The Collect for this Sunday is: “Almighty God, You alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant Your people grace to love what You command and desire what You promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.” (BCP 219)
This Sunday is the last Sunday of Lent before Holy Week. The readings takes us into the mystery of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ and they also draw us into the heart of our baptismal life where the mystery of our salvation is being “worked out”. “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to His good will [your salvation].” (Phil 2:11-13)
The reading from the Old Testament is Jeremiah 31:31-34. “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” (Jer 31:31) The “new covenant” is to be inscribed on the human heart by God Himself. (Jer 31:33) So man’s heart comes to center stage. The human heart is a great mystery. From it emerges every type of injustice imaginable: “For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy.” (Mat 15:19) But the redeemed heart is fertile ground where the possibility of reconciliation and peace is conceived. Jesus stresses, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” (Matt 5:8)
The epistle reading is from Hebrews 5:1-10. Chapter Five addresses Jesus Christ as the eternal “High Priest of the New Covenant and Sacrifice.” He is the perfect and final mediator between God and all souls. This is the major doctrinal theme of the letter to the Hebrews, the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The reading from the Holy Gospel is John 12:20-33. Every action and every word of our Lord’s holds redemptive value. Everything He does displays the Cross. “Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all souls to myself!” (John 12:31)
Jesus’s blood and death brings forth a new harvest. In death Jesus offers His earthly life to God. The cost of eternal life is the highest price. Payment is made by completely giving one’s life over to God. Living sacrificially is how one practices the Christian life. A farmer cannot provide the blessings of the harvest without first committing to a season of toiling to sow. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24-25)
To be supernaturally effective we must be willing to labor hard to know the good. To know and appreciate the good we must be able to understand what is false and evil; to realize when the Evil One is causing division between us and our neighbor and to have the moral courage to walk towards the good and away from the evil. The closer we come to God the harder we will find it to stay there. So long as we are at a distance from God the minions of Satan will not harass us too much. But as soon as we get serious about returning to the Father the harder Satan will work to convince us there is no point in our efforts.
Just like the farmer, we too must labor daily sorting the good from the bad. Grains of wheat must change through death in order to grow roots and new life. Our supernatural life must begin in the same way. It must begin in the soil of humility. Humility is found wherever sanctifying (baptismal) grace is allowed to increase. “We always carry deep within us the mortification of Jesus, that the [new] life of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Cor 4:10)
The pure water of regeneration is the water that infused the new covenant upon our heart. (Eph 1:13-14) This covenant opens our heart and soul to God’s grace and truth, “And from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:16)
The pure water of regeneration is the water of grace that infused the new covenant upon our heart. (Eph 1:13-14) Our soul is filled with the holy and life-giving Spirit. We have the means to stay in the faith and communion of Christ’s holy Church. The Holy Spirit will teach us and forms us in love to love as Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. We live linking the world to God. With that grace of “dying and rising” within us we can daily find the fullness of the Father’s peace and glory. (BCP 305-306)