Fifth Sunday of Lent
Sunday, March 21, 2021
Holy Ghost Church – 5:00 Mass
Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15; Hebrews 5:7-9; John 12:20-33
We’re a week away from Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week, and in today’s Gospel you can feel the tension and anticipation in the air, both in Heaven and on earth.
The Gospel starts with a simple request by some Greeks to see Jesus, but, by the end, Heaven and earth are crying out about what’s about to happen, something that we will remember through our celebration of liturgy in a special way during Holy Week: the Passion of Our Lord and his Resurrection..
As expressed in today’s First Reading, heaven and earth are exulting today because of God’s promise to make a new covenant with his people, placing his law of love into our hearts. This promise is about to be fulfilled through Christ’s Passion and Resurrection.
The Lord wants to write his Law on our hearts because once written there it cannot be erased. When we go against our conscience, God’s Law, written in our hearts, keeps reminding us that we have chosen to disobey him and convicts us to bring our sins to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
All God asks from us is our love, to love him above all else and to love our neighbors as ourselves. That doesn’t seem unreasonable, does it?Considering all the love he has shown us, we still treat him many times like a cold-hearted legislator bogging us down with rules and regulations, rather than understanding that his commandments are for our own good, for our flourishing.
Turning our backs on God’s love creates a void in our lives that began with the Fall of Adam and Eve. This void, caused by our sins, puts distance between us and God, between us and others.
Our Lord Jesus was sent to bridge the gap, to fill this void, and enable us to love the Father again and be reunited with him. But being that bridge came with a price, a price about which Jesus today is “troubled.”
Our Second Reading today reminds us that this work of Redemption was incredibly hard work. It involved Jesus PLEADING with the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane to save him from death, sweating drops of blood as he prayed, and ultimately agreeing to go through the experience of suffering and dying so that we might live. He did so in obedience to the Father because of his great love for him, and his conviction of the Father’s limitless love for him.
Our Lord becomes as a grain of wheat that can only bear fruit by dying so that wheat can grow and be made into the sacred bread that gives life. The bread of life we receive at every Mass. The lesson here is that we too must imitate Christ and die to our own wills, our own selfish interests, so that God’s will may reign in our lives.
By giving his life for us, Jesus became the way for us to return to the Father, and he stays at our side so that we remain united with him, in good times and bad, until one day we’re reunited with the Father forever.
Jesus’ love for his Father never failed, so, as he finishes his mission on earth and is drawn back to his Father in Heaven, we must unite ourselves to his love for his Father so that our lives are transformed and we too can be drawn to Heaven as members of his body.
Today Jesus reminds us that the way we stay close to him is by serving and following him. He promises that the Father will honor whoever serves his Son, keeping his commandments and staying close to him in prayer so we are able to know what he expects of us.
We only have couple weeks left in this Lenten Season. Nothing would please Our Lord more than if we made a real effort to spend more time with him in prayer this week and next, giving him a chance to show us how much he loves us and to reveal the work he has for us to do for him.
True prayer is much more than just reciting prayers. True prayer is a heart-to-heart conversation with God, with the God who loves us so much that even while we were still sinners he climbed up onto a cross and suffered in his own body and soul the consequences and penalty of our sins.
There are special graces in the air during Lent, but they’ll pass us by unless we take time to sit close to the Lord and talk with him.
Holy Week, provides so many opportunities for community prayer here at Holy Ghost. There are Tenebrae services offered throughout the week, as well as the Sacred Triduum, beginning with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, followed by the Passion of Our Lord on Good Friday, and finally the great Easter Vigil taking place Holy Saturday evening. There is nothing that joins us more closely to Christ’s suffering and resurrection than a well-celebrated Triduum.
I know we are all busy, and it may not be easy to make more time to spend in prayer. Perhaps our work will prevent us from attending all of the special services and Masses that will be offered. God understands that. But if we try, I am sure we can find ways to pray a bit more in the coming two weeks.
Maybe it is just a matter of saying an extra decade of the Rosary while you’re driving to the store or to work.
Maybe it’s a matter of going to bed fifteen minutes earlier than usual and rise fifteen minutes earlier to spend time reading the daily Mass readings and speaking to the Lord about what you read.
Maybe it could be skipping your favorite TV show for the next two or three weeks and spending that time in prayer, praying for yourself and for all your loved ones.
Whatever it may be, now is the acceptable time to give the Lord your heart and your mind. We do this when we make time for prayer, listening to him and making the changes we need to make based on his inspiration.
Here’s the bottom line as to why we should make prayer our highest priority over the next couple of weeks: God will never let himself be outdone in generosity when we make the effort to spend more time with him. If we give him a bit more time, he will shower us with grace, drawing us deeper into his most Sacred Heart, into a relationship of love that both comforts us and inspires us to reach out to others in that same love he has for us.
As you make the effort to spend more time in prayer this week and next, may your Holy Week be blessed and may your Easter be filled with the joy that comes only from truly understanding how much we are loved by God, regardless of the circumstances we may find ourselves in. This joy will be present even when we find ourselves in the midst of the difficult trials life brings our way.
God bless you.