By Mary Schneiders, OP
Jesus’ death is drawing near, and he experiences the same fear and dread that anyone facing their death would experience, especially when that death is accompanied by intense pain and suffering. But it is not simply his death to which Jesus is referring when he says, “For this purpose have I come to this hour.” It is, rather, what his death will signify and accomplish. By choosing death rather than betray the mission he has from God, Jesus will manifest not only his absolute love and fidelity toward God, but his total and profound love for us as well. For the mission he has from God is none other than the salvation of the world, to be accomplished through the establishment of God’s reign, which is one of peace, justice, freedom and love–a world in which people live in relationships of mutuality and interdependence with one another and the whole earth. Jesus inaugurated that reign in a definitive and irreversible way, but its full accomplishment is the work of those who will continue his mission down through the ages. How many hundreds of Christians have made the words cited above their own; people who have committed themselves to God’s reign, to live according to gospel values, who have chosen to remain faithful and to continue to love even those who seek to destroy them.
Jesus says of his own death, “And I, when I am lifted up from this earth, will draw all people to myself.” Who are those today who have willingly embraced their “hour,” who continue to incarnate the lifted-up Christ? Those who seek justice and stand in solidarity with the poor and oppressed, in Third World countries; lesbian women and gay men who come out of the closet, risking the loss of family, friends, jobs and sometimes their lives to secure justice for their gay sisters and brothers; battered women and victims of rape, who endure emotional pain and public embarrassment, and sometimes additional battering and cruelty in our courts in order to save their mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and lovers from a like fate; theologians, scripture scholars, teachers and Christian feminists who, in seeking truth and justice, are condemned and silenced for dissenting from official Church teaching and calling Church leadership to dialogue on controversial issues of morality and discipline; all people of conscience and integrity who, like Jesus, speak the truth to power (whether ecclesial or secular) in an effort to realize more fully God’s reign of truth, justice, freedom and love, and who pay the price in suffering and, sometimes, death.
These are the people who have experienced and know the truth of Jesus’ words: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” These, too, are the people of the “new covenant” of which God, through the prophet Jeremiah, speaks in today’s first reading. Through Jeremiah, God promises a new covenant to replace the covenant of circumcision and the ten commandments. This new covenant, written on human hearts, places everyone on an equal plane before God. The sign that one is a member of the new covenant community is to be seen, not in one’s flesh, but in one’s life; not in external conformity to law, but in the deep, interior conversion of one’s heart whereby one is conformed to the mind and heart of Christ. It is these people whose cries for justice and deliverance from evil are heard by God because of their Christ-like reverence, that is, their deep, loving respect for God, for all their sisters and brothers, for the whole earth.
This reflection was written by Mary Schneiders, OP in the reflection booklet, Why Do You Weep? Lent 1994. This year’s reflection booklet is by Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace Colleen Kelly, From Ashes to Resurrection, Dust to New Life, and is available as a download for purchase from the Pax Christi USA website. For more reflections and resources for Lent 2012, click here.