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Monday, March 30, 2009

Fifth Sunday of Lent

March 29, 2009

We now enter our fifth week of Lent, while our catechumens move through their third and final scrutiny before they enter into the Catholic Church. For us who have faithfully followed the readings during Lent, we see that Jesus’ hour has arrived when he will glorify God.

John’s Gospel points to the nearness of this hour because the Gentiles (the Greeks) have come to see Jesus. Ancient Jewish Scripture always makes reference of the time when the entire world will come to worship the one true God of the Israelites. John points out that it is already happening. The Gospel also reveals that a result of Jesus’ death is that he will gather up all the faithful with him and present them to the Father.

We sense though that this glorification of God by Jesus entails much pain and suffering especially when Jesus speaks of the necessity of a grain of wheat falling to the ground and dying to produce new life. The reading in the Book of Hebrews makes this clear when we read about the “prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him.” Jesus, though he was not in the Jewish priestly lineage, shows that he becomes the “high priest” because of his obedience to God and because he was able to sympathize with us in every way.

Throughout his earthly life, Jesus came to greater consciousness of his mission and of the cost this discipleship will require of him. Like any other human, Jesus did not want to die. He did, however, know that his prayers were heard by God and that his fidelity to God still required him to extend his saving love to all people. It is the faith of Jesus that saves us – not our faith in Jesus. Doesn’t every love relationship demand faithfulness? The author of Hebrews shows us the life-giving effect of Jesus’ actions so that we may imitate his obedience both to God and to our other relationships.

Lastly, we have to look to the first reading from Jeremiah that grounds the other readings. Jeremiah’s words illustrate the reasons for Jesus’ mission. God wants to make a new covenant with his people – one that is written deep within the hearts of the believers. Something new will happen in our relationship with God – one that will bring about eternal life and the forgiveness and forgetting of all sins. In this new covenant, the Spirit of God will inspire everyone to respond rightly. It is a natural response that erupts from the heart in obedient love to the one who creates, redeems and sustains us. These are consoling words not just to the Israelites who are in exile, but to us today who find a part of ourselves in exile. The obedient and painful love of Jesus was the action that brings about this new relationship with God.

Palm (Passion) Sunday and Holy Week

A week from today is Palm (Passion) Sunday and it kicks off an incredibly moving week. I would like to suggest that you look at the entire week as one that comes alive and is lived again and again in your experience – not just in our memories, but in the concrete actions of our day. View it as one continuous action – from Palm Sunday, to the Chrism Mass on Tuesday, to Spy Wednesday when Jesus was betrayed, to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and his subsequent arrest, trial, and beating to Good Friday when our Lord died, to being with Christ in the tomb on Holy Saturday to that blessed moment when our God vindicated Jesus and raised him from the dead.

Reconciliation Services at Cheverus

On Thursday, April 2nd, Jesuit and diocesan priests will gather at the Loyola chapel for a reconciliation service for the school. Students will be brought to the chapel during theology classes for an opportunity to receive the sacrament. I am always impressed with their receptivity to the sacrament and their desire for continued conversation about healing that which impedes their relationship to God and others. Please call my office if you would like to receive the sacrament, especially before we enter into Holy Week.

New Books

Bill Barry, S.J., tertian director and former Provincial, has two books available this spring from Loyola Press: Here’s My Heart, Here’s My Hand and a revised edition of Seek My Face. His hope is that these books will help readers understand how to experience friendship with God and what effects that special relationship will have on their lives. If you would like to learn more about his books, please visit http://www.loyolapress.com/barry. You can read excerpts from both titles online.

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