Fifth Sunday of Lent

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Crucifixion of Saint Philip - by LIPPI, Filippino - from Strozzi Chapel, Santa Maria Novella, Florence


John 12:20-33

Among those who had come up to worship at the feast of Passover were some Greeks. They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and put this request to him: "Sir, we should like to see Jesus." Philip went to tell Andrew; Philip and Andrew in turn came to inform Jesus. Jesus answered them:

"The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I solemnly assure you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit. The man who loves his life loses it, while the man who hates his life in this world preserves it to life eternal. If anyone would serve Me, let him follow Me; where I am, there will My servant be. Anyone who serves Me, the Father will honor. My soul is troubled now, yet what should I say -- Father, save Me from this hour? But it was for this that I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name!"

Then a voice came from the sky: "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." When the crowd of bystanders heard the voice, they said it was thunder. Others maintained, "An angel was speaking to him." Jesus answered, "That voice did not come for My sake, but for yours." Now has judgment come upon this world, now will this world's prince be driven out, and I -- once I am lifted up from earth -- will draw all men to Myself."

(This statement of His indicated the sort of death He was going to die.)


Fifth Sunday of Lent

by Father Charles Irvin, M.Div, J.D.

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crucifixion3.jpg (1600 bytes)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 another.

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 forgiven.

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 leads.

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 salvation.

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 it.

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 -
"Synderesis"/"First Principles"

print.jpe (13461 bytes) God writes His name on the soul of every man at conception. Reason and conscience 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.