologists of our own day, were amongst the most smart people in the known world and everyone wanted to be like them, learned and wise.
They were amongst the first people who were interested in the stars in a scientific way, their movements, their position, logging information. Infact they were interested in all forms of knowledge. They were described as philosophers – lovers of wisdom.
In this passage those same Greeks have come to Jerusalem, itself a centre of learning and culture, they have come like others for the Passover festival, but perhaps there is another reason that they have come, maybe they are interested in meeting the wise one, the sage, the rabbi Jesus who caused such a stir. If they get their hands on him they would question him after listening to him, because that was the Greek way. Infact we don’t hear their questions; all we hear of is the talk that is given to them. Jesus speaks to them in riddles: unless a wheat grain dies in the earth it won’t produce fruit; unless a person gives up his life he won’t have life; the person who seeks to serve him must follow him; where he is his servant will be there too; the arrival of a definitive hour.
We hardly understand what Jesus means ourselves and we can imagine that his Greek listeners would have been mystified by what he says.
This is clearly not the kind of knowledge that identifies the stars, plots their journeys of the planets or helps them in their measurements. Jesus has come not to speak about the mystery of the universe but the mystery of God.
That wasn’t unpalatable to the Greeks, they would have been respectful of it. A holy and wise man could give much wisdom, no matter what he had to say.
But he has something different to tell them about God, something that they would never have heard before and which at the very least would have made them think.
Whether Jesus convinced them, neither St John nor the other Gospel writers tell us. We don’t know if the Greeks went away impressed, disappointed or perplexed. We do hear, however, of these Greeks later on – Greeks like them are at the Pentecost and marvel at what becomes of these men who followed Jesus and who spoke in languages or ways that they could all understand. Maybe that made them more perplexed.
We know that the men and women of our own day like the Greeks are perplexed at Jesus and yet like these same Greeks are anxious to see him and meet him. Those men and women of our own day likewise, even although are unbelievers, are anxious to listen to him, his teaching, his stories, want to know about his good ways. For them his words are wise words to lead your life by. It’s a philosophy to build a good life on and a good world - that’s all it is.
The Greeks of the Gospel are men with questions. They represent the human mind is always searching. The human mind always wants to know more. The human mind is restless. The human mind always wants answers.
The Greeks whom we hear of in that passage have inquisitive minds, they are curious, they want to know more. They are not unlike most of us who have questions, is it not at the heart of each of us that we search and want to know more, that we have questioning minds.
The person who is not curious never finds out anything. The person who has no questions will never know anything. The person who fails to search will end up nowhere.
The first steps of faith belong to the questioning mind – how why and what. The first part of faith is to wonder who God is, what he is and what his purposes is. Many people before us have wondered these things and many people after us.
It is the very essence of being human to question. These Greeks did it and in recent centuries those great cosmologists did it also. It is only in asking questions that answers come
These Greeks in the Gospel of today’s mass had their questions – I wonder if they got them answered. I wonder if the answers given to them were enough for them or whether they went elsewhere – we don’t know. The Gospel doesn’t tell us. All it tells us that they sought Jesus out for an answer to their questions.