28 March 2009

Dominica Quinta Quadragesimæ - Fifth Sunday of Lent

Jeremiah 31:31-34

“The days are coming, says the Lord” immediately turns the heart and mind towards prophecy. The Finger of God points us to the future. A new covenant is being made with God’s people which is unlike the covenant made in the days of the Exodus from Egypt. The ways of the Almighty will be placed within the hearts of His people. This intimates the Sacrament of Baptism.

In Baptism, one becomes a child of God and the soul becomes His temple where He can reside and write His law on the heart of the baptized. Friends, relatives and those who have the gifts to teach the faith are used as God’s instruments; therefore, when this Reading suggests that no longer will individuals be needed to teach, the understanding is that they are used as instruments of God but the faith and conversion experience is the sole work of the Holy Spirit. Remember that even the great Saint Paul needed the intercession of Ananias; and Philip was used as God’s instrument for the eunuch.

The Lord remembering our sin no more points to the Sacrament of Baptism as Baptism washes away original sin. It also points to the Sacrament of Confession which absolves the sins which follow after one has been baptized.

Hebrews 5:7-9

What the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews is trying to portray about Jesus in the flesh is the time when God humbled Himself and willingly took on a mortal and suffering condition. Offering “prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the One Who is able to save… from death” are actions of mortal man. And the understanding of mortal man that God saves from death delineates man’s dependency on Him.

Jesus taught us through His suffering, that human nature can and should surrender to the divine will. Every prayer which Jesus made that was heard by man, was heard for reverential regard. That is, Jesus was heard in order that we might grasp reverential fear, respectful submission and piety. Thus Jesus, was perfected as man by possessing all the virtues, and because He is also true God, became the Source of our salvation.

John 12:20-33

Saint John’s Gospel more so than the three remaining Gospels is mystical. When reading his Gospel, one has to read it in the light of how it applies to the heart, soul, and inner life of man.

All Christians serious about their spiritual life collectively groan within the same words spoken to Philip: “We would like to see Jesus.” The spiritual life is a lifelong search for the Face of Jesus. In Jesus Christ, Almighty God has been given a human Face.

For us today, in the element of time, “the hour has” already “come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” But for the interior man, the battle of good versus evil wages within us and it is a lifelong struggle to work for the greater glory of the Indwelling of the Son of Man. In an ideal situation, the behavior: actions, thoughts and deeds for every Christian should radiate the God within us. But we are a fallen nature, and while it may never be our intention to stray from God, the reality is that we do.

There’s a twofold meaning for the grain of wheat example given by Jesus. First, it was the death of our Lord that produced much fruit – fruit that would never have ripened if Jesus hadn’t died on the cross. Saint Augustine was very clear about this as being one interpretation. We would still be sentenced to eternal death if not for the Sacrifice of the Lamb of God. Thus the death of Christ brought forth the fruit of faith.

Second, Jesus tells us that we must hate our life in this world. That sounds very harsh. But Jesus is calling us to walk in His Footsteps through good works including works of mercy for His sake heading towards the perfect act of charity, offering our lives for our brothers and sisters. For most of us this will not mean a literal sacrifice of natural life, but it could. Generally, this is about serving Jesus by serving our brothers and sisters. We do this mostly by not seeking our own desires but learning from the example of Jesus and His service to His brethren.

We see a little of the struggle of the interior life in Jesus the Man by the words: “I am troubled now.” Our Savior, because He had a human nature, was no stranger to the battle within. But it is through His divine nature that He was able to win this battle and say: “Father, glorify Your Name.” What that teaches us is that we cannot win these battles without divine intervention. So often we try to, though. If this weren’t true, stress would never be a silent killer.

Unfortunately we can’t snap our fingers and make it all happen. Laying down our lives at this level and entrusting the war within to Jesus requires deep, intense prayer. This will lead to a closer, intimate union with our Lord. Love for Him will grow and when love grows so does trust. This ultimately glorifies the Lord and benefits our brothers and sisters.