Saturday, March 24, 2012
I would like to share with you some insights I had as I reflected on the readings for this 5th Sunday of Lent.
First Reading from the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 31, 31-34):
"The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt... But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel... I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people...."
When God made the Covenant with the Israelites in the desert of Mount Sinai, it was almost like contracting a business deal. It was based on propositions which when obeyed, will assure them of God's enduring protection. During a time of unknown future, in a strange and foreign land inhabited by fierce enemies and deprived of the comforts of Egypt, the promise of a powerful protector will not be ignored! The people were quick to give their consent through Moses and avowed loyalty and obedience to God. And yet, how often did we read later on how the people rebelled and went back to their old ways because they missed their life in Egypt and afraid of dying in the desert. This scenario will be repeated often, this love-hate relationship, "Yes" and "No" avowals between God and His people. It struck me as I was reading the passage above by Jeremiah how when God was thinking of another covenant, He clearly said that it "It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt... " Instead, he said, "... But this is the covenant which i will make with the house of Israel... I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people....". With this New Covenant planted in our hearts, this Natural Law, the act of obedience is not forced but freely given. We obey God because we believe He is God. We now live under the law of freedom. This is what St. Paul reiterates in his message to the Gentiles, freedom from the Law. It is not coerced, it is not motivated by fear of repercussions but it is based on faith and love. "Perfect love drives all fears", St. John the Apostle says.
Another passage which spoke to me was from the Second Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews (Heb. 5, 7-9):
"Son though He was, he learned obedience from what He suffered; and when perfected, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him"
"..He learned obedience from what he suffered.." It is a consolation to know that obedience is something we have to learn to acquire. Even Jesus had to learn how to obey. It was his suffering which made him open to obedience. Sufferings, when accepted for the love of God, can transform us for the better. That is the mystery of the Cross.
The Gospel passage speaks about self-sacrifice for a greater good. According to Jesus, it is when we freely give of ourselves that we truly love. We can donate money and other possessions for a worthy cause but that is really not Gospel loving. It is when "a grain of wheat dies that it produces much fruit." I am struck by the statement Jesus made: "the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.." What is He talking about? His time is near when he is to be handed over to the enemies and be killed! And yet, he considers this moment of suffering as his glory. Isn't this the mystery we are all confronted, some more than others, the mystery of suffering? And yet, this is suppose to be our moment of glory! Our Christian Faith does talk about redemptive suffering. This is the message we try to convey to our residents who suffer the ills of old age - their sufferings have a value.
As Holy Week approaches, let us join our prayers together as we delve deeper into the mystery of the Cross. Let us follow Our Lord who first treaded the path for us. It is reassuring to remember that Jesus himself felt the weight of suffering: "My soul is troubled now, yet what should I say, "Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this that I came to this hour."
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