21Mar Sunday March 21, 2021. Fifth Sunday of Lent

March 21, 2021

Fifth Sunday of Lent

First Reading:  Jeremiah 31:31-34

The new covenant, written on the human heart

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt ” a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord.

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Responsorial: from Psalm 51

R./: Create a clean heart in me, O God

Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and cleanse me of my sin . (R./)

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me out from your presence,
and do not take from me your Holy Spirit. (R./)

Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.
I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners shall return to you. (R./)

Second Reading: Hebrews 5:7-10

The anguish of Jesus, faced with his passion

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Gospel: John 12:20-30

By losing their life, the followers of Jesus will find it in a new way

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say ” ‘ Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this our. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.”

For Others’ Sake

Martin Luther King once wrote about a time when he knelt in prayer in the kitchen of his home in Alabama. Stones had been thrown through the window because of his call for civil rights for black people. His wife and children were in danger. He was already a respected academic and a promising career lay ahead. In prayer he found himself asking if it was right to put himself and them in danger? It was in that moment he decided to put the will of God and the welfare of his people before his own security and that of his family. He chose to serve God by working for those who were most oppressed. In a sense, he chose to die so that others could more fully live. It was a striking echo of what Jesus says in the gospel reading, that the grain of wheat must falls into the ground to yield a rich harvest.

Jesus himself was the supreme expression of this principle. He is the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies, and in dying yields a harvest of life. He describes that harvest in prophetic words: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.”

If God worked powerfully through the life of Jesus, He worked even more powerfully through the death of Jesus, a death that reveals the power of God’s love, even more fully than his life of healing and ministry, for the amazing love revealed in his death on the cross drew people to God, and continues to do so. Over the centuries, millions of people, by looking upon the crucifix, have experienced God’s personal love and compassion and found themselves drawn to God in return. In accepting the loss of so much that was dear to him, in particular, his vibrant life and warm companionship with others, Jesus drew people of all nations to himself and, thereby, to sharing in God’s life.

It was when some Greeks (i.e. foreigners) came to hear him speak that Jesus made this declaration; and then he asked: “What shall I say? Save me from this hour. No, it was for this reason I have come to this hour.” In these lovely spring days we may find ourselves sowing some seeds in the garden. The seed that dies in order to yield a new form of life is as familiar to us today as it was in the day of Jesus. This phenomenon of nature can speak to our own experience as much as it did to the experience of Jesus. Each of us in different ways has to accept some significant loss if we are to remain true to our deepest and best self, true to what God is asking of us.

Then there are other losses in life that we do not choose, but that are forced upon us. These are losses we have no choice but to accept. We may have to accept the loss of people we love and care about because of choices they make themselves. Parents may not wish to see a son or daughter go far away to live and work, but they accept this necessary loss out of respect for the one they love. In accepting the losses that life imposes, in letting go of those we love, we often find something fuller and richer, just as Jesus’ disciples received him again in a new and fuller way through his resurrection from the dead and the sending of the Spirit.

At the end, for each of us, there is the final, unavoidable struggle to let go of our very life, with all the loss that is entailed in that. As we face of all these inevitable losses that are integral to life, we are strengthened by the words of Jesus in today’s gospel, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” We trust and believe that, at the end of the day, after we have struggled through all our losses, the Lord will draw us to himself, and, when that happens, we will lack nothing.

Into the Valley of Death

One focus during Lent is to to reflect on our own death and to see our way through it. We all must die, as much as we don’t like the fact. We try to hide it, dodge it, deny it. Yet we can’t in fact escape it. Jesus came into the world, not so much to do away with death (not immediately) but to teach us how to die by his example and then to assure us that death does not say the last word about life. When we walk into the valley of death we do not walk alone. Jesus is with us because he’s been there before and knows what it is like. Moreover he promises us that just as he rose from the dead so will we. We will all be young again. We will all laugh again.

Once upon a time there was a young grandmother who totally adored her oldest grandson (like most grandmothers do). He was a good young man too. Handsome, friendly, courteous, more mature than you could reasonably expect any teenager to be. He was also an excellent athlete and was to be valedictorian of his class. Then, just a week before graduation, another teen (quite drunk) plowed into the car in which the young man was returning from a baseball game. He died three hours later in the hospital. Everyone in the family was, devastated, as you can well imagine. The grandmother was furious. “Why do such terrible things happen?” she demanded. “Why did it have to happen to my grandson? What kind of God would permit this to happen to me? He must be a cruel and vicious God. Why should I believe in him? I don’t believe in him. My grandson was so young, he had the rest of his life ahead of him. It’s all right for old people to die, but not for someone who had a right to a long and happy life. I don’t believe in heaven. I don’t believe in anything.”

She carried on like this for months, making the tragedy even harder for her family. She stopped going to Church and refused to talk to the priest who dropped by her house to talk to her. “I just hate God,” she insisted. Then one night, maybe she was dreaming, maybe she was half away, her grandson, in his baseball uniform, came to visit it her. “Cool it, Grams.” he told her. “I’m happy. Life is much better where I am. You’re not acting like my grams any more. We all have to die sometime, young or old, but here we’re all young and we’re all laughing.” So the grandmother began to let go of her grief and rage.


2 Responses

  1. Thara Benedicta

    Key Message:

    “When God forgives, He loses His memory – He forgets our sins, forgets”: Pope Francis


    Takeaway from first reading:

    When the people of Nineveh repented for their sins, God forgave them and did not enforce His punishment on them. Similarly, when we repent for our sins, God will not remember our sins too. God does not despise a contrite heart. Like how God forgets our sins, we should also forget our sins once we seek forgiveness from God. There is no need to feel guilty or ashamed once our sins are forgiven.

