5th Sunday of Lent


Jeremiah 31:31-34
Hebrews 5:7-9
John 12:20-33


Most of my reflection today dwells on one of my favourite passages of the Jewish Scriptures, Jeremiah’s wonderful oracle of promise and hope amid utter despair. Life in Australia and New Zealand, where many of the contributors to these reflections and you readers reside, is much more comfortable than in other parts of the world. Certainly, we have our own periods of challenge and difficulty, which I do not wish to dismiss, but they are nothing compared to Gaza, Ukraine, South Sudan and other places. Their experiences correlate more with the devastating situation of the people immediately after 587 BC.

Jeremiah wrote soon after the Babylonian conquest when the people had lost everything: the Temple, the Ark of the Covenant, the monarchy all destroyed, and the land lost. All these were symbols of the old covenant, which was broken by the people’s sinfulness. Through Jeremiah, the Lord announces an entirely ‘new covenant’, the only time this term is used in the Hebrew Scriptures. What a beautiful image: God ‘writing it on their hearts’! What is new here is that the human ability to live God’s covenant is now given deep within our spirit, written on the heart of each person, thus assuring its permanency.

While fully respecting the integrity and enduring validity of the Jewish Scriptures, we Christians see God’s promise through Jeremiah as being realised in the mission of Jesus. The reading from Hebrews confirms that Jesus Christ is “the source of eternal salvation”. The Gospel, according to John, has Jesus, prefiguring his death and even more so his exaltation to cosmic leadership, declaring that “when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all to myself”.

How do we respond to what God has written in our hearts? Our responsorial psalm helps. By trusting in God’s kindness and compassion we can cooperate with God’s grace that creates a clean heart and a steadfast spirit in us. May you and I carry this response throughout our day today!

John McGrath is a parishioner of St Brigid’s Marrickville.