Homily from the 5th Sunday of Lent
March 18, 2018
Today’s First Reading provides a powerful image of what it takes to be in a loving relationship with God. What does it take? An open and willing heart to create the type of intimate relationship that God wants with each of us.
As we hear in this reading, man had broken the covenant God made with Moses, and God longed to renew that relationship. So God decides that, rather than an “exterior” covenant – one written on stone that spoke to man from the “outside,” God (who always perseveres in love) decides to speak to man from the “inside.” And so, God writes his new covenant directly on man’s heart.
I just love that image: “I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts.” This allows us to know God’s law (his will for us) in a new, very intimate way. And if we accept what God has written, we can change, and we can grow. There are several ways to do this:
- Through prayer and reflection to know God’s will for us
- By opening our hearts wider to grow more each day
- By trusting God and honoring him by obeying his law
But, lets be honest, sometimes it is difficult to live in relationship with God when we are surrounded by so many challenges. We are exposed to so much brokenness in life (grief … loss … suffering). Some of these life events are quite jarring and painful to us. But, they can also help shape our lives in very positive ways. We can grow through these experiences if we keep our faith … if we trust in God and if we allow God’s grace to sustain us in our challenges.
We have to look inside ourselves to grow in relationship with God. Jesus had some experience in this matter. He experienced very human suffering, and learned from that experience. As we are reminded in our Second Reading today, Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered.” Jesus understood his mission in life. He was willing to pray and reflect, to understand God’s will. That gave him strength to persevere.
And he was willing to be like a grain of wheat, dying to self and rising with God. Jesus understood that the only way his mission could produce fruit was to put God first. We have a similar challenge:
- In order to grow in relationship with God, we have to put God first
- Sometimes that requires us to die to one thing and let go of it for God to do something new in our lives that God wants
Philip and Andrew get a little taste of this in today’s Gospel. People (other than the Jews) became attracted to Jesus’ message. Philip and Andrew had to be open to a new paradigm to expand their ministry. They had to allow Gentiles, as well as Jews, to be followers of Christ.
We can experience similar challenges in our own lives. We are tempted to believe that our vision of Church is the only one that matters. But we have to be willing to open our hearts to include others who also want to have an intimate relationship with God. So, we have to be willing to meet our brothers and sisters where they are and accompany them on their journey. And here is the really good news: As a result, we learn from each other!
To grow in relationship (with God and His people), we need to:
- Devote more energy to prayer and reflection (reading what God has written on our hearts)
- Be willing to open our hearts and minds to examine various points of view (other than our own)
- Practice a greater self-awareness and commitment to others, so we can be good stewards of the gifts God gives us
Let me help you with the prayer and reflection piece. Here are two words I invite you to reflect upon this week: Trust and Grace
- Trust: Are you willing to read what God has written on your heart, and are you willing to embrace what He is calling you to do with your life?
- Grace: Do you have the confidence that God will provide all you need to carry out that calling? That God will sustain you as you grow?
Ask yourself: How is “Trust” and “Grace” reflected in my life?
- How do I incorporate Trust and Grace in how I treat others?
- How do I incorporate Trust and Grace in way I react to how others treat me?
When we pray and reflect on our life experiences, it will change our perspective. We will experience a more loving and caring, Christ-centered life that will lead us to where God wants us to be.
My favorite quotation remains the one from St. Catherine of Siena: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire!”
- Listen to what God speaks to you in your heart
- Take time to develop an interior, reflective, prayerful life
- Tear down any walls you built around your heart designed to keep God out
- Enjoy the intimate, loving relationship God offers to us all
Let us, together, set the world on fire with God’s love!