God invites us to tie a new relationship with him, based on his trust in us as adult Christians. Such new alliance opens us also to fecundity like that of a grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies in order for new life to thrive.
Bible readings Jeremiah 31: 31-34 Psalm 51: 3-4, 12-15, 18-19 Hebrews 5: 7-9 John 12: 20-33
Experiences that we know well
The first reading evokes in me two images. Firstly, it’s when you are learning to drive, especially the manual car. To engage the gear you want to look down to be sure of the number and the position to push the gear lever. It takes some training and experience to develop a reflex of handling the gear lever without looking.
The other similar image is that of the keyboard. When you are learning to type, your eyes oscillate across keyboard in search of letters. You just wonder how others can type at terrific speed even while looking away. Again, it only takes practice and experience before you also can type with good speed and with amusement.
What appears evident to me in these examples is that in the beginning you have the way of doing things that’s quite babyish. And it’s normal at the start, yet, you are expected to advance. With time and experience you are likely to handle things in a more skilful way. It’s about becoming adult and so acting accordingly.
I see the readings of this Sunday guiding us in this process of maturing the way we live our Christian faith. Are you ready for that?
God wants Israel as adult
God announces his project for his people: “The days are surely coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt… this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts….”
The new relationship will be no longer like those days when God took Israel by hand. Here you may think of a child in the parents’ hands which is not only for intimacy but also for close attention so that the child doesn’t stray. However, when that child grows into an adult the parents will certainly let him go; not as an abandonment, but because they find another way of relating with their child who’s now an adult.
Indeed, the first alliances of God with his chosen people are characterised by laws, precepts, instructions…. You have the impression that every step of the people is regulated. Now God says to Israel you no longer need an external law or the “police” to get you observe it. I will inscribe the law on your hearts. What does that imply?
From the letter of the law to the spirit of the law
What counts is no longer following scrupulously the letter of the law, which often is about mere conformity or fulfilment of what’s prescribed and you are concerned about who’s looking at you. The new alliance is about internalising the will of God, expressed in the law, and making it part of your own values. Indeed, you abandon the slavish manner of driving where you want to look to see which gear you are engaging; rather, you enjoy the liberty of driving with a right reflex since rules of driving and the manner of operating have just become part of you. That’s the adult relationship God wants to have with Israel. But what does that demand?
“…Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies….”
The new relationship demands a kind of letting go, which is taking a risk. God lets go the hand of Israel as a way of saying; my people you are now of age. Indeed, Israel has to take up the challenge of becoming adult or he risks remaining a perpetual infant, always claiming to be held by hand. This taking of the risk is well expressed in the image of the grain of wheat.
Jesus uses an image well known to his agricultural audience, indeed, referring to his death that will be a source of life for others. This same wisdom comes to inspire our way of living the Lenten season; it’s time to take courage and make steps towards becoming not only adult Christians, but also Christians who are life-giving.
Adult Christian is fecund
I think and act not only terms of the narrow picture of my own interests; but I open myself to the large panorama. I’m not alone; there are others around me. That’s why the Church, in her social teaching, talks about the common good, thus, calling us to widen our perspectives. Surely, the image of a grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies… is not calling us to annihilate ourselves so that others can live; but it certainly calls to take the risk of maturity that will enable us to be fecund; that is, being able to give life to ourselves and to others too.
Pray, then, that this Lenten season may help us to grow into adult Christians, ready to make the necessary sacrifice that will enable life to thrive both in us and in others.
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