March 20, 2015

Fifth Sunday of Lent / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe 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. Rather, they had decided for themselves to pursue policies, and to move along paths that inevitably led to their current plight.

These policies were dangerous because they were sinful. They ignored God, and they rebelled against him. Nothing good could come of them. Great trouble was inevitable.

Through all these acts of rebellion, God was true to his covenant with his people. The people broke the covenant. God, forever merciful, forgiving and life-giving, promised a new 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, more than vague, imprecise good intentions. It meant living in accord with God’s revealed law.

For its second reading, the Church offers us this weekend a selection from the Epistle to the Hebrews.

This reading looks ahead to Jesus’ passion, which will be the centerpiece of next Sunday’s liturgy of Palm Sunday. It will surround the Church as it celebrates Holy Thursday. It will envelope the Church on Good Friday. The Church will rejoice at the victory of Jesus over death in the Easter Vigil and on Easter Sunday.

Jesus was perfectly obedient to God. He was the teacher, therefore, of perfect obedience. Because of this obedience, Jesus attained life after death. He pledges life after death to us, if we are obedient ourselves.

St. John’s Gospel provides us with the last reading.

Virtually every verse in John’s Gospel is a masterpiece of eloquence and instruction. These 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 his passion. The cross meant intense suffering for Jesus. He was a human, after all, as well as the Son of God.

Yet, Jesus accepted the cross. He died, as all humans must die. It also will be the moment of resurrection. 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.

Reflection

The Church directs us toward the remaining two weeks of Lent. For four weeks, we have been living through this season. It may have become dreary. The Church gives us these readings to inspire us and to encourage us.

As inspiration, and as encouragement, the Church reassures us that eternal life awaits if we are faithful to God.

There is more at stake here than the simple observance of a liturgical season. Lent, and our response, merely reflect human life. Life can be dreary. 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, not only about endurance. If we follow Jesus all the way 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. We must be faithful to God. The Church urges us today to recommit ourselves to God, and to scrutinize the sincerity of our intentions. †

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