Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Lent
The first reading of today’s liturgy speaks of the covenant God is offering to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. A covenant is a gracious offer of relationship to those who have no merited right to that relationship. That God desires a relationship with us is eminently clear from the beginning pages of scripture. Tradition tells us that God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening. We can only imagine what they talked about but their conversation must have led them to an ever deeper relationship. Intimacy grows with self-revelation.
The Hebrew Scriptures record several covenants. God initiated with Israel. The First Sunday of Lent we read about God’s covenant with Noah. God promised Noah that the world would never again be destroyed by floods. The sign by which they would be reminded of this covenant was the rainbow. God asked nothing in return.
The next Sunday of Lent we heard the covenant made with Abraham. In this covenant, God promised that Abraham and Sarah would be the parents of a great nation whose people would be God’s people, and God would lead them into a land that would be their land. The sign of this covenant was circumcision, a sign Israel was asked to make as a symbol of their desire to be God’s people.
The Third Sunday of Lent was listened. To God’s covenant, revealed to the people through Moses. In this covenant there is a reaffirmation of God’s promise to be the God of Israel. The sign of this covenant was the Ten Commandments engraved on the stone tablets. But in today’s first reading God both promises and asks that this law be written in their hearts. So the law was not just an external sign written on the tablets of stone. It was to be internalized a obedience to the law from the heart.
Each of these covenant invited Israel into a deeper level of relationship and asked for a more intimate response. And with each covenant God revealed more of who God is and wants to be for the people, but that revelation was not complete until the coming of Jesus. The promise of a new covenant in the first reading is fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus reveals God as a loving paren. Love is the fulfillment of the law, love God and love of neighbor. The Jesus who heals, who teaches the poor, who weeps over Jerusalem’s poor choices, who reproaches the scribes and Pharisees for binding heavy and insupportable burdens and laying them on the backs of the poor, tells us of the depth of God’s desire that all people experience the fullness of life in the reign of God.
In today’s Gospel we listen to Jesus as he faces an indescribably cruel and violent death because he refuses to preach the God of the scribes and Pharisees, the chief priests and the Sadducees. In jesu’ fidelity to his mission is God glorified. The cross, an instrument of violence and cruelty, becomes the sign of the covenant revealed in Jesus, the sign of God’s love for us and calls us to love one another.
Our response to the covenant offered us in Jesus begins with remembering. In the Hebrew Scriptures a covenant renewal ceremony always began with remembering the mighty deeds of God done on their behalf. It was when Israel forgot God’s goodness to them that they turned away from God. During these last weeks of Lent and especially on Palm Sunday and Good Friday we remember that Jesus loves us so much that he did not protect himself from the greatest horror to which the human condition can subject us – rejection resulting in a cruel and violent death.
Each Eucharist is our covenant renewal. We remember what Jesus has done for us in his life, death, and resurrection. Each celebration of God’s love for us leads us to a deeper and deeper trust and relationship with God. Remembering makes us a people who proclaims the Good News of salvation.
May God bless you all
Your brother in Christ