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5th Sunday of Lent - year B
Reading 1 JER 31,31-34 Psalm 50/51 Reading 2 HEB 5,7-9 Gospel JN 12,20-33
Jeremiah’s prophecy is good news, so ‘gospel’. God promises a «new Covenant», so a renewed effort on His part towards the unfaithful people. The first covenant was about obeying some rules on the people’s part, and in exchange God pledged Himself to protect it and give it everything that was necessary for a simple life. Unfortunately, often the people felt like a burden God’s rules and it followed them only externally, cultivating desires of freedom and independence, which it believed to be able to achieve by disobeying. The consequences of those disobediences ruined the family and social relationships and brought to ruin the whole nation, so much so that it could not defend itself from the enemies anymore, always ready to invade its territory.
In order for the man and the people to be able to survive and reach joy and peace, God makes up a new covenant. His teachings will not come anymore from outside the man’s heart, so he might feel them as imposition, but from within. God will put in every person’s soul His word, He will write it in the heart. Everyone will then live the obedience to God in harmony with themselves, as a joy, as the time of their most beautiful and truest fulfillment. In this way the man will realise He is loved by God and also reconciled with Him since their previous arrangements, and he will have the joy to become on his turn for others a vessel of the divine love, as the Psalm says: “I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you”. God’s Joy is really the following: “All, from least to greatest, shall know me”. This is the joy of God, because He sees in this way fulfilled the joy of His children in meeting with Him, when they will look for Him in order to love Him.
Jesus takes part in God’s joy: when the Greeks, so the Pagans, come looking for Him to meet Him, He understands that His earthly mission is coming to an end. When the other peoples want to know Him He knows that the “new covenant” is about to be agreed by the Father with humanity. The Greeks approach Jesus lead by Philip and Andrew. They are, out of the twelve, the only two apostles with a Greek name: this has made easy for the Greeks to approach in order to put forward their request. The prophets already had said that the moment would have come when the Pagans would have caught by the hem of the mantle the Jews in order to let themselves be led to meet God, the only God. Jesus understands therefore that His time has come, because the new covenant will have to be agreed through His blood.
In this moment he is leaving us with some words, almost his last will. With the similitude of the seed of grain He is announcing us His death, and the meaning of His death, a death which lets the seed to blossom in order to bring much fruit. He also knows that it is going to be difficult for us to love Him, because we will see Him hated by everyone: He guarantees eternal life for us if we hate our life in this world. When we will follow Jesus, this world will not honour us, but it will despise us, it will reject is, but the Father Himself will honour us.
The Lord Jesus suffers internally in seeing His own death close, but He knows that the offer of His life is glory of God, of the God who loves all men. And the Father approves Him with a voice come from heaven, a voice heard, even if not understood, by the crowd, and by it rejected, because felt like a thunder or as a mysterious voice addressed to Him only. When He will be on the cross we will look at Him, not with curiosity, but with love and desire to be united to Him, and it will be our salvation. “Salvation for all who obey him” says the letter to the Hebrews. Therefore we obey Him, letting Him in us as the Father’s Word written directly in our heart. We will obey Him because He too has learnt to obey “from what he suffered” “Son though he was”. We will not be shocked then because of the suffering coming from the hate which targets the believers. Exactly because we are children of God we will suffer, and we will take part in the world’s salvation. We too will be like seed sown in the soil in order to die and become new life in the world.
AWARENESS OF OUR BAPTISM
“As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ“ (Gal 3:27).
The time of Lent begins this year on February 17th; this period of time is foreseen as the way to Easter, the feast in which we celebrate the mystery of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. As members of the Church, we belong to Christ our Savior through baptism, because we have been united with him in his death and resurrection. Baptism somehow transforms us into himself, and with grace helps us to become more and more like him.
1) Our first duty in the time of Lent would be; ask ourself what Jesus was like. It means to meditate on him through the Word of Scripture and savor him in meditation. It means to be with him by thought and the love of faith.
2) Baptism is the sacrament by which the person enters into God's mercy, by which we have been saved. With Baptism we are remitted of original sin. For those who are baptized as adults, it includes all personal sins. The time of Lent invites us to conversion; it means to rethink our life in the light of eternity seeing where we have not walked with the Lord and realizing when we have not listened to his Word. Time of our life that passes, reminds us of our fragility, but this time of fragility and diminution, can become “kairos”, a time of grace, a time of joy in the Lord; with the only condition: that we return to the Lord.
3) Saint Paul tells us that in baptism we were buried in the death of Christ and with him resurrected to new life. Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? … But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” (Rom 6:3,8) There is a small octagon on my episcopal coat of arms. It represents the baptistery of Ephesus, that of the basilica of the Council. The shape of baptism is octagonal, and it means the dimension that goes beyond the structure of the seven days of the first creation, it means the dimension of eternity, within which we were immersed with baptism. The Lord calls us: Let us return to the source of life, because in baptism we were given the possibility of having divine life in abundance. Everything else does not count for eternal life. Lent means joining the Christian community in Sunday celebration and doing penance.
How penance is defined?
4. Abstinence and fasting: Penance means discovering the only necessary, in the free renunciation of the superfluous and limitation in the use of earthly goods. What do abstinence and fasting consist of?
(a) Abstinence prohibits eating meat, but not eggs, dairy products and any condiments based on animal fat. They are days of abstinence every Friday of the year.
(b) Fasting requires only one meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and in the evening, adhering, as regards quality and quantity, to approved local customs (Apostolic Constitution Poenitemi, on the doctrine and norms of penance, III, 1,2). They are days of fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
(b) Abstinence can be replaced by: practices of piety (for example, reading of Holy Scripture, Holy Mass, Prayer of the Holy Rosary).
(c) Concrete renouncements to earthly goods are recommended: Abstention from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, entertainment.
(d) Alms according to one's possibilities. Works of charity, etc.
(e) Who is called to abstinence and fasting? Abstinence from meat: over 14 years. Fasting: those over 18 years old up to the age of 59.
5. The Confession. All the faithful are invited to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation at the beginning and at the end of Lent.
6. Via crucis. I strongly recommend meditation on the Passion of Christ, through the reading of the Gospel or in the prayer of the Stations of the Cross.
I propose to all of us to join the Lord Jesus, our Savior and redeemer, who suffered the ignominy of the crosses to unite us to the Father. We discover his boundless and infinite love for us, in the great possibility to enter the joy of Easter.
To all of you good Lenten pilgrimage!
Sincerely yours, your brother in Christ
+ Martin Kmetec