Fifth Sunday Of Lent
The Book of Jeremiah is the source of this Lenten weekend’s first Scriptural reading. Jeremiah ranks among the greatest of the ancient Hebrew prophets. He wrote at a very difficult time for his people.
Outside pressures had come to be so strong that the very future existence of the nation, and indeed of the Hebrew race, was at risk. Nervous and uneasy, many blamed God for all the misfortune.
Jeremiah insisted that God had not delivered the people into peril. Instead, they had decided for themselves to pursue policies and to move along paths that inevitably led to their situation.
These policies were dangerous because they were sinful. They ignored God, and they rejected God. Nothing good could come of them. Great trouble was inevitable.
Through all these acts of rebellion, God was true to the Covenant. The people broke the Covenant. God, forever merciful, forgiving and life-giving, promised a new, perfect Covenant. If the people would be faithful to this new Covenant, and if they would sin no more, they would survive.
Being faithful to the new Covenant and sinning no more meant more than verbal pledges and vague, imprecise good intentions. It meant living fully in accord with God’s revealed law.
For its second reading, the Church offers us this weekend a selection from the Letter to the Hebrews.
This reading looks ahead to the Passion, the centerpiece of next Sunday’s liturgy of Palm Sunday. The Passion will surround the Church as it celebrates Holy Thursday. It will envelope the Church on Good Friday. Then, fully alert to all that the passion of Christ meant, the Church will rejoice at the victory of Jesus over death in the Easter Vigil and at Easter.
Perfectly obedient to God, Jesus was the teacher of genuine obedience. Because of obedience, Jesus attained life after death. He promises life after death to us, if we are obedient ourselves.
St. John’s Gospel provides the last reading.
John’s Gospel is a masterpiece of eloquence and instruction. This weekend’s verses are no exception. Indeed, quoting Jesus, they are nothing less than jewels of literary and theological exposition.
Jesus is clear. His hour is approaching. It will be the hour of the Passion. The cross meant intense suffering for Jesus. He was a human, as well as Son of God, subject to human suffering.
Yet, Jesus freely accepted the cross. He died, as all humans must die, but in glory, Jesus rose. He lives!
All believers must walk in the Lord’s footprints. All must die, literally, but also all must die to sin. Death in either case will be hard in coming. If confronted in the love of God, resurrection will follow.
The Church directs us toward the last remaining two weeks of Lent. For four weeks, we have been living through this season. It may not have been easy. We may have been distracted. Our intentions may have weakened.
As inspiration, and as encouragement, the Church reassures us in these readings that if we are faithful to God, eternal life awaits.
Lent, and our response, reflect human life. Life can be dreary. It can be threatening, as the pandemic showed us. Life can mean for any of us, often for many of us, a daily carrying of crosses to personal Calvaries.
The Church this weekend therefore speaks to us about life, as earthly life truly is. If we follow Jesus to Calvary, by obediently consenting to God’s will, and by putting God first, the glory of eternal life awaits us.
Lent has been a time so far to focus ourselves upon being faithful to God. The Church urges us today to recommit ourselves to God and to measure the sincerity of our intentions.
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