Sunday, 3/21/2021, Fifth Sunday of Lent
The Blood Makes All Things New
First Reading Commentary: Jeremiah 31:31-34
Today’s prophecy from Jeremiah is not about the coming of Christ as much as it is about what Christ came to do. That is to make all things new by making a new covenant with mankind.
Christ made more than one covenant. He made a covenant promising the Kingdom of Heaven in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:2-12. With that covenant, Christ promised us the reward of eternal salvation.
Christ made another covenant promising to send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who would guide and lead us to the truth. John 16:7-14 This covenant was fulfilled with the Apostles on Pentecost Sunday and is fulfilled with each of us at Baptism and in Confirmation.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, He made another covenant with the disciples and in effect, with all of us. Jesus said, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
In order for any of these covenants to be fulfilled, the one which is the subject of today’s prophecy had to be fulfilled first—God had to forgive us of our sins and remember them no more. This is why the Son had to come and take our sins to the cross. Jesus made this new covenant at the Last Supper. Luke in his Gospel, Luke 22:20, tells us that Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.”
Jesus had to take our sins to the cross and defeat death with His Resurrection in order to pave the way for us to enter the Kingdom. Only then would the Advocate come and only then would Jesus be with us always through the Eucharist and the Spirit.
Jeremiah tells us today that the LORD said, “I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts…” In other words, the LORD promised to take the law of the Ten Commandments and place them in our hearts as opposed to on stones. Jesus carried out this will of the Father in two steps. First, Jesus gave us the Greatest Commandments which incorporates all of the Ten Commandments. Then Jesus gave us the new covenant.
Every time that we receive the Eucharist, the law is placed within us in the presence of the Son and the law is written within our hearts. The Father, together with the Son and the Spirit is our God and we are His people.
But there is another sacrament in today’s prophecy. Jeremiah tells us that the LORD also said, “I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.” This too, is only possible because Christ fulfilled the promise of the new covenant. But it is also possible through the Sacrament of Confession. Through Confession, we receive the grace of absolution from our sins.
You might say that because of the new covenant, we are able to receive the grace of all the sacraments. But most especially, we can link Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist and Confession to today's prophecy from Jeremiah.
Follow the Example
Second Reading Commentary: Hebrews 5: 7-9
Today’s reading from Hebrews tells us that Christ learned obedience from what He suffered. It’s hard to imagine that Jesus had to learn anything because He is God the Son. But once again, we must remember that in His humanity, Jesus experienced everything that you and I experience. Every feeling that we have, whether physical or emotional, Jesus also had.
So, it is only natural that in His humanity, Jesus would want to escape the suffering of His Passion and cry out to the Father who was the only one that could save Him. Jesus was tested and tempted beyond the limits of our understanding and far beyond the limits of our ability to cope. But Jesus did not fail. He practiced complete loyalty to the Father, had total faith in the Father and executed perfect obedience to the Father. That is the reason why, He was exalted by the Father and able to save us.
But let’s take a closer look at what Jesus did in His humanity. Hebrews says that Jesus, “…offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death…” Simply put, Jesus prayed to His Father and asked for help.
I have commented before that God does not ask us to do anything for Him that He is not willing to do Himself for us. In fact, God has done far more for us than He expects or even wants in return. So, if the Son, who experienced and lived the completeness of humanity, could pray to the Father; surely we can and should follow the Son’s example.
The thing is that we should not only pray when we are in trouble or in need. We should pray often giving glory and praise out of gratitude for our many blessings. We should follow that prayer up with loyalty to and faith in God and by doing our best to be obedient to His Will. When we do these things, we follow our Savior’s example and when we pray out of need, the Father will hear us just as He heard the Son.
The answer may not come in just the way that we expect or in a way that we understand. But our prayers will be answered by the Father through the source of our eternal salvation, who is the Son.
The Hour Has Come
Gospel Commentary: John 12:20-33
When Philip and Andrew told Jesus that some Greeks wanted to see Him, Jesus answered by saying that the hour had come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Jesus continued by saying that a fallen grain of wheat must die but then it produces much fruit. Then Jesus said, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”
None of what Jesus said up to this point seems to have anything to do with the Greeks wanting to see Jesus. So, what was the point? There were three. First, Jesus was announcing that the time had come for His Passion which had to occur in order for Him to be glorified in His Resurrection.
