Fifth Sunday Of Lent – Year B
March 21, 2021 – 10:30 AM
Saint Cecilia Catholic Community
Deacon Sharon Kay Talley
Jeremiah 31:31-34 | Psalm 51:3-4;12-15
Hebrews 5:7-9 | John 12:20-33

+In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

“Whoever loves one’s life loses it and whoever hates one’s life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”

This is what Jesus says to us in today’s Gospel.  And this is what ultimately defines the life of a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Jesus teaches us that our salvation is possible only by our abandonment of the “self” and through our own suffering and service for the sake of others.  In theology, salvation is the saving of the soul from sin.  It may also be referred to as deliverance or redemption and is caused by the grace of God.

To Catholics, the incarnation and death of Jesus were God’s divine plan for humanity’s salvation,   A true person of faith in God who has thus abandoned “self” does not seek his, her, or one’s own comfort at the expense of others.  It is not what we own in life that matters, but what we give.

Today, I’d like to share a story from the New York Times published in 2012.

On a cold November night in Times Square, Officer Lawrence DePrimo was working a counter-terrorism post when he encountered an elderly, barefooted homeless man.  The officer disappeared for a moment, then returned with a new pair of boots and knelt to help the man lace them up and put them on.

This act of kindness would have gone unnoticed and mostly forgotten, had it not been for a tourist from Arizona. Her photo…taken with her cellphone on November fourteenth and posted to the New York City Police Department’s Facebook page the next day went viral and Officer DePrimo became an instant internet hero.

The officer, normally assigned to the Sixth Precinct, readily recalled the encounter.  “It was freezing outside and you could see the blisters on the man’s feet,”  he said in an interview.  “I had two pairs of socks on and I was still cold.”  They started talking and he found out the man’s shoe size.

As the man walked slowly down Seventh Avenue, Officer DePrimo went into a Skechers shoe store about 9:30  pm.  “We were just kind of shocked.”: said Jose Cano, the store manager.  “Most of us are New Yorkers, and we just kind of pass by that kind of thing, especially in this neighborhood.”  Jose Cano volunteered to give the officer his employee discount to bring the price of $100 down to $75.  Officer DePrimo has kept the receipt since then “to remind me that sometimes people have it worse.”

This story is a great reminder for all of us.  We may have good intentions to be selfless and to help others, but often we pass up daily opportunities to serve others.

Our first reading today from Jeremiah tells of God’s promise for us:  “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…”I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts…I will be their God and they shall be my people.”

God wants to restore a relationship that was destroyed and He is reassuring us of His continuous presence.  While the old covenant was dependent on written laws, the new covenant is written on the hearts and minds of God’s people.

Today’s second reading from Hebrews highlights Jesus’ prayers for all of us and His incomparable suffering for humanity.  He does these things with obedience and humility, two virtues we all need in order to live our lives as devout followers of Jesus.  In doing so, Jesus outlines a new covenant for us that leads to our salvation.  As we watch Jesus fulfilling His priestly role, we are moved to have courage in our own lives during our time of trials, especially with the pandemic affecting the entire world and all the pain and suffering it has brought.  We learn from Jesus’ experience that pain and suffering are inevitable in life.

Today’s Gospel from John is known as the “Johan nine Gethsemane” since its tone is reminiscent of the Gethsemane episode.  “Now my soul is troubled.  What shall I say:   Father save me from this hour.”  You may recall that Gethsemane is a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem where Jesus was arrested the night before His crucifixion.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Now the hour has come for the son of man to be glorified.”

When Jesus talks about glory, He is referring to the end result:  eternal life, and that by His suffering and ultimate death, He would restore life to many.  So rather than be fixated or downtrodden by His pain and suffering, Jesus was focused on the “Big Picture” or the end result of eternal life or the gift from God of endless happiness in heaven.  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.”

Jesus was teaching three things in this paradox:  that only by death comes life; that by giving oneself to God we retain life; by serving others comes greatness.  It is not difficult to see how people misunderstood Jesus, but the real tragedy was that they refused to even try.

As followers of Jesus, our Lenten journey requires us to contemplate and try to emulate Jesus, who lived His life totally for others.  We need to recognize that life involves pain and suffering and eventually death.

On at least four occasions in the New Testament, God’s voice came from heaven:  At Jesus’ baptism, God said, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17); at Jesus’ transfiguration, God’s voice was heard again: “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear ye Him (Matthew 17:5); and near the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth, Jesus prayed, “Father, glorify Thy name.  Then came a voice from heaven saying, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again” (John 12:28).

God wants it known that the ministry of Jesus will change the world forever.

As our readings today show us, the renewal God has planned for us is part of the covenant.  We must allow God to guide us on our lifelong journey of seeking a life where justice, compassion, and mercy prevail.  Let us respond to Jesus’ message with actions and attitudes that fulfill His mission.  It is through our baptism, our love of all people, our spirituality, and our participation in the Holy Eucharist that we are fulfilling God’s covenant and are redeemed. Amen

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