Homily Fifth Sunday of Lent Year B Glorifying the Father

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Homily Fifth Sunday of Lent Year B

Reading 1: The theme of covenant continues in the first reading as it has for each of the previous Sunday in Lent. On the first Sunday, we heard about the covenant God made with Noah. The sign was the rainbow. On the second Sunday, we read about God’s covenant with Abraham. Circumcision was the sign of the covenant. On the third Sunday, the focus was God’s covenant with Moses. The sign was obedience to the Ten Commandments. Last Sunday, we heard about the consequences that the Chosen People experienced because they broke their covenant with God.  They were exiled from the Promised Land for seventy years until Cyrus, a pagan king, was chosen by God to restore His people back in the land flowing with milk and honey.

Today, Jeremiah tells the people that God will make a new covenant, a covenant of the heart, a covenant of love with the people. The expected response would be love not obligation, but a love that is not external but lived out in a right relationship of intimacy and union with God. And God promises that he will forgive their sins and remember them no more.

At Mass today, let this promise of forgiveness come back to mind when the chalice of wine is consecrated and the words are said: “the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sin.”  We are the beneficiaries of this new and eternal covenant.

Reading 2: In the past four Sundays, the focus has been on the death and resurrection of Jesus. First Sunday: as a result of his death and resurrection we have been saved in the waters of baptism. Second Sunday: even though God spared Abraham’s son, he did not spare his Son, Jesus, but handed him over to death because of his great love for us. Third Sunday: his death and resurrection seems like foolishness to the Jews and weakness to the Greeks, but in truth it manifests the strength and power of God. Fourth Sunday: God, rich in mercy, saved us through the death of Jesus. We did not earn this pure gift, but we are called to respond to it by a life of love.

Today, Jesus, out of love for us and the Father, gave his life for ours. In his humanity, he cried to the Father to spare him but at the same time Jesus embraced the wood of the cross in obedience to be an example for us. In our trials and sufferings, we too cry out to the Lord.  But in obedience we are called to embrace them so that through them we can be perfected and brought into the full life of God.

Gospel: Again looking at the past Sundays’ Gospel readings, we heard about Jesus’ temptations in the desert, about his Transfiguration, about the cleansing of the Temple and as Moses lifted up the sign of their sins in the desert, the serpent, so too the Son of Man will draw all to himself through the cross.

Today, as he draws closer to his death, Jesus is aware that his obedience to the Father through the cross will glorify the Father. As a seed is buried in the ground bears much fruit, so his death and resurrection will bear much fruit. For it is losing our life of sin and living in relationship with Jesus that we will experience the same life and death process.

This is the third time the Father is recorded as speaking to or about Jesus: at Jesus’ Baptism, at the Transfiguration and now.  The Father responds to Jesus each time. The reality of the impending suffering overwhelms Jesus. He cries out: “Father, glorify your name. I have glorified it and I will glorify it again.” He glorified the Father by saying yes at his Baptism. He glorified the Father by proclaiming the word of the Father, confirming it by signs and wonders. Now, he will be glorifying the Father by his obedient death on the cross.  In this cry he is anticipating his agony in the Garden.

All during Lent we have been reminded of the various covenants God has made. This Easter we are going to make present and re-enter into that final covenant sealed for us through the blood of Jesus on the cross. We will personally, communally and publicly renew this covenant of our heart through the renewal of our baptismal promises.

To do that effectively and not just externally or perfunctory, we have been called to turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel. Like Abraham we are called to trust and obey God, to embrace the trials of our life, trusting the Father will be glorified through them. As Jesus said: “The one who serves him will follow him; unless you take up your cross, you cannot be my disciple.” Through responding to the Lord, we will experience the fruits of his death and resurrection.

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