The Scripture readings for the Fifth Sunday in Lent are so inter-related and are a harbinger of the Paschal Mystery to be played out in detail, beginning next Sunday, Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion.I would like to quote from each of the readings and reflect on them.
What does God mean “to write my law upon their hearts”? Fr. Anthony Oelrich, in his reflection on today’s readings in “Give Us This Day,” says this: “The heart-written law is the interior movement to offer one’s whole self in loving adoration and service to the God of heaven and earth…to give all things at all times to God.”
Psalm 51:3-4; 12-15 (Translations from Grail and ICEL)
“Creator, reshape my heart… You delight in sincerity of heart.”
“Create a pure heart for me, O God……A changed heart you welcome.”
Beginning with Ash Wednesday, we have been praying Psalm 51 repeatedly, both at Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours. We pray, and hopefully, internalize these words, that our changed, pure, reshaped, sincere hearts may give all things to God at all times.
“Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered…
and when he was made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation.”
God’s law was written upon Jesus’ heart. He did not shrink from suffering, even to death on a cross He offered his whole being – body, heart, mind, and spirit – in obedience to Abba God. Jesus emptied himself totally!
“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest…Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be. When I am lifted up, I will draw everyone to myself.”
Death always precedes new life. As disciples of Christ, we bear his cross that we may attain the promise of Jesus’ abiding presence with us. Wheat, Eucharist, crucifixion – all have become synonymous with Jesus and his followers – blessed, broken, and shared; consumed for the life of the world.
The grain of wheat gives everything. Jesus and his disciples give everything. How true this rings today! So many martyrs of the faith!
On Tuesday of this coming week, we celebrate the soon-to-be-beatified, Oscar Romero, who on March 24, 1980;, read this same text of John’s gospel, “unless a grain of wheat dies…” and preached about the need to give our lives for others as did Christ. As the archbishop concluded his sermon, he was shot to death at the altar.
The February 14, 2015 martyrs, killed simply because they were Christians, are already acclaimed as martyrs and saints in the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Romero, the Coptic Saints, and thousands more like them, became grains of wheat; they grew more and more into Christ, emptying self of self, surrendering obediently to God’s will. They truly had God’s law written on their hearts, and they gave their hearts to their God.
In summing up today’s readings, an unknown source poignantly captured the essence in the above ideas, saying that only the grain – and the person – that is “willing to come undone and rot in the ground to produce a shoot of new wheat will be fruitful.”
Suffering of itself has no value apart from Jesus’ passion and death on the cross, but suffering united to Christ is of incalculable value.
~When I, Jesus, am lifted up, I will draw you to myself.~
Let us claim Jesus’ promise with our whole heart!
Patricia Gamgort, OSB
Saint Gertrude Monastery