A Willing Spirit
(5th Sunday of Lent: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:7-9; John 12:20-33)
Does it puzzle you to read in the Letter to the Hebrews that Jesus, “Son though he was, learned obedience, was made perfect, and became the source of eternal salvation”? Was he not always the perfect, obedient Savior?
Since the beginning of lent, we have been consciously striving for perfection and holy obedience, also known as submission. We know the struggle to set aside impulses and obsessions, to “fall to the ground and die,” as Jesus says in today’s Gospel. But, if we see this primarily as something we ourselves have to accomplish, hoping that by Easter we will be able to say, “We did it!” then we are missing the point.
Look at the other readings, especially the Psalm. “Have mercy on me, O God... wipe out my offense... wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me... A clean heart create for me, a steadfast spirit renew within me... Cast me not out... your Holy Spirit take not from me... a willing spirit sustain in me.” Our role in all this is simply to humble ourselves before our loving God. He does all the work.
Only after all this does the psalmist make a resolution: “I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners shall return to you”—a thought dear to every La Salette heart. The joyful, though sometimes difficult, celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation can empower us in that determination.
In Jeremiah, too, we see that it’s all God’s doing. “I will make a new covenant... I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts... I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.” All this for one purpose: “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” The Beautiful Lady comes to renew this hope in us.
Just before Communion, one of the prayers to be said by the priest ends with the words, “Keep me always faithful to your commandments, and never let me be parted from you.”
This echoes Jesus’ words, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.” In wearing the image of her perfect, obedient, crucified Son, Mary invites us to stand with her at the foot of his cross.
Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.