MARCH 25, 2012 – 5TH SUNDAY OF LENT: JEREMAIAH 31:31-34 ; HEB :7-9 ; JOHN 12:20-33

I WILL PUT MY LAW WITHIN THEM, AND WRITE IT ON THEIR HEART. The Hebrew word Jeremiah used in this text is Torah which has as its first meaning, not law but rather instruction, teaching. The Torah given through Moses by God, is primarily an instruction concerning the way to true happiness and fulfillment. True enough this Torah includes what we designate in English as law that prescribes some particular way of acting or forbids certain other matters.  Already in Jeremiah’ time, some six hundred years before Christ, the prophet saw the need to instruct the Jewish people to attend to the interior law of God that is a kind of instruction rather than merely an exterior requirement. The primary focus of God’s requirements for his people is found within, bkere Is the Hebrew word the prophet employs. His law, he goes on to say, is written as a letter on the tablet of the heart. Saint Bernard, some 1600 years later, developed this revealed truth in his treatise On the Love of God in these terms: “The Law of God is therefore immaculate: it is charity. . . . Let it not seem absurd that I said even God lives by law since I point out that law is none other than charity. . . . This is the eternal law, creative and ruling over the universe.” (PL 182:996). In the second reading we heard a few minutes ago, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews stresses how this love of God took unexpected expression in the passion of our Lord:  “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered, and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”

Although the rulers of the people, at the time of Jesus, understandably emphasized the outward behavior of the people for whom they were responsible, yet, as Jeremiah so insistently taught, true service of God required a way of acting that was at one with the intention and desire of the heart. The Psalms, more than once speak of the sacrifice of praise as being acceptable to God and goes so far as to assert that “sacrifice and oblation you do not want” but rather the gift of one’s very self. (Ps 40:7)

Our Lord in today’s Gospel text, indicates how thoroughly he had made his own this interiorized relation to the heavenly Father. Repeatedly in his preaching and instruction to his closest followers he had set before his hearers the need for interior commitment to God’s service. Purity of heart, simplicity of the intention disposition of the spirit was repeatedly the theme he returned to. Now today, as his Passion confronts him he attains to a new level of commitment to this interiority as he experiences the pressures and anxieties that precede his sufferings. Rather than retract his earlier insistence on the need for a personal, heartfelt obedience to the Father’s plan, he accepts the coming rejection of his person and the way that will end in his death. Though he felt repugnance and even fear, yet he will not now pray for deliverance: “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  But it was for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”

 In depicting this scene so vividly for us Saint John allows us to grasp something of inner suffering that our Savior experienced as he approached his coming death. We cannot participate in this anguished hour of the Lord’s entry upon the torments of his passion without some realization that in meeting him in this hour of suffering as we do today at this liturgy, we too are confronted with the same choice that he met with. Do we follow his example and choose to accept the Father’s will knowing that it will bring us too at some future hour before suffering and finally death?? 

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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