March 29: Fifth Sunday of Lent Year B
Readings: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:7-9; John 12:20-33
The readings of this Sunday focus on what it takes to live as faithful Christians. In the first place we have to be prepared to live God’s new Covenant with us outlined in the first reading from Jeremiah. The message in this reading is that God promises to make a new and far superior Covenant. One that would be different from all others in the past - a Covenant written on the tablets of the human heart. It would be based on an intimate, personal loving knowledge of God. "I will place my law within them" writes Jeremiah, "and write it upon their hearts. I will be their God, and they shall be my people…I will forgive their evil doing and remember their sins no more". This powerful message to a people in exile was indeed Good News that created great hope. But there was a great price to pay for they had to remain faithful and obedient to God's will. In the letter to the Hebrews, we are given Jesus as a model to follow. Jesus submitted himself so humbly and learnt to obey through suffering. He "became he source of eternal salvation for all who obey him".
The Gospel uses the image of a grain that must die in order to convey the deeper meaning of discipleship as a painful choice of the way of the cross that Jesus must take. To live as faithful disciples, there is a great price to pay. The hour has come for Jesus to be lifted up from the earth and to be glorified by the Father. Just as the hour has come for Jesus to be lifted up, so too our time has come to enter more deeply into the passion and death of Jesus, so we may rise with him in glory. Therefore we find here a synthesis of paradoxical images of the cross. 'Victory over death means leaving oneself to be swallowed up by death; the hour of triumph means the hour of torment; to live is to die; to gain is to lose'. "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. Whoever loves his life loses it and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me" (Jn. 12:24). Following Jesus is walking the path he walked - the painful way of the cross. Such a painful choice, is not a loss, but a gain of a more beautiful future; a life of the resurrection beyond suffering and death. This attitude is not an illusion, but one that comes out of our faith in Christ, who saves us from sin through his passion, death on the cross and resurrection. Jesus gives us an example of what it takes. The Letter to the Hebrews says that, even though he is God, Jesus called out to the Father with “loud cries and tears.” So what message do we take home? So what message do we take home? 1) To be faithful Christians takes our total submission in obedience to God’s covenant; 2) Being faithful Christians takes a painful choice of the way of the cross along with Jesus so that like the grain of wheat falling into the ground we may die with Christ and rise with him; 3) It takes letting our lives go into the hands of Jesus so that he may transform us into new people; holy people that offer a more credible authentic witness.
©2009 John M. Mbinda