The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt; for they broke my covenant, and I had to show myself their master, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord. I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives how to know the Lord. All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the Lord, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.
In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
Gospel Cycle Cycle B
Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me. “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.
As we listen to the readings today, we hear a clear message from our God: I will save you! God tells us that it is He who does the work of salvation! This is always so necessary for us to hear again and again! Today we hear that it is God who will make the new covenant with His people. We hear the words of Jesus that He will draw everyone to Himself. And in the letter to the Hebrews, we hear that Jesus became a source of salvation to all who obey.
All of these readings can go right over our heads! We need to listen attentively to hear what it is that God is saying to us.
The Prophet Jeremiah did not have an easy life. He is a Prophet who had to proclaim God’s word, even though it brought many difficulties into his persona life. Yet this Prophet trusts God entirely. He proclaims this new covenant in which people will know God in their hearts and not just from another person.
These words sound as if we simply need to go into our own hearts to know the Lord-and there is some truth in that. But the Prophets are not proclaiming a religion of individualism! We know that in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Prophets authenticate the Word of God. We know that not every word claimed as inspired is accepted as such. In the new covenant, there is a Church that authenticates the Word of God for us with authority. That is a huge leap, but one that Catholics take over and over. We believe that there is authority within the Church and that authority is exercised by humans. But this is not the point of today’s readings.
It is important to hear that God will pardon sins and no longer remember them. Sometimes an immense amount of energy is spent in trying to entice God to forgive us. That is never necessary! God loves to forgive. That is how Jesus reveals God to us.
The letter to the Hebrews takes us to the theme of obedience and suffering. This is another theme strong in this time of Lent. Obedience is first and foremost obedience to God Himself: listening to His word, pondering His word, meditating that Word, listening to that word especially when it says things we would rather not hear. That is all obedience. And it leads us into suffering. The Prophets suffered over and over and over because of their obedience to the Word of God. Even today many people suffer because they strive to proclaim the word of peace in a time of war. At other times, it may be necessary to proclaim words that sound like war when there is an apathy of peace. Suffering results either way.
The Gospel picks this up again when Jesus tells us that whoever tries to love his life in this world will lose it and that those who hate their lives in this world will save them. These are often words that we do not want to hear today. Instead, so many of our present values want us to act as though this is the only life, that there is no life other than the one we know now.
And lots of people believe that there is nothing after this present life.
We Christians, however, believe in the Word of Christ and we accept that there is a life to come and that the Good Thief was in paradise with Christ that same day that He died and that there is a resurrection into the life of the world to come. These beliefs in another life help us understand that this life really is a time for striving to live for the values that will last for ever. We don’t even have to get involved in the controversies about hell and purgatory: if there is another life after this, how should we live this life in relation to that which will come? So much of Jesus’ teaching is simply an answer to that fundamental question.
Today, this fifth Sunday of Lent, we can listen attentively to God’s Word! We can believe that God loves us and forgives us even as God invites us to live with values that will last for ever. We can accept that any life with such strong values will bring suffering because of the deep obedience to God. May we become so obedient that we can suffer with Christ for the salvation of our world.