Homily for Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B
Theme: A New Covenant
In the first Reading from the book of Prophet Jeremiah, God promised a new covenant. In the Old Testament, God made a series of covenants with people. He made a covenant with Noah after the flood. In that covenant, God promised he would continue to be a protector God. The seal of that covenant was a rainbow. God later entered into a covenant with Abraham. In that covenant, God was to make Abraham the father of a multitude of nations. Abraham in his part was to circumcise all the male children born to him or living with him.
After the Jews left Egypt, God made a covenant with them at Mount Sinai. He was to be their God and the Jews were to become a consecrated nation, and a people set apart to worship God. The Jews on their part were to keep the commandments of God. Though God kept his part of the covenant, the Jews often strayed from the covenant by worshipping false gods and engaging in other acts that contravened the covenant.
Joshua made a renewal of God’s covenant with the people of Israel at Shechem, (Jos 24). During this renewal, Joshua asked the people of Israel to choose whether they would continue to serve the one true God, (Yahweh), who brought them out from the land of Egypt, or they would serve the Egyptian or the Mesopotamian or the Amorite gods. The people responded overwhelmingly that they would serve no other gods but Yahweh when they said, “may God never permit that we ever abandon Yahweh to serve other gods!” (Jos 24:16). The people then brought out all the false gods they were harbouring and destroyed them. However, despite this renewal, the Israelites remained unfaithful to the covenant and this led to their multiple exiles including the Babylonian captivity.
Due to the Jewish people’s infidelity to the covenant, God, through the mouth of prophet Jeremiah, (Jer 31:31-34), promised a new and everlasting covenant which would include the whole of humanity not only the Israelites. This new covenant would be based upon a heart-to heart relationship with God. “Deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I will be their God and they shall be my people.” This new covenant was inaugurated in the person of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.
The second Reading, (Heb 5:7-9), recounts the manner of Jesus’ ministry while he was on earth. It stated that Christ, while on earth, offered up prayer and entreaty aloud and in silent tears to God for our sanctification. It also made clear that Jesus did not shy away from suffering during his public ministry. He embraced whatever experiences that came his way as a means of sanctifying the world.
Here, we recall Jesus’ challenging experiences in the dessert, the temptations he had during his ministries, the hostilities he experienced from the religious authorities, and his passion and death on the cross. We also recall our own tears, failures, disappointments, worries and betrayals. We unite them with the experiences of Jesus, and we pray that Jesus will unite our sufferings and tears to his, so that we might experience consolation in our lives.
In the Gospel, (Jn 12:20-30), Jesus used the occasion of the presence of the Greek speaking people, (who represent the non-Jewish people), during a Jewish festival to announce that the moment of his glorification, through which he would seal the new covenant that included all of humanity, had arrived. For Jesus, his death on the cross was his glorification, for the cross, (not a chair), was his throne. He is King because he was obedient to the Father. He said, ‘’My food is to do the will of my Father who sent me”, (Jn 4:34).
Jesus’ death is like a grain of wheat that germinates to give new life. Hence Jesus said, “Now sentence is being passed on this world; now the prince of this world is to be overthrown, because when I am lifted up from the earth, then I will draw all people to myself.” That is, he will redeem the world. Jesus urged us not to be afraid, for by his death, he has conquered the world.
May Jesus’ death and resurrection continue to be a source of renewal for us. Amen.
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp