5th Sunday of Lent Year B 2020

The hour for the new covenant has come

Readings: Jer 31, 31-34; Ps 51, 3-4.12-13.14-15; Heb 5, 7-9; Jn 12, 20-33

The word of God on the 5th Sunday of Lent invites us to contemplate that moment in which God wants to seal the new covenant with His people. Jesus refers to this moment as “the hour” of glorification. When He is lifted up on the Cross, Jesus draws all to Himself. The new covenant demands of us new heart, and thus new life styles.

New people for the new Covenant

The best term to describe the relationship of God with His people is “covenant”. He deemed the human being to be a suitable partner of the covenant. In Israel God wished to choose people of all nations and include them in His plan of salvation. Unlike the covenant that God sealed with Israel on Mt. Sinai, the terms of the new covenant are not to be written on stones but engraved in people’s hearts. In fact, Jeremiah uses the word “plant”. He we see the beginning of a process that will lead to growth. The Law of love that God pours into our hearts must grow. Each one is invited to have an intimate relationship with God. And it is this relationship that leads to a solid knowledge of God. God reveals Himself to those who open their hearts to Him: first they get to know His goodness and then His unconditional love that forgives guilt and liberates them from their past. In order to be partners of the new covenant one needs a pure heart. For this the psalmist prays (Ps 51).

Lifted up for all to see

In today’s Gospel Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Jeremiah: “Look, the days are coming”, when He says: “Now the hour has come”. He calls it a moment of glorification. But it is the moment of death. He is ready to give up His life so that the new covenant may be sealed. Those who wish to be part of this new covenant have to die like the grain of wheat in order to yield a rich harvest. Jesus’ is being lifted up on the Cross is a moment of defeat for the prince of the world.  He is the victor that stands on a podium for all to see. He draws many to Himself. The evangelist John mentions the presence of the gentiles who were attracted to the God of Israel. They come with a desire: “We would like to see Jesus”. The hour has come for Him to be seen not only by the Jews but also by the gentiles who were “God-fearers”. He wished to reveal the self-emptying love of God in his powerlessness and not in the powers of His miracles. Whoever is drawn to the one who hangs on the cross ought to give up one’s old ways which are many times very worldly. We ought to admit that it is not all well with us in the world. Something has to change. Death to the old self (sin) enables us to experience the life of grace in us. Let each one of us ask oneself: “What grain of wheat in my personal life must die in order to become more?” May the self-denial that has characterized our Lenten journey be a sign of our readiness to participate as renewed people in the forthcoming Paschal Mysteries in which the Crucified reconciles the world to God!

A costly covenant

The author of the letter to the Hebrews presents Jesus in the hour before His death. It is in that hour that Jesus offers prayers with loud cries and tears to God. God was able to save His Son from death. He didn’t save him from dying as was the case with Abraham’s only son (Gen 22), but His love for the world moved Him to give the only-begotten for the salvation of all. He didn’t avoid death, but He chose to save the Son out of death. Death became, thus, a passage to the new life in God. The sacrifice on the Cross is that costly covenant in which grace is unconditionally poured out to save a lost humanity. As we approach the Holy Week may we recognize that the hour has really come for us to be saved! Let us not be passive observers but active participants and partners of the new covenant! Let us be attentive mainly to the words that the Crucified Savior pronounces as He hangs on the Cross! In a special way let feel the thirst He has for our conversion!

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