March 21, 2021 — Fifth Sunday of Lent
JER 31:31-34; PS 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15; HEB 5:7-9; JN 12:20-33
As we are nearing the end of our Lenten journey, our readings today remind us of the goodness that our God has to offer us.
Our First Reading, from the prophet Jeremiah, foretells the coming of the new covenant. Because man failed to remain faithful to God’s covenant requirements, the Lord declares that a new covenant will be made. This covenant is unique because it will be written within the hearts of man, as the Lord says, “I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts.” This covenant will transform man’s relationship with God and it will be through our Mediator, Jesus Christ.
Once we begin Holy Week, we receive the sign of this new covenant at the Last Supper — the Eucharist. And it is in the Eucharist that we commemorate Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross — the moment when God “forgives our evildoing and remembers our sin no more.” And although this covenant was established many years ago, it is still new for us today. As this Lenten season comes to a close, let us strive to partake in the richness God has offered to us through this covenant by more faithfully living out our call as disciples of Christ through prayer, frequent reception of the sacraments, and service to our families and neighbors.
In our Gospel today, Jesus announces that the “hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” All that He came to do on this earth was soon to be fulfilled. When we reflect on what Jesus says in this passage, He tells us a great deal about how we should be living as disciples of Christ. He states clearly, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”
We are called to “die” to ourselves by detaching from our own desires and entrusting our lives to all that God has in store for us. Without this practice of self-denial, we might miss occasions God has given us to produce good fruit. We have been practicing this throughout our Lenten season through fasting. One way to continue this effort after Lent is by taking advantage of the countless opportunities God presents to us to sacrifice our desires for something much greater — whether it be waking up 15 minutes earlier to spend time in prayer with the Lord, fasting from a favorite comfort on a weekly basis, or taking the time to call to check in on a friend or family member instead of turning on the TV, just to name a few. It is important to die to ourselves so that we might continue to make room for God and the good things He wants to produce in us all year long.
Jesus also states, “whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” God should have our entire heart, not just a portion of it. When we regularly practice the discipline of detachment by offering small, daily sacrifices to the Lord, we are also better preparing our hearts for the ultimate happiness in eternal life.
As our Lenten journey soon concludes, let us strive to more faithfully live out our covenant with God by actively living as disciples of Christ. And may we consider the ways in which we might continue the practice of self-denial by offering small, daily sacrifices to the Lord.