Each of the Gospels is written from a particular point of view. They were written for particular communities that had differing experiences of faith and of Jesus. Some had a rich experience of the Scriptures in the Old Testament and some did not. Some had a clear image of who they thought the Messiah would be and some did not.
In this part of the Lenten season, the placement of the Scriptures is meant to create in us a sense of the impending events in the life of Jesus, His disciples and community. Every year, if we reflect prayerfully on the Scriptures that are offered to us, we begin to feel a tension. Most of us know the events that are about to happen, but it is helpful to be led each year into these events with a sense of anticipation and wonder. If we listen to the Scriptures and celebrate the upcoming events of Holy Week and Easter with the same ears and the same heart as the past, we are wasting this opportunity of grace. Can you take a moment to decide to try to hear and live the events that are about to happen with a new mind and a new heart? Can you allow the Scriptures to lead you where Jesus wants you to go and to trust His wisdom rather than trusting your own wisdom and your own insight?
The prophet Jeremiah reminds us that God formed a new covenant and put the former sins out of His remembrance. Try to take that in. Do you ruminate over your past sins and wonder how God will treat you because of them? Do you ever interpret your current life situation as a punishment for what you did in the past? Do you ever somehow believe that God has left you on your own and does not care about your current situation? Read again chapter 31 of the prophet Jeremiah. God has something to say to you about your interpretation of life right now.
There is a turning point in the Gospel this weekend. Jesus is trying to define His understanding of His mission and His call to be the Messiah. “Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies.” His mission on earth is coming to an end. He has done the healing and the teaching and the formation that He was called to do. But can you sense in His words that He knows that His disciples still do not understand what is necessary? It is necessary not just for Him but for each of His disciples, including us.
Like Jesus, we must fall to the earth and die. We all know we can’t get out of here without dying, but the death Jesus is speaking about is the one He is about to show us again. He gives His life out of love not just for those who love Him back, but for His enemies and those who do Him harm. That was His mission and that is our mission as well. It is not enough that we simply love those who love us back, lend to those who will repay us or forgive those who will forgive us. Our lives must be modeled after the life of Jesus and not on our own comfort and security.
Can you feel the tension that is building in the story of Jesus’ life? I hope that you can also feel some tension in your own life and your repentance during the season of Lent. There is a short amount of time left for us to build the patterns that help us live throughout the year in the same way that Jesus did.
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.