Fifth Sunday of Lent
by Father Charles Irvin, M.Div, J.D.
The law is a tough thing. Law reduces situations and relationships to permissible and impermissible behaviors. Mostly, law
is about what you can't do. You can't fail to pay income taxes. Can't kill someone else, unless you're defending yourself. You can't breach
a contract. You can't cross against the light. You can't drive more than 65 miles per hour, although nearly everyone does. Law keeps
civilization going, by giving us common expectations and boundaries. Usually law is about justice.
But the law is an imperfect thing. No legal code, no matter how complex, can account for every
human situation and relationship. Laws have to be enforced, applied, and interpreted. All of these are going
to introduce human weakness and sinfulness into
the system. And of course, the reason we need laws is because of people who don't care very much about law: criminals of one sort or
Some people commit crimes out of desperation. Some break the law out of ignorance. And some are indifferent to the law and
commit crimes because they have a depraved disregard for other people and property. The law is not
perfect, and we are not perfect.
The Prophet Jeremiah, writing to his people in exile in Babylon, tells them that there is a new covenant
coming, a new law. They broke the old covenant, and so were carried off into captivity. But
God did not abandon them, and is going to give them a new covenant. And all of them will
know and understand the new law, because
it will be written in their hearts. Their relationship to God
will be so ingrained, and so natural, that they will not even need to teach it to their friends and relatives. No
values-based character education for them! They will simply know what is right, and their past will be
Imagine a world where everyone knows what is right, and agrees on it. Where
we all have the same understanding of Who God is, and what God expects from us.
Obviously, we're not quite there yet. But we know the way.
We know because the Savior has shown us the way. If we follow Him,
we will know what is right, and the law will be written on
our hearts, because His Spirit is with us. All we have to do is follow where He
But pay attention
these next few weeks to where Jesus leads. The path to enlightenment,
the path to a deep honest relationship with God, the path to our
salvation has some difficult stops along the way. If, like the Greeks in today's Gospel, we want to
"see" Jesus, and go where
He goes, we're going to have to make a stop at this Eucharistic table. We're going to have to go with
Him, and struggle to stay awake during a troubled
night in a garden. And we are going to have to meet Him at the Cross, where
He finds glory, and we find forgiveness and
There is no way around that Cross.
Jesus Himself knows that although He could ask for God
to save Him from His hour of trial, and
to take His cup of suffering away from Him, the
true road is not around
His suffering, but through
You've probably met people who believe that the purpose of their religious experience is to bring them an endless supply of
happy thoughts and warm fuzzy feelings. These sorts of people are easy to recognize by their sometimes inappropriate perpetual smiles and
hundred mile stares. They live in constant denial of what they really experience. Religion becomes a shield to keep out any
unpleasant thoughts or emotions. By pretending that all religious experience is beautiful and perfect
feels-good, they deny the reality of the Cross. All their energy is spent on preserving a beautiful fašade.
But whoever would save their life will eventually lose it. And whoever would lose their life will
save it. Whoever can let go of the defenses that separate us from our real inner lives will find there the
tremendous gift that is God's Spirit. Like Jesus,
we can't simply turn away from the Cross and be true to who we are, who God has
created us to be.
This does not mean we ought to glorify suffering, or seek
it out. To glorify human
suffering is just another way to deny its reality. To seek it out is to
deny our own humanity and value. No one likes a willing
martyr, including God. Pain and suffering
are bad things that we should take seriously.
As baptized people touched by God's Spirit, we know that
God's law is already written on our hearts. To be able to read what it says,
we have to be able to peer clearly into our own hearts, and see clearly everything that is there: the
joy and the suffering. We have to understand how the Cross
is real for us, if we are going to believe that our salvation is real. During these next few weeks, as we
prepare for Holy Week and reflect on the mystery of the Cross
, approach that mystery with an open heart, and with a
willingness to go wherever it leads. When you read the law that Jeremiah says
will be written on your heart, you may find there the word for Love.
Infused/Innate Knowledge -
His name on the
soul of every man
at conception. Reason
are the God
within us in the natural order. The Fathers of the
early Church were wont to speak of the wisdom
of Plato and Aristotle as the 'unconscious'
Christ within us. Men are like so
many books issuing from the Divine Press
, and if nothing else be written on them, at least the name of the Author
is indissolubly engraved on the title page.
God is like the 'watermark on
paper', which may be written over without ever being obscured.