Each of us has experienced some sort of grief, loss or suffering at some point in our lives. Whether it is favorite things that get broken, teams we do not make, jobs we do not get, dreams delayed or abandoned, broken relationships, or the death of a loved one, we all have suffered in some way. Each of these circumstances in which we experience loss provides us with an opportunity to die to self and our will so that God might transform our lives. As we prepare to enter into Jesus’ passion and death during Holy Week, the question to ask ourselves is whether we are ready to allow God to break through whatever is holding us back in order to live evermore faithfully as His disciples, both as a community of faith and as individual believers.
Sunday’s readings point out two very important aspects of spiritual life that should help us break through the barriers that keep us from living as Christ’s disciples. In the first one, the prophet Jeremiah remembers how the Israelite people, as they became more self-reliant and prosperous, had forgotten the original blessing that God established with them. In fact, they went so far as to place their faith in other gods. But, God, in His loving providence, doesn’t reject them or give up on them; quite the contrary. He desires to wipe clean the slate and enter into a new covenant with them. God is willing to make yet another covenant that will be written on their very hearts. Jeremiah alone in the Old Testament uses the expression “new covenant.”
So, too, Our Lord stands ready today to restore us and to write his law of love on our hearts. What makes this covenant new is not its content, because God still speaks of “my law” in this reading as in previous passages. The newness of this covenant refers to the place where it can be found. There’s a passage telling the people that. The old covenant was associated with commandments written in stone. The people had to match up to standards that were outside of them. In the new covenant, God sets the standard within their hearts at the very core of each person.
The Gospel passage from St. John makes clear that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Father’s promises. In His Son, Jesus, God took on our humanity in all things but sin. In doing so, He sealed the new covenant, which was promised in the Old Testament, in His own blood. We fulfill our side of the covenant by living as Jesus and the Church teach us to live – in love of God and one another.
As a loving Father, God has provided everything needed to make His high hopes and great expectations for us available and reachable. He has given us His word in the Bible, the Sacraments, sacramentals, indulgences, the Church and her sacred ministers, to guide us on the way to His Kingdom.
During these last days, we hear the recounting of the events leading up to the passion and death of Our Lord, in which Jesus clearly could have chosen to avoid the suffering that He was about to endure. But rather than avoiding it, He embraced the suffering in order to fulfil His salvific mission. May we learn from Our Lord how to embrace the moments of suffering that we encounter throughout our lives, uniting them to His suffering on the Cross, so that they might be occasions of grace and lead us into a deeper relationship with Him.
In these last days of Lent, let’s redouble our efforts to die to ourselves so that we might grow as Christ’s disciples. May our fasting, penance and charitable works prepare us to experience, with our Lord, the suffering and death that He endured for our salvation.