From a good Discalced Carmelite and friend...
This season of Lent is something of a school that educates and prepares our hearts to celebrate the great mysteries of our salvation—the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, Son of God and our Savior. Each Sunday of Lent is another LESSON that tells us something of WHO Jesus is and WHY He came into the world. Let me just offer a recap. The first Sunday of Lent Jesus is led into the desert to be tempted by the devil, to experience his human weakness in solidarity with us, and to glorify His Father by suffering in His weakness. The second Sunday of Lent Jesus is revealed during the Transfiguration as the Beloved Son of God the Father and the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. Peter, James and John and we ourselves are told: “LISTEN TO HIM.” The third Sunday of Lent Jesus cleanses the Temple and reveals Himself to be the NEW Temple and the means of offering true worship to God. Last Sunday, we had the beautiful passage in the Gospel of John where Jesus tells Nicodemus: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up so that everyone who believes in Him might have eternal life.”
And so we come to this fifth Sunday—the Sunday before his triumphant entry into Jerusalem where he’ll be crucified. Some Greeks want to “see Jesus”—they are not Jews but Gentiles—foreigners drawn to see Jesus… and it is THIS moment when Jesus declares that His “Hour” has come. In John’s Gospel, the “Hour” is both the time of Christ’s Passion AND His exaltation. Jesus tells us explicitly HOW He will be glorified and how He will glorify the Father… It is through His death on the CROSS.
Jesus tells us, “The Son of Man did NOT come to be served, but TO SERVE.” To give His life for the MANY. Why? Is it because SOMEONE has to PAY? Well, it is true that Jesus alone restores TRUE justice where our sins have offended GOD. …But let us remember that it is not blood and suffering that God requires for the salvation of the world, BUT rather A HEART THAT LOVES OBEDIENTLY, even unto death.
“Son though He was, Jesus learned obedience from what He suffered.” The Son of God lived a human life, united with us, and offered to God a heart that LOVED until death. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” And so Jesus says to all of us today, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” Jesus comes to understand that His life is the grain of wheat that will die to produce much fruit.
We, too, must give of ourselves—more than likely NOT to be literally crucified—but maybe it is to be patient with those who greatly annoy us, maybe it is to still desire good to those who have mistreated us, maybe it is to LIVE TODAY for God even if we have FAILED to live for Him for the past week. Jesus says: “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.” If you were baptized into Christ Jesus, then you TOO are a SEED that must die to itself so that FRUIT may be produced and GOD glorified.
Brothers and sisters, in today’s Gospel Jesus gives us a THEOLOGY for Good Friday—it is that He, the Son of God made flesh, will give His life for us to glorify His Father and to REVEAL the greatest love the world has ever known. And what is the FRUIT of this love: LISTEN. “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” That is, WHEN JESUS REVEALS the FULLNESS of GOD on the CROSS, every HUMAN HEART will awaken and be drawn to this LOVE.
This is the meaning of our first reading from Jeremiah: God is making a new covenant... In the former covenant God has to show us to be our Master, but in the NEW and ETERNAL covenant, God “places His law within us and writes it upon our hearts.” The Lord says about His CROSS: “All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.”
Jesus is the Good Shepherd who climbs the wood of the cross in order to call all His scattered SHEEP to Himself and to lead them to the Father.
WHAT must we do in reply?
Let us LOOK at the CROSS and consider the love of Christ for us. As our shepherd Jesus asks for the obedience of our hearts. Jesus never asks anything of us that He has not ALREADY DONE Himself. He calls us from the CROSS to give of our lives in LOVE. And if we love as He has loved, we will come to understand from experience that death is NOT the end—beyond the CROSS the Savior leads us to the Resurrection.