Mar 22, 2012

Lent Sunday 5: "I will write it upon their hearts . . ."

Jer 31: 31-34
Hb 5: 7-9
Jn 12: 20-33

Back in the 1980’s a very popular song was written by a California group called, The Whispers.  The name of the song was “And the beat goes on.” 

I find it interesting that if you look at the words of many of the popular songs from that era, and some even today, you could find applicable religious overtones.  These songs of love, loss and redemption are clearly about more intimate relationships between persons.  However, the words, I think, can be equally applied to our relationship with God.  God is that divine lover who is determined to pursue us despite our unfaithfulness.  God is seeking to establish a new and lasting covenant with his people.
For example, the following words are taken from the song, “And the beat goes on:”

“And the beat goes on. Just like my love everlasting, the beat goes on you’d better believe it. Don’t stop for nobody. This time I’ll keep my beat on solid ground, now I understand myself when I’m done, there’ll always be something new to keep the tables turning. There’ll never be an ending and the beat goes on, just like my love everlasting, still moving strong on and on the beat goes on . . .”

Granted, the phrasing of the words may not exactly be a high form of English or what might constitute prayerful language but the message of “love everlasting” is clear.  We could apply this to our Lenten readings this Sunday as we approach the great liturgical drama of Holy Week. But the words of Jeremiah today confront us with a most foundational statement by God to all of humanity about his everlasting love.

In the first reading from Jeremiah 31: 31-34, we hear: “. . . I will make a new covenant 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 . . .”

Can you hear the love of God singing to us – “And the beat goes on?” He simply will not give up on us no matter how many times we don’t get it right. This “law” of God written upon our hearts established the new, perpetual, never to be broken covenant relationship between God and humanity.  It is the covenant of all covenants for God’s continued attempts to let his “beat go on” with us in past covenants was finally fulfilled in the gift of his own Son among us. It was then enfleshed in the very person of God made human among us – in Jesus the Christ.
God’s Law is not as much about words as it is about a relationship between persons: God and humanity.  If I am bound to you and you with me, then it implies a love and respect between those persons. 

In the Gospel from John 12: 20-33, we also hear Jesus speak about his “hour” to be glorified.  This “hour” Jesus speaks of is within John’s theology of Jesus who accomplishes his Father’s will in perfect obedience.  That “hour” is the moment of his passion and death which is his ultimate glorification as our Savior. Jesus’s “beat goes on” and is glorified through his outpouring of love from a heart of divine mercy upon the cross.
As he states, “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 …” Can you see Our Lord falling in death then rising to produce new life in the resurrection?

Such beautiful images confront us in this final week before the week called Holy. This Sunday’s Word is more reflective in nature than it is directly historical.  In other words there is no healing story or feeding of thousands of hungry people or walking on water. This a kind of proclamation on the part of Jesus as to who he is and what his coming among us implies – salvation brought through the price of the Cross.

Yet, let’s face it, the vast majority of us live rather comfortable lives in this Country.  So the powerful implications of the Cross may elude us or at least make it more challenging to apply it to our lives. While we enjoy a certain level of expected luxury, many in the world do not.  The poverty level of the world and the daily experience of simple existence is beyond the experience of most of us in this Country, even with our economic problems.  

But for the poor, however, the Cross may have a more gut level feeling than for us. So, we need to pray that it isn’t for us merely a kind of decoration but rather that we too can embrace its implications in a way that will call us to deep conversion.
What Jesus did and what God accomplished through the cross and resurrection of his Son literally established the beginning of the end times in which we now live.  So, do we simply wait in fear and trembling for the “end is near?” Jesus left us a place to go and a meal of remembrance until he comes again.  

In our Eucharistic liturgy weekly and daily we remember this cross and the person who embraced it for us.  In that Eucharist, we hear and consume the very living presence of the law that God has written upon us in and through the person of Jesus.  That Covenant-eternal is remembered and renewed each time we begin, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”  +  and is taken to the world around us as we, “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord. “