5th Sunday of Lent Year B

Jer 31:31-34 / PS 51: 3-4, 12-13, 14-15 / Heb 5:7-9 / Jn 12:20-33

     This season of preparation for Easter which we call Lent is quickly drawing to a close. In just one short week we will enter the holiest days of our Church’s year, Holy Week, when we will contemplate the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Savior. This Sunday marks a transition in our Lenten journey. For the past 4 ½ weeks, through our fasting, penances and almsgiving, we have looked inward at ourselves to discover those areas where we need to die to self but for these next two weeks of Lent, having seen the great need we have for God’s mercy we will focus more on the events of our redemption than on our own penitential devotions.

     I don’t know about you, but the world seems to be getting darker and darker. It’s getting to the point where I dread looking at the news. The news of Christians being burned alive in the Middle East, politicians directly attacking the sanctity of marriage and the family, and confusion with some of the faithful over fundamental Church teaching is cause for great concern. Often when we are faced with evil and suffering we try to come up with an explanation or an excuse as a means of escaping the pain. We try to have the triumphant Resurrection of Easter without the Crucifixion of Good Friday. “In the face of suffering and death human beliefs and ideologies are all, more or less, explicitly doctrine of escape … No doctrine of escape is worthy of God.”[1] My brothers and sisters as we approach these most holy days in our Church let us remember that the crucifix is not a curse to run from, but a witness to hope. Let us not forget that it is our vocation to sit at the foot of the cross where we will find salvation.

     Through our baptism we were freed from sin and reborn as sons and daughters of God.[2] Through baptism we were welcomed into the new and everlasting covenant; the covenant which was ratified by the spilling of Christ’s blood on the cross so that sins may be forgiven.[3] In our baptism we were claimed for Christ, where He wrote the same covenant He promised the prophet Jeremiah on our own hearts, claiming us to be His people and He will be our God. In our own baptism, each of us has been called into a covenant with God and this covenant calls us to love, it calls us to the cross. , which is the ultimate expression of love. At our baptism we became like the seed, we died to sin and rose to new life, but now the challenge is for us to daily go to the cross to daily die to sinful ways of this world. There is no other way for the Christian who wishes to fulfill his vocation than by way of the cross. The logic of the cross, taught by Jesus that “he who loves his life must lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” is a stark warning that there is no other way to experience the joys of heaven without daily dying to oneself.

     The whole idea of a covenant seems like a foreign idea to those of us who live in the legalistic culture of contracts. In a contract, if one of the parties does something in violation of the contract then the contract is broken and it becomes null and void, because the signers of the contract did not hold up their end of the deal, but in a covenant both parties agree to uphold their ends of the deal regardless of how the other party acts. God showed us through His death on the cross that He will always be our God and we will always be His people, but do we show our fidelity to that covenant by the way we live our lives? In just two short weeks, on Easter, we will renew our own baptismal promises, we will renew our covenant with God, but in so doing we recall that “salvation is not from reciting the creed but from the cross.”[4] It is not enough for us to stand up and profess our faith in God, rather our covenant with Him requires us to live out those promises by going cross through the witness of our life.

     At our baptism the Holy Spirit came to dwell inside our heart. God changed the relationship He had with us, from one of external power to one of internal unity. If we really want to see Jesus we need to die to ourselves. Like David in today’s psalm all of us can confess our need for God’s mercy; we can confess that we have fallen, but through the ministry of Christ working through His Church we can proclaim that forgiveness is possible, not from some form of animal sacrifice, but through the blood of Christ himself, who always upholds His end of the covenant and constantly calls each of us back into relationship with Him.

     My friends, as the holiest days of the year are upon us, are we prepared to journey with our Lord to the cross in order to find salvation? What are those areas where I still need to die to self so that I may rise with Him on Easter Sunday and honestly renew my baptismal promises? If we really want to see Jesus we will run to the cross where we will see that our Lord takes the sufferings we face in this world, either those brought on by the world, or those freely undertaken by our fasting, penances and almsgiving and uses them to give us opportunities to participate with His grace in our own salvation and the salvation of others in the Church. It is only because we suffer that we can hold out hope for eternal life, for in suffering we imitate God. It was Christ’s suffering that lead to His resurrection. Why should it be any different for us? Christ freely chose to suffer for us, now we must freely choose to do the same.

[1] Cardinal Albert Vanhoe. Our Priest is Christ. (1969) pg. 56.

[2] CCC 1213

[3] The Roman Canon

[4] Fulton Sheen. Those Mysterious Priests. Statan Island: Alba House. 2010. pg 31.

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