5th Sunday of Lent, Year B – Homily

5th Sunday of Lent, Year B
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15 (12a)
Hebrews 5:7-9
John 12:20-33
March 17, 2024

The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

God had previously formed a covenant with the Israelites when He led them out from slavery in Egypt towards the promised land.  The Israelites responded, “All that the Lord has said, we will hear and do” (Exodus 24:7).

The Israelites pledged to follow the covenant that God had formed with them but they instead they broke the covenant.  They sinned in disobeying the Lord. 

This covenant required obedience to the Law.  If you kept the commandments, you would be saved.  It was not long before the people began sinning.  God knew this would happen.  He prescribed sacrifices for their sins. 

God offers a new covenant in Jesus.  God did not throw out the Law.  Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).  God has given us a law that is good for us.  We do well to follow it. 

However, our salvation centers not on a technical following of the Law.   Our salvation is now rooted in Jesus’ Crucifixion.  In the garden, Jesus laments with “prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears.”  He didn’t want to suffer his Passion.  He cried out, “Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will” (Mark 14:36).  Jesus submitted his obedience to our Father’s Will and thus, “he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Even in this world, our lives are best when we follow what the Lord has taught us.  When we don’t follow it, we sin.  When we sin, we can turn our hearts to Jesus, who in his compassion, has died for us, so that our offenses can be wiped out, washed in the blood of Jesus.  When we repent, we ask God to create a clean heart in us and renew a steadfast spirit within us. 

We can’t do this on our own.  We don’t need to.  It is God’s will and in his power to cleanse us and save us.

Do you want to be saved?

You might say, “of course.”

Are you willing to submit yourself to the Lord?

Jesus says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but it dies, it produces much fruit.

Are you willing to die to your sins, are you willing to die to worldly things in order to receive the grace of your salvation?

God has already placed within you the seed of faith for your salvation.  The Lord had said, “I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Here lies our conscience.  People have a right to follow their conscience (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1782).  However, this does not mean that can do whatever our “inner voice” says.  Conscience involves more than just a general feeling.  We need to allow God to bring outward what He has planted in our heart.  We need to have a well-formed conscience (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1783-1784). 

It is not the world that should form our conscience.  Remember, as Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).  (For more on conscience, please see my presentation, Where Do We Go for Truth?, and my article, “Do We Listen to our Conscience?”.)

We need to do the best we can in having a well-formed conscience and following it.  Yet we may fall short.  Then we rely on the Lord’s words, “I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.”  It’s not that our sins no longer matter.  It is that God wipes them away when we submit ourselves to his will.

God does not abandon us to sin.  He does give us free will.  We make the best use of our free will when we choose to die to the things of this world to live in accord with the two greatest commandments, to love God and to love our neighbor.

Some people want God to give them a place in Heaven but they want to live their own way in this world.  They want the reward but they want complete freedom. 

We cannot save ourselves.  Jesus came for this purpose, to save us.  His obedience to the Father is “the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

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