Fifth 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, namely that despite human sinfulness and treachery, God always is merciful. He always forgives. He never forsakes the people.
Jeremiah constantly wrote with this theme in his mind. He had no doubt. The people had gravely sinned, and consequently they had brought chaos and misery into their lives. Thus is it with humans. God, however, saves sinners from their plight.
This weekend’s reading speaks of a New Covenant. The people’s sins had severely rebuked the old covenant, given to the people through Moses, and then to David and his dynasty, but 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. It abundantly proclaims the most profound of Jewish beliefs, 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. The Lord made possible eternal salvation for all who obey.
St. John’s Gospel supplies the last reading. Greeks who were visiting Jerusalem sought Jesus. They approached Philip, an apostle. Philip went to Andrew, another of the Twelve.
An interesting incidental was that contact with Jesus is initiated through the Apostles. It shows that in the Early Church, when this Gospel was written, the Apostles were very, very important because they literally had known the Lord. They were the Lord’s special students, chosen to represent the Lord. Since they personally had been chosen, they acted and spoke with the very authority of Jesus.
Jesus placed a dark cloud over this reading. He predicted the crucifixion but implied that Calvary would result in life for all. To illustrate, Jesus spoke of a grain of wheat, lifeless and tiny; but, the Lord notes that from this small piece of nature, the mustard seed, new life springs. Finally, Jesus says that no gift is as total as the giving of a person’s life.
The Gospel reveals the intimacy between Jesus and God the Father, and between the Lord and His disciples. This intimacy with the disciples necessarily requires their absolute will to follow the Lord regardless of the cost, which may be very high. Discipleship may not be easy.
Next weekend the Church will celebrate Palm Sunday, or Passion Sunday. In two weeks, the Church will call us to mark this year’s Holy Week with its magnificent, expressive liturgy of the Triduum.
Two consoling lessons emerge from this weekend’s Gospel reading. The Lord Jesus and God the Father are perfectly and inseparably one. So, Jesus prays to the Father and is answered. Jesus is the supreme channel for the outpouring of divine everlasting love. The self-sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary is the sublime act of God’s 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 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.
The key to bonding with God 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 obey God. Hebrews and Mark extoll the obedience of Christ.
Such unqualified obedience is demanding, to say the least, but nothing else will suffice.
In obedience is genuine acknowledgement of God, a statement of reality, of who we are, and of who God is.
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