Fifth Sunday of Lent

The season of Lent is drawing to its conclusion. The hour has come. We may think that the hour referred to in John’s Gospel is the hour of Jesus’ death. It is, but the evangelist gives that dreaded hour a most unexpected meaning. He claims that the hour of Jesus’ death is really the hour of his glorification. He further insists that Jesus is glorified, not as a martyr, but as the source of new life for us. We hear this so often that we might fail to realize the paradox here: Jesus’ death brings us new life. What does this mean? The readings for today give us a clue, an answer[1].

Through the prophet Jeremiah, God announces a new covenant. This does not mean that the other covenants have been abrogated. We are still creatures of the earth[2], who cling to God’s promises[3], who are subject to God’s law[4], and who are embraced by God’s mercy[5]. This new covenant will be something quite different, something extraordinary. Written on our hearts, it will effect an interior transformation.

The evils of today, those we witness and those of which we are a part, require much more than simple external change. If we are honest, we will admit that we need radical interior transformation. Metanoia is the Greek word used in the text. We are certainly in need of a new covenant commitment.

The technical covenant formula, I will be their God and they will be my people[6], is comparable to the marriage formula, “I do take you as my spouse”. This language bespeaks loving intimacy. These words should make us step back in total amazement, for they imply that in the face of human infidelity, God establishes a covenant of the heart. Perhaps the failure of so many human commitments between couples, within families, at the workplace and even among nations clouds our eyes to the reality of God’s unbounded love. This is a remarkable covenant.

As we turn to the Gospel, we hear Jesus say, The hour has come. True, it is the hour of his death, but it is also the hour of his glorification. While this glorification may refer in part to the unique relationship that he enjoys with God, the reading suggests that it also has something to do with the new life that will spring from his death. Jesus’ obedience to his destiny, mentioned in both the Gospel and the reading from Hebrews, opens the doors of life for us. In this he is glorified.

Today we hear of a new covenant, a clean heart, and a grain of wheat pregnant with fruitfulness. These are all poetic ways of describing the new way of living into which we can step if we so choose. The disarray of so much of our lives makes us realize that we must choose a different way of living. But radical transformation does not come without a price.

Now that our Lenten journey is almost over, in what ways are we willing to change? Whom are we willing to help? To forgive? To what extent are we willing to die to our own selfishness so that the fruits of the new covenant can be brought forward? The hour of decision has come ■

[1] Sunday 29th March, 2009, 5th Sunday of Lent. Readings: Jeremiah 31:31-34. Create a clean heart in me, O God—Ps 50(51):3-4, 12-15. Hebrews 5:7-9. John 12:20-33.
[2] Cfr Gn 9
[3] Id 22.
[4] Cfr Ex 20
[5] Cfr Jer 31
[6] Cfr Ez 37.

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris