Jeremiah begins this 5th Sunday of Lent with an earthshaking passage:
“The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah… it will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers…..” – Then in the Gospel Jesus says:”Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
What is the connection for us of these two Scripture passages?
We have seen how the theme of Covenant is so very dominant in the Scriptures in Cycle B. For these last four weeks we’ve walked with Noah, Abraham, Moses, the descendants of David and this week we walk with Jeremiah and Jesus.
We’ve heard over and over again how God wants to be our God – to be in relationship with us – a relationship of unconditional love.
Over and over again God has bonded by way of a covenant with his people – each covenant seeking a commitment and facing humankind with a challenging question and a sign.
The first four weeks challenged us with these questions from our God:
Will you help restore our broken relationship?
Will you be a holy people? Will you be faithful to this relationship?
Do you trust me? Do you have faith in me and my love?
Will you surrender your life and will into the care of your God?
Do you know your God or do you just know about your God?
We know the story of how God’s people were unfaithful, how they broke the relationship and how they walked away from their commitment and the bond they had made with their God.
This week, Jeremiah says that there will be a new covenant- it will not be like the former covenants- rather it will be “written on our hearts”. And then in the Gospel, Jesus speaks of the grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying…. What is the relationship and question we are being asked this week?
We seem to have trouble believing that God’s relationship with us is one of unconditional love- God never breaks it, doesn’t walk away nor is unfaithful to his part of this covenant relationship- even when we are.
It is we who must work to stay CONNECTED… we are born out of this Love, we are called to live out of this Love and we will complete our journey by returning to the fullness of this Love.
In 1 John we hear- “In this is love, that God loved us first…” Do we even begin to understand what this means? – God took the first step – calling and forming a relationship because God loved us!
It is in this week’s Gospel, linked to Jeremiah telling us about the New Covenant that we find the ultimate commitment that God is asking of us if we say YES to this New Covenant.
Jesus says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it’s just a grain of wheat – but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”
Jesus is telling us that He is the New Covenant that Jeremiah speaks of – Jesus is not only the New Covenant, but we are asked to live as he lives this relationship. No longer is the sign of the Covenant the rainbow, circumcision, the Ten Commandments – but Jesus in his very person is the sign of this Covenant.
It is Jesus, in his daily living, that spells out for us essential aspects of this “New Covenant written in our hearts”:
-At all costs, we must stay focused, centered, live our lives daily connected to that of Jesus – even Jesus tells us – when “we are troubled”, when, like him, we want to ask God to save us from “this hour”.
-This covenant Jesus tells us, means, being, like him, a servant. But Jesus is asking more – the question with this New Covenant asks us-Can you pour out your life in order to bear fruit?
Richard Rohr, in one of his daily meditations, tells us that “Our only Holiness is by participation and surrender to the Body of Love- connected with Jesus, in and through the Community – it is not about any private performance. “
“Because”, he says,”Love is One, and this Love is either shared and passed on or it is not the Great Love at all”.
This is why we can say “yes” to this new covenant written on our hearts – we can, with Jesus let the grain of wheat, which is our life, fall into the ground and die so that it can bear much fruit.”
Because, as Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel- “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”
God’s New Covenant of Unconditional Love –written on our hearts – became flesh and blood in Jesus Christ who showed us how to empty our self– and be filled with the fullness of God’s unconditional love – there is no greater promise- and all we have to do is to say “YES” and live our “Yes” out faithfully.
In one week’s time, we will enter into the Holiest of Weeks, journeying again with Jesus the last week of his earthly life, his death and his resurrection.
Can we “empty” ourselves as He does so that, in dying, our lives too will “bear much fruit”?
Sister Pauline Micke