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Fifth Sunday of Lent (B)

The Word This Week

In the weeks of Lent so far we have followed God’s work of salvation: we have seen the Covenants he established with Noah, Abraham, Moses and the people of Israel after the return from Babylon. Now we come to one of the most significant parts of the Old Testament: the promise of a brand new Covenant, which will be different from all those that went before. This Covenant will see God and Man living more closely together. For the ratification of a Covenant, something was always sacrificed as a sign of the new relationship – normally man would offer some animal offering to God. But the New Covenant will be ratified not with the death of sheep or bull, but by the death of Jesus Christ, God and Man. In this perfect sacrifice is the source of our eternal salvation.

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Jeremiah 31:31-34

God is so enthusiastic in this reading! It’s the enthusiasm of someone who sees the way of solving the problems of the world, of making things work properly again, of achieving something that has been longed for. Three times in this reading we have the words “it is the Lord who speaks” just to remind us where this comes from. It begins by outlining for us what went wrong in the past – how the Houses of Israel and Judah broke the Old Covenants. The turning point is the word “No”: this announces that God is doing something new. Everything up to “Deep within them…” is by way of introduction, so save yourself until this point. From here on, allow your reading to be very clear and deliberate. Try to get into the frame of mind where you are entrusted with an important message, which must be delivered in a way the people can receive and understand it.

 

Second Reading: Hebrews 5:7-9

This is a very short and simple reading, but no less profound for that. This is the Garden of Gethsemane, and the prayer of Jesus the night before his passion. There is a very deep paradox in this reading, which you should be aware of: it states that Jesus prays to be saved, and that God heard his prayer: does this mean that God should have prevented Jesus’ death on the cross? Look at the words more closely: “Jesus prayed to the one who had the power to save him out of death” This “out of death” is important, since it is not about avoiding the cross, but passing through it to something more glorious. Thanks to Jesus being “obedient even to death on the cross, therefore God raised him high, and gave him the name which is above all names.” You have to take this reading slowly and reflectively. Be very careful about reading exactly what is written – there is quiet a rich meaning contained within this short passage. Try to picture in your mind everything from Maundy Thursday to the Ascension – since that is what is contained in these few short lines.