March 27, 2009

Fifth Sunday of Lent / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Jeremiah provides this weekend’s first reading.

Jeremiah’s eloquence and the length of his writings place him among the great prophets.

A theme common among all the prophets is that, despite human sinfulness, God is always merciful.

Jeremiah constantly wrote with this theme in the back of his mind. As a nation, the people had turned away from God, consequently bringing chaos and misery into their lives.

Their misfortune was not the result of God’s indifference to them. Certainly, it was not because God deserted them. Rather, they created the problem.

This weekend’s reading speaks of a new day. God will offer a new way to life, peace and joy.

The Epistle to the Hebrews is the source of the second reading.

This epistle’s authorship and origin are disputed. Undisputed are its compelling language as well as its deep insights into the person and mission of Jesus, the Redeemer.

As the name implies, it is rich in Jewish symbolism and it is abundant in the most profound of Jewish beliefs. These beliefs form the context into which Jesus came as God’s Son and as Savior.

This reading refers to the Crucifixion. Jesus, the Son of God, willingly accepted the pain of death on the cross. He was not the helpless victim of circumstances or the scheming of others. He chose to die on Calvary. He was obedient to God’s will.

St. John’s Gospel supplies the last reading.

An interesting incidental in this reading is that contact with Jesus is initiated through the Apostles. In the early Church, when this Gospel was written, the Apostles were very important. They literally had known the Lord, were the Lord’s special students and were chosen to be the Lord’s representatives. They acted and spoke with authority.

Jesus brings an ominous overtone to this reading. He predicts death. He speaks of a grain of wheat falling to the ground, lifeless and tiny. However, from this small piece of reality, wondrous new life springs.

He speaks of the voluntary giving of life. Remember that, while these verses recall an event which occurred actually in Christ’s lifetime, they are part of a Gospel that was probably composed long after the earthly life of Christ.

The first people who heard this Scripture knew the story of the Crucifixion. These people would have instantly connected the reading with Jesus and with the death of Jesus on Calvary.

The message is clear and blunt. In the death of Jesus is life. In our own death to sin is our life.


Next weekend, the Church will celebrate Palm Sunday, also called Passion Sunday. In not too many days, the Church will call us to mark this year’s Holy Week with its magnificent, compelling Triduum.

This weekend’s readings set before us great drama. The most momentous time of all human history is soon to be remembered. It is the moment of reconciliation between God and humanity. Nothing is more important for anyone than to be reconciled with God.

Through these readings, the Church teaches us two lessons. One is about the uninterrupted, eternal love of God, given to us in divine mercy. Even if we stray afar from God, God never dismisses us. He never forgets us.

His greatest gift is Jesus. Jesus brings us reconciliation, and in it union with God. He is one of us, a human born of a human mother.

The other lesson is that salvation is not thrust upon us. We must accept it. We must will it. It must be our choice. It is the outcome of obedience. At times, we must be obedient even unto death, as was Jesus. At times, we must be obedient even if the cross stands before us with its threat, but also with the promise of victory if we overcome it. †

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