My brothers and sisters in Christ, today, we are entering the fifth week of Lent. Before long, Easter will be upon us. To remind us of the grace of God that was manifested in us through the glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ that is celebrated on Easter Day, today's readings speak of the Lord drawing all people to Himself.
The First Reading was taken from the Book of Jeremiah. [Jer. 31:31-
34] From this Holy Book that is found in the Old Testament, we
learn of God's promise of a New Covenant. We heard that God
promised to write His laws in our hearts, that we will all know
Him, that our sins would be forgiven and that our sins will never
again be remembered by God.
As Christians, we all know that the New Covenant of grace was
instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper. Sitting at the table with
His disciples, Jesus took the cup, and after giving thanks He gave
it to them, saying "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My Blood
of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness
of sins." [Mt. 26-27-8]
But what does it mean that God will write His laws in our hearts
and that we will all know Him? What does it mean that we will no
longer teach one another or say to each other, "Know the Lord."
Some have interpreted this last question to mean that now, they
only need the guidance of the Holy Spirit who inspires them in
their heart. They no longer need the priests, the bishops, the
pope or even the Catholic Church. When such a thought crosses the
worldly mind, these individuals start their own new Church,
alleging that the Holy Spirit inspired them to do so. But this is
not what God was saying. To perceive the fullness of the spiritual
meaning of God's Words, it is necessary to search the other Words
of God within the Scriptures that are associated with the promise
of a New Covenant.
Over and above the gift of a new heart, God promised to place
within us a new human spirit. With the new heart and the new human
spirit, we would become God's people and He would be our God.
[Ezek. 11:19-20; 18:31] Over and above these free gifts, God also
promised to place His indwelling Holy Spirit to help us to remain
good, to obey His Holy ways. [Ezek. 36:26-7]
These gifts that are the fulfilment of God's promises are exactly
what it means to be reborn. God literally placed a new heart and
spirit within us when we received the Sacrament of Baptism through
faith in Jesus Christ. [Jn. 3:3, 5, 7; 1 Jn. 4:7, 5:1, 4] Truly,
we are not the same anymore; part of our creation has been changed.
This is the new agreement, the beautiful promise that God made with
us as His people, that He would help us to become good by writing
His laws in our hearts. [Jer. 31:33] Through this Divine
manifestation, we as God's people will always know what is right
and wrong, what makes God happy or sad. God's laws are always
written in our hearts because, our Teacher, the Holy Spirit dwells
within us. We have become living Temples of the Holy Spirit. [1
Cor. 3:16] Through this manifestation, God once more lives with us
as His people. [Jer. 31:33]
Contrary to the teaching of those who have misinterpreted the Holy
Bible, God's dwelling with His people is not a physical dwelling,
but rather a spiritual dwelling through the presence of the Holy
So, what does it mean that we will no longer teach one another
or say to each other, "Know the Lord."? It means that, through our
faith in Christ and the Sacrament of Baptism, we now know right
from wrong, the righteousness of the Lord versus the evils of the
prince of darkness. The indwelling Holy Spirit immediately
convicts us of our sins when we disobey the holy ways of the Lord
The First Reading concluded by saying that our sins will be
forgiven and never remembered again by God. [Jer. 31:34] What does
that mean to us?
When Jesus commanded the apostles to go into all the world and
preach the Gospel to the whole creation, that those who believe be
baptised and saved, Jesus made faith an important part of Baptism
(C.C.C. # 1226) along with the forgiveness of sin. [Mk. 16:15-6]
(C.C.C. # 985)
As God's children, when we were born again through faith in Jesus
and the Sacrament of Baptism, our past sins were forgiven up until
the moment that we received the Sacrament of our new birth. To
maintain our ongoing righteousness, we must continuously receive
the Sacrament of Forgiveness. Having done so, now being in a state
of grace, we are able to receive the Sacrament of the Holy
Eucharist, the Living Bread, as our assurance of salvation and
eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
Through the Sacrament of Confession, Conversion, Penance,
Reconciliation, Forgiveness, whatever name you may choose to call
it, your sins are forgiven and never remembered again by God. This
holy Sacrament is the fulfillment of God's promise that is found in
the Old Testament. Through this Sacrament, God is drawing us to
Him in righteousness.
Today's Second Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews [Heb. 5:7-9]
teaches us, through the example of our Lord Jesus, how we must
respond to God's calling that draws us to Him.