Second, Jesus was saying that this life is only temporary and in order to enjoy eternal life in heaven, we must first die to this life on earth.
Third, if those Greeks or anyone else wants to really see Jesus, they must be able to see Him in a way that is beyond the capability of the human eye—they had to see Jesus through their faith in Him. Then they would be able to see Him in heaven.
Jesus wanted the Greeks and everyone else to hear these things and it became apparent why it was necessary for these things to be said at this time with what Jesus said next: “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.” In other words, Jesus was saying that in order to be with Him, one must listen to Him and follow Him which means that one must have enough faith in Him to obey the law of His Father and be willing to give up their physical life for Him.
Jesus was making the point that being in His physical presence did not warrant or guarantee salvation. Think about it. We are in the presence of the Eucharist every time that we go to adoration. We are in the presence of the Eucharist every time that we attend Mass. But that does not mean that we have faith and it does not mean that we live according to God’s Will. Therefore, it does not mean that we will be saved.
It is our faith that will save us through Christ, Jesus. It is our faith that will give us the strength, wisdom and courage to follow Jesus. It is our faith that will make it possible for us to enjoy all of the gifts and fruits of the Spirit which will guide us on the path that Jesus has prepared for us. It is our faith that will generate our love for God. It is our faith that will cause us to be obedient to God. Ultimately, it is our faith that will get us to heaven.
Today’s second reading deals with the subject of Jesus crying out to the Father for salvation. In today’s Gospel, Jesus said, “I am troubled now…Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”
None of us look forward to enduring pain and suffering. None of us ever want to enter into a situation that we know will bring us harm and may even cost us our lives. Jesus in His humanity; was no different. But in His divinity, Jesus knew that He had to obey the Father and take our sins to the cross. Jesus also knew that in carrying out this will of the Father, that He and the Father would both be glorified. What we don’t always stop to think about is that Jesus carrying out His Father’s Will; also set the stage for our own achievement of receiving glory when we enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Father spoke from heaven and said, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” We are all familiar with the Father speaking from heaven at the Baptism of Jesus and at the Transfiguration but some of us are unaware or do not think of the Father speaking here. And notice what the Father said, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”
Because God is three persons in one God, if one name is glorified, they are all glorified. That is why the Father glorifying His own name and the Son of Man being glorified are one and the same. The Father was making reference to the fact that He had glorified the Son twice by saying, “This is my beloved Son.” Matthew 3:17 and Mathew 17:5 The Son would be glorified again with His Resurrection and Ascension into heaven where He is seated at the right hand of the Father.
But the crowd was confused. Some people said that it was thunder. Well, many times the LORD spoke from heaven in the Old Testament and His voice was like thunder. Were some of these people not familiar with Scripture or were they in such awe that they forgot, or did they not believe? God talks to us in many ways but if we are not paying attention because we are too caught up in our humanity, we will not hear Him. Such was the case with these people.
Some of the people said that an angel had spoken to Jesus. Maybe. But once again, in the Old Testament, the LORD was known to speak through the voice of an angel. But Jesus clarified the matter when He said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.”
In other words, yes it was the Father and the Father did not promise to glorify His name for His own sake. God’s glory is also the glory of all who believe in Him and enter the Kingdom. That is not to say that we are on God’s level or an equal to God. Far from it and woe to those who think to the contrary. But we are created in God’s image and each of us is an individual part of the Mystical Body of Christ. As a result, when we enter heaven, we too are in our glory.
The last part of today’s Gospel is all about Jesus defeating Satan by defeating death on the cross. Jesus said, “…now the ruler of this world will be driven out…I will draw everyone to myself.”
We are driven to Jesus as a result of His taking our sins to the cross and leaving them there. We are driven to Jesus and become a part of Jesus by way of the Eucharist as we receive His precious body into our own. We are also driven to Jesus by way of the path that He has paved and lit up for us. All we have to do is follow it by keeping our faith in Him strong.