    Thought to ponder:
    Are we determining our future based on our past forgiven sins?

    Takeaway from second reading:

    According to the second reading, we see that Jesus experienced what it costs to be obedient during suffering. Though He suffered much, He did not quit. He passed through the passion, prepared for Him. The only way to come out victoriously is to go through the passion just as Jesus did. God gives us the grace to go through our passion – “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor 12:9).

    Thought to ponder:

    Are we prepared to take up the passion, God has prepared for us, or are we seeking to quit?

    Takeaway from Gospel reading:

    A beautiful message from our Lord Jesus on how to handle the storms in our life is provided in today’s Gospel reading.
    Jesus says – “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this our. Father, glorify your name.”

    Jesus is saying that His soul is troubled. He is feeling that it is too hard for Him to take it. But still He is firm that He will not ask God to remove this suffering from Him, because it is the purpose of His life. He is pleading only to glorify God’s name through His suffering. Though Jesus suffered deep enough to sweat blood (this depth of suffering very few of us have gone through), still He had the courage to say – ‘Not my will be done, but yours’.
    Do we understand that the challenges we undergo are intended to serve God?
    The devil will also bring up challenges in our life – like how Job had to undergo them and God recompensed Job with multiple blessings. We should not quit the challenge in front of us.

    Our Pioneer, Lord Jesus Christ had to undergo the sufferings on the Cross, before He achieved the purpose of His life.
    We should also follow His footsteps and undergo the sufferings. Even when we do not feel the presence of God, or when we feel that God is silent, He is actually taking care of us, working for us. He will let us know what to do in the right time.

    Why are we feeling scared or frightened looking at our challenges? If there is a big mountain of challenges in front of us, then there is a bigger grace of God to challenge the challenge.

    Thoughts to ponder:

    Instead of looking at our cross with fear, look at it with a courageous face. We definitely know that we are the winners even before our battle begins. So fight like Jesus.

    Tips to understand God’s forgiveness and grace for suffering :

    1. God does not want us to our redefine our life based on the sins we have committed. In the New Testament, Zacchaeus, the tax collector was called as ‘a sinner’ by the world. But when he repented with a contrite heart, our Lord Jesus gave Zacchaeus freedom from sin, freedom from worry because of sin and heart full of joy. Jesus did not want Zacchaeus to live the rest of his life brooding over his past sins. Our Lord Jesus wanted Zacchaeus to live a happy righteous life further on.

    So once you ask for forgiveness from your heart, God not only gives freedom from your sins, but He remembers it no more.

    2. Whenever people were brought to Jesus for punishment for their sins, Jesus never punished them. He only told them not to sin again.
    When the woman caught in adultery was brought down to Jesus, she was to be stoned to death as per the law, Jesus forgave her sins and did not punish her. As a loving Father, He forgave her sins and asked her not to sin again. Jesus wants us to live the life which He has planned for us. He does not want us to think about our past sins and spoil our future.

    3. St. Peter fulfilled His responsibilities even after denying Jesus. So why can’t we?

    4. Sometimes we think that the problems in our lives are God’s punishment for us. But God our Father does not even know to remember our sins once He forgives them. The problems are the desert experiences, which our God uses to train us and they are the ones that give the purpose of our life. Parenting a sick or a special child is not a punishment from God. It’s God’s favour on us to live with a purpose.

    5. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” – 2 Chronicles 7:14. As a church or as a small Christian community or as a family or as a prayer group in the office, let us together repent for our sins, wash away our differences within our group and hostile attitudes towards people outside our group and walk on the narrow path, God will forgive and forget all our sins, bless and heal all us.

    6. When Jonah was angry that God did not punish the people of Nineveh, because they repented, God said: “And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left?” So no need to feel worried about whether God will forgive my sin. The people of Nineveh had a huge repository of sins. But God still said, “They do not know the difference between their right hand and left hand”. God also understands our weaknesses. All He requires is only a contrite heart.

    7. Jesus explained the forgiving heart of God using the ‘Prodigal son parable’. Like the father of a prodigal son, God our loving Father also is keenly waiting for us to return home. Let us run back to our Father in this Lenten season.


  2. Pádraig McCarthy

    Jeremiah 31:31-34
    “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.”
    This new covenant will unite the divided people of Israel. The covenant will be written on hearts, not on stones. Our human laws are designed to direct what we do or do not do. If the values enshrined are not written in our hearts, the laws will be a burden, however flawlessly they are written. The regulations for pandemic lockdown are irksome, but if the values and purposes come from our hearts, we will live them differently.
    The new covenant is freely given: it does not depend on human beings repenting and sorting out their lives first, but will bring the give of forgiveness> “I will never call their sin to mind.”

    Psalm 50: Miserere – perhaps listen today to the setting by Allegri.

    Hebrews 5:7-9
    “Christ offered up prayer and entreaty aloud.” The Greek says: with loud crying! Not the way we usually imagine the prayer of Jesus. On the cross he said: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” It is not out of place that we also may need to cry loudly to God in prayer.

    John 12: 20-33. (The 12:20-30 given in the Lectionary reference and in the Liturgical Calendar for Ireland is incorrect.)
    Greeks who went up to worship: Gentiles, those “who fear God”, who have come to accept the God of Israel. Philip and Andrew are Greek names. John does not tell us of a response of Jesus to their direct request, but tells what it means to “see Jesus”, not just physically, but with eyes of faith. Jesus is to be lifted up on the cross, and in the resurrection, and at the ascension.
    When Jesus is lifted up, he will draw all, Jews and Gentiles, to himself: no longer Jew and Gentile.

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