During that reading, we heard that, in His human nature, Jesus
learned obedience through what He suffered. Through suffering,
Jesus was made perfect. Through perfection, He became the source
of salvation for all who obey Him.
Reviewing this Bible passage that relates to Jesus in His human
nature, we perceive from this reading that Jesus also had a fear of
death. In His physical body, He was just as human as you and I.
He ate, slept, cried when Lazarus died, got tired, and so on.
Although He was God Himself, having lowered Himself to our humanity
so we may learn from Him, Jesus prayed to the Heavenly Father.
While He wished that the horrible death that awaited His physical
body could pass away, He submitted Himself to the fullness of
the Divine Will of God the Father.
From this perfect example of obedience and submission, we learn
that through suffering, our souls are sanctified. When we endure
hunger, we are spiritually enlightened to the needs of those who
suffer hunger. When we suffer unemployment and have to set our
pride aside to turn to social assistance, we learn in our hearts
that we should not judge others who also are obligated to turn to
social assistance because of their unfortunate circumstances. From
every form of suffering, there is a spiritual lesson to be learned.
Suffering sanctifies the soul so it may become more in the likeness
of Christ who is perfect.
Jesus is the source of salvation for those who obey Him. Answering
God's calling to be drawn to the Lord, we must always be thankful
to the Lord for what He sends us, trusting in His infinite grace to
sanctify us through His Spirit.
Today's Gospel Reading from the Gospel of John [Jn. 12:20-33]
reaffirms what has just been said. In a parable, Jesus said, "Very
truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and
dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies; it bears much
fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their
life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves
me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.
Whoever serves me, the Father will honour."
What is this grain of wheat that must fall into the earth and die?
The grain of wheat is symbolic of the Sacrament of Baptism. When
a person is baptised, his old sinful nature dies and is buried
with Christ. [Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12] And, just as Jesus was raised
from the dead by the glory of the Father, through baptism, a new
creation is raised from death to walk the new life that has been
received through Christ. [Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12] (C.C.C. # 628)
The new creation is everything! [Gal. 6:15] By being baptised in
the Name of Christ, the convert becomes a new creation. (C.C.C. #
1265) Everything has become new. The old heart and spirit that
were stained by the original sin, they have passed away. They are
dead! [2 Cor. 5:17] Because there is no more trace of the
original sin or any other sin in the new heart and spirit, they are
pure in the eyes of God. They have become suitable as a Temple of
the Holy Spirit for God to live in the Christian.
As a new creation of God, the convert who was baptised through
faith in Christ, by the grace of God the Father and the power of
the Holy Spirit, is called to bear much fruit so his soul may shine
as a light in the world. To shine as a light in the world, he must
hate his life.
Those who love their lives, they will lose it. This is because
they choose to preoccupy their worldly minds with wealth, the
flesh, desires, addictions, fames, etc... They are without any
living hope. They have no eternal life awaiting them in the
Kingdom of God because their lives are void of spirituality. They
do not have the free gift of righteousness that comes from Christ,
the gift that is necessary to be admitted into the Heavenly Kingdom
But those who hate their lives, having chosen to live their living
faith in Christ by embracing a spiritual life with heavenly
thoughts, what is righteous, what is pious, what is according to
the Divine Will of God, they will keep what they have. They will
receive their salvation and inherit eternal life in the Kingdom of
God, the rewards that awaits all those who embrace a spiritual life
through faith, hope and love towards others.
Jesus said, "Whoever serves me must follow me." Yes, we must
follow Him! And those who follow Jesus, they have the assurance
that God the Father will honour them.
To follow Jesus is not always easy. The human nature always seeks
to avoid suffering. At the same time, our spiritual nature
tells us to self-sacrifice ourselves for others. Both natures
are constantly in conflict with one another. How I wish I could
always do what I want to do instead of doing what I do not want to
But, through Christ, I will conquer because the ruler of this world
is being driven out. The days of the ruler of this world are
limited. As the number of newly baptized children of God
increases, the number of those who walk in the darkness diminishes.
While the Kingdom of God is increasing on earth, the kingdom of
Satan is shrinking.
This is sufficient reason to glorify the name of God. Before our
eyes, we see the manifestation of the grace of God. Before our
eyes, we see the fulfillment of God drawing all the people to
Himself as He promised He would do in the days of the Old