5th Sunday of Lent
The Book of Jeremiah provides this weekend’s first reading. A common theme runs through all the written prophecies of ancient Israel. It is that despite human sinfulness and treachery, God always is merciful. He also forgives. He never forsakes the people.
Jeremiah constantly wrote with this theme in the back of his mind. In his estimate, the people had gravely sinned. Consequently, they had brought chaos and misery into their lives. God, however, saves sinners from their plight.
This weekend’s reading speaks of a new Covenant. The old Covenant, given to the people through Moses, and then to David and his dynasty, had been severely stressed by the people’s sins. God would offer a new way to life, peace and joy.
The Epistle to the Hebrews supplies the second reading. This epistle is rich in Jewish symbolism, and it abundantly proclaims the most profound of Jewish beliefs, namely that God will never fail in mercy and forgiveness if the people reform.
This reading underscores the role of Jesus, the Son of God, in the divine plan to redeem the lost. His suffering on the cross affirmed and verified perfect obedience to the Father. In this obedience was eternal salvation for all who also obey.
St. John’s Gospel supplies the last reading. Greeks who are visiting Jerusalem seek Jesus. They approach Philip, an apostle. Philip went to Andrew, another of the Twelve.
An interesting incidental here is that contact with Jesus is initiated through the Apostles. In the early Church, when this Gospel was written, the Apostles were very, very important. They literally had known the Lord. They were the Lord’s special students. They were chosen to be the Lord’s representatives. They acted and spoke with the very authority of, and upon explicit commission of, Jesus.
Jesus brings an ominous overtone to this reading. He predicts death. He then implies that the crucifixion will result in life for all. He speaks of a grain of wheat falling to the ground, lifeless and tiny. However, the Lord notes, from this small piece of reality, the mustard seed, new life springs. Finally, Jesus speaks of giving so total that it is the gift of a person’s life.
The Gospel reveals the intimacy between Jesus and God the Father, and between the Lord and disciples. In this intimacy between the Lord and disciples must be a disciple’s will to follow the Lord despite the costs. Discipleship well may not be easy.
Next weekend, the Church will celebrate Palm Sunday, or Passion Sunday. In not too many days, the Church will call us to mark this year’s Holy Week with its magnificent, compelling Triduum.
Two consoling lessons emerge from this weekend’s Gospel reading. One is about the intimacy between the Lord and God the Father. The Lord declares that the Father will bless true disciples, true servants of Jesus. The Lord is the perfect teacher. He is the bearer of Redemption.
Then, Jesus prays to the Father and is answered. Jesus is the supreme figure in the outpouring of divine everlasting love. The self-sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary is the perfect act of divine love.
God’s love is never restricted or limited. In the first verse of this Gospel reading, Greeks wished to see Jesus. New life awaits all who simply turn to the Lord.
The key, of course, is wholeheartedly to turn to the Lord. Obedience is a vitally important part of each of the lessons this weekend. Jeremiah called the people to obedience. Hebrews and Mark extoll the obedience of Christ, our only model and Lord.
Such unqualified obedience is demanding, to say the least, but nothing else will suffice. We must obey God, as Jesus obeyed God. In our absolute, uncompromised obedience to the Father is our personal redemption.
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