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Saturday, 21 March 2015

Reflection/Homily: Fifth (5th) Sunday of Lent Year B (March 22 2015)

Reflection/Homily: Fifth (5th) Sunday of Lent Year B (March 22 2015)
Theme: The Christian Cross as a Gateway to Heaven
In life, most times we desire good things but sometimes, we are unable to pass through crucibles in other to get them. For example, many students dream of graduating with first class honours but only a few are really burning extra candles. Some of us forget that hard work is a necessary condition for a great achievement. In the gospel reading (John 12:20-33), Jesus reiterates this principle that nothing good comes easy. He uses the analogy of the sown wheat to demonstrate that to redeem man, he must die and for us to gain eternal life, we must also die just as a sown wheat must die in the ground before it yields a rich harvest. The problem is that most of us are reluctant to work hard. This reluctance is found in our physical and spiritual lives. Sometimes, we want this or that from God but we can’t kneel in prayer to get them. We want to go to heaven but we can’t do good and avoid evil. We want to be exceptionally spiritually gifted but we can’t work hard to develop these spiritual gifts, etc.

Today, Jesus invites us to learn from him how to boldly accept unpleasant situations for a pleasant result. The gospel began by narrating how some Greeks who came for worship at Jerusalem requested to see Jesus through the Apostles Philip and Andrew. Though John did not tell us whether they met him or not but we must observe that these Greeks came to encounter Christ at Jerusalem but Christ started talking about suffering and death. A pertinent question we should ask ourselves is if we desire to encounter Christ in the Church activities we attend? Most of us perhaps attend them to fulfill an obligation and that is why most people attend Church without worshipping God, attend mass without partaking in the Word and Eucharist, practice religion without faith and advocate a spirituality without the cross. Jesus’ emphasis was to make it clear that his mission and that of his followers involves suffering and death. For this reason, his salvific mission cannot be accomplished without the cross. He had to undergo a death that was the only gateway to. This death becomes a gateway not only for Christ but also for all who desire to be saved. Thus, for Christians, death becomes not a form of punishment, but a form of transition.
However, Jesus did not fail to describe the nature of this death. It is not just any biological death that saves but a death suffered in and for Christ. That is why Jesus says in the gospel “anyone who loves his life loses it and anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me and my servant will be with me wherever I am’. Jesus was by this not promoting reckless living or an irresponsible life but was emphasizing a kind of life lived according to the pattern of the cross which brings everlasting life. This everlasting life is the product of the new covenant achieved through the sacrifice of the cross. It was exactly what the first reading (Jeremiah 31:31-34) was referring to. While the Old Testament was made with the Jews alone through Moses and its ordinances were written in tablets of stones, the new covenant is made with all creatures through Jesus and its ordinances are written in the hearts of men in form of their consciences (though a morally formed conscience). With the law written in men’s hearts, none will now claim ignorant of the law. This new covenant brings about the forgiveness of sins and direct access to God through Jesus.
The second reading (Hebrews 5:5-10) presents Jesus as a model for all living in the new covenant. We must like him learn to offer up our prayer and entreaty to God who has the power to save us. In our lives, we must learn to obey even when it involves suffering (a cross) so that through such sufferings, we are perfected in other to gain eternal salvation. Eternal salvation cannot come about without encountering Christ. To encounter Christ, we must die to sin and live to righteousness and to gain eternal life, we must pass through death. What this implies for us is that within this period of lent, especially as we approach the Holy Week, our attention should be drawn to the cross as a symbol and means of salvation. This cross is the source of the new covenant which has its laws written in our hearts (1st reading). This law should be kept with prayer and obedience even in the midst of suffering (2nd reading). This suffering may include accepting death after glorifying God with our lives and this death will be a gateway for God to glorify us in heaven (gospel). Therefore beloved brethren, do you think you are passing through crucibles and great discomfort because of your faith or good moral life? Are you cajoled or rejected among your pals because you do not join them in evil? Do not be afraid for you are witnessing to the true spirit of the gospel. If at the moment you are enjoying comfort in your faith then, you still need to anticipate your cross for the cross is the only ticket to heaven. God loves you.                                                                            - Uwakwe Chibuike MFC

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