We pray in union with the prayer of the Church for this Sunday of Lent. Jesus loved this world enough to die for its salvation, but detested it enough not to be seduced by its downward-ways of choosing the meaning of life. We pray to receive that Love and His death as the great sign of that love.
We pray also to be inspired by His gentle compassion and to be guided by His life of choosing selflessness as His personal style. We pray intently for the grace to die to our selfishness so that we might live more and more for the salvation of others.
Jeremiah is known for his indictments against the House of Israel. He has warned them about the consequences of being resistant to God’s law. We have heard his feeling very sorry for himself and for his having listened to the word of God.
In these verses and in the entire chapter, Jeremiah is quite energetic and excited about what he now hears from God and is speaking to the people in their captivity. Something new is going to happen and it is a promise from God to make a new covenant with the whole people of Israel. It will be new, different and lead to life.
What is new is the word “within”. There is a new emphasis on interiority. The Spirit of God will inspire each person to know what is the proper response. In the former relationship with God, externals were everything and they had to be taught culticly. The new covenant will not be written on stone, but within the hearts of the covenanted people.
God promises to forgive the “evil-doers “and remember not their sins. God had promised Noah that when the sins of the people gathered the clouds together for a flood, God would see the rainbow and relent. Now in this new and latest covenant edition of love, God will see deep inside their hearts and see the covenant embedded there and recall the faithfulness God promised. That “within” covenant remains even though the external execution of response may be imperfect. God does not give up on Israel’s becoming God’s people and their allowing God to be their “master”. This is a promise of great consolation and relief for those in captivity for their pasts.
“Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Jesus is about to be seen or “glorified” by not only the Greeks who are in Jerusalem for the Passover, but by us as well. Next week we will begin watching Jesus while holding our palms. Jesus, in today’s Gospel indicates that the “hour” for His glorification has arrived. He says of Himself that like a grain of wheat which must die to its being just a grain of wheat by being planted in the ground in order to bring forth food, so Jesus Himself must receive His hour of dying so as to bring forth life. The dying is the great time of “seeing” Jesus. Jesus sees this “hour” as the great act of serving God’s people. This is almost an exact pre-lecture of what Jesus will tell the Apostles after washing their feet in the next chapter. Those who desire to follow Jesus will have some dying to do so that they might serve God’s people.
We then hear Jesus in a prelude of His prayer of agony in the Garden of Sorrows. His being faithful has a great cost and the hour of his paying the price is near. He receives comfort from a voice from heaven, but Jesus says that it is not for His sake, but for the comforting of those who will follow His way of loving the world by dying to its ways and for its salvation.
The “within” of Jesus is about to be “outed”. We say that what goes up must come down. So too, what is inside will be revealed eventually. For Jesus, what must go down will rise again; what must die for the world, will give life to the world. For Jesus,, his being Servant has been His interior and through the “signs” in John’s Gospel, we “see Jesus” from the inside, and the out.
I visited recently, the L’Arche Community of Daybreak, in Toronto. L’Arches is a community of communities around the world dedicated to the dignity and well-being of its mentally-challenged “Core Members”. I was privileged to be a small part of Daybreak thirty years ago. Many of the Core Members are still thriving there.
One striking feature of the wonderful women and men who have lived there is they have little sense of time. They were glad to see me, hugged me, welcomed me back, but when they left for their jobs they didn’t say good bye. They also did not say thank you to the Assistants who made their lunches. The Assistants serve from their insides and die to the worldly way of being paid very much in words or money. Their insides, their “within” comes out in the gestures of faithful patience and love. I am sure they would love hearing a voice from heaven once in a while telling them that God was grateful. Maybe they do. The Core Members are timeless in their affection, but they did not say anything about seeing me later or “Thanks for coming”. The affection of the Assistants is timeless as well. As servants, washing feet, floors, faces, is how they care for the Body of Christ. God’s love is timeless as well, as Jesus continues encouraging us to follow His ways as we wash tears away, dirt away, memories away. This “world” of which Jesus speaks is also “within” us and we want a “Thank you” now and then and a warm payment of celebration or glorification in its ways. Jesus was glorified and His timeless gesture of salvation was not greeted with any thanks then.
These days leading to Easter, we are moved to serve without thanks and in this way give thanks for His dying so that we might have eternal life.
“Create a clean heart in me, O God.” Ps. 51, 3
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