A Reflection on the Gospel from Fr. Michael
Today, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, is traditionally known as the beginning of Passiontide. This Sunday we hear proclaimed the last Lenten Gospel and next Sunday, Palm Sunday, we will hear proclaimed the Gospel of our Lord’s Passion. As we come to the end of the series of our Lenten Gospels and before reflecting on today’s Gospel, let’s just take a look back at the four Lenten Gospels we have reflected on since the First Sunday of Lent.
On the first Sunday of Lent, we reflected on the Gospel of our Lord’s Temptation in the wilderness. In our Lord’s Temptations He has taught us how to over-come temptation with prayer, fasting and the Word of God. On the second Sun-day of Lent, we reflected on our Lord’s glorious Transfiguration. As we con tem-plated the glory of God on the face of Christ He gave a glimpse to His disciples and to us of His great glory. Jesus did this before climbing the mount of crucifix-ion, teaching us that the way to glory is only through the Cross. In our Lord’s Transfiguration we contemplate the glory that will also be ours one day if we are faithful to the Lord. Keeping our thoughts on that glory to come helps us to get through the times when the shadow of the Cross falls into our lives. On the third Sunday of Lent we reflected on our Lord’s cleansing of the Jerusalem Temple. Jesus made a whip and drove out the animals destined for temple sacrifice along with the merchants as he overturned the tables of the money changers. The atmosphere of the temple was not conducive to prayer as a result of the buying and selling, and the hearts of the worshippers were not ready to worship the Father in spirit and truth. Just as Jesus cleansed the temple before His Passover so we too must cleanse the temples of our hearts through prayer, fasting and almsgiving in order to celebrate our Lord’s Passover during Holy Week. On the fourth Sunday of Lent we reflected upon the words of Jesus to Nicodemus: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life,” (John 3: 14–15). In these words of Jesus we learn that whoever gazes with faith upon Christ lifted up on the Cross, lifted up from the grave, and lifted up into the heavens will have eternal life.
Now that we have come to the fifth Sunday of Lent we see that the time has now come for Jesus to be lifted up; this “lifting up” of Jesus refers to His Hour. In today’s Gospel Jesus says: “The hour has come for the son of Man to be glorified. 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 if it dies, it produces much fruit. I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name,’ (John 12: 23–24, 27).
On this Sunday, the beginning of Passiontide, we are now entering into the solemn celebration of Jesus’ Hour, the Hour of his saving Death and glorious Resurrection. We must also enter Jesus’ Hour, for in this hour we are made new creatures. What Jesus does for us in His Hour is beautifully described in the first reading today from the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah says: “The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people,” (Jeremiah 31: 31, 33).
Let’s do our best now to stay focused on Jesus’ Hour that is quickly approaching. The covering of the sacred images in church is a reminder to us to do just that. Now that all the images are covered, the only place our eyes can turn is to the pulpit and the Altar. It’s a reminder to keep our attention fixed on the Hour of Christ which we hear proclaimed from the pulpit and made truly pre-sent on the Altar.
Let’s prepare well to enter into this sacred Hour during these remaining days before Holy Week. Let’s persevere in these final days in prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Please remember that we should not consider our preparation for Easter complete without first going to Confession.
Before closing I want to share some happy news with you. Fr. James will be returning to us on Holy Thursday to be with us for Easter. Fr. James will stay with us until April 22nd when, most likely, he will have to return to Cleveland.
Please keep Fr. James, Fr. Justin and myself in your prayers as you can be assured of ours!
Affectionately, in the Heart of Christ,