Cycle B 5th Sunday of Lent

 Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 5:7-9; Jn. 12:20-33

In the First Reading taken from the Book of Jeremiah (Jer. 31:31- 34) we learn of God's promise of a New Covenant. That the New Covenant of grace was instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper.

Central to the New Covenant is the call to sacrificial living. Just as Jesus gave his life as a ransom for many, so too are we called to lay down our lives for the sake of others. In John 15:13, Jesus declares, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." This sacrificial love is the hallmark of discipleship and the essence of Christian living.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks: "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." Here, Jesus uses agricultural imagery to convey a spiritual truth. Just as a seed must be buried and die

to give life to a new plant, so too must we be willing to sacrifice our own desires and comforts to bear fruit in the kingdom of God.

Throughout scripture and history, we find countless examples of individuals who have embraced sacrificial living as a response to God's grace. Abraham's willingness to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice demonstrates profound obedience and trust in God's plan. Ruth's loyalty to her mother-in-law Naomi, even in the face of hardship and uncertainty, exemplifies sacrificial love and devotion.

Sydney Carton, a character in Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities," undergoes a profound transformation from a dissolute and cynical man to a selfless hero. In a sacrificial act of redemption, Carton chooses to swap places with Charles Darnay, ensuring Darnay's escape from imprisonment and impending death during the French Revolution. By sacrificing his own life, Carton not only secures Darnay's freedom but also finds personal redemption and purpose, leaving a legacy of selflessness and courage.

In the annals of history, we find countless examples of ordinary individuals who embody the spirit of sacrificial love. One such figure is Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan friar who volunteered to take the place of a stranger in Auschwitz, facing certain death in a concentration camp. Kolbe's selfless act of offering his life for another epitomizes Jesus' teaching that "those who love their life lose it."

One compelling example from recent history that illustrates sacrificial love is that of Arnaud Beltrame, a French police officer who tragically lost his life in a terrorist attack in 2018. Beltrame volunteered to take the place of a hostage during a standoff with an armed assailant in a supermarket in Trebes, France. Knowing the risks involved, Beltrame exchanged himself for a female hostage, ultimately sacrificing his own life to save hers. His courageous and selfless act exemplifies the highest form of sacrificial love, demonstrating a willingness to lay down his life for the sake of another.

Sacrificial living is not about grand gestures or heroic acts, but about daily choices to prioritize the needs of others above our own. It means being willing to inconvenience ourselves for the sake of someone else, to give generously of our time, resources, and talents, and to forgive others as we have been forgiven.

In a world that often values self-promotion and individualism, embracing sacrificial living can seem counter-cultural. But as we look to the example of Jesus and the countless saints who have gone before us, we are reminded that true fulfillment and joy are found in laying down our lives for the sake of others.

As we ponder the words of Jesus in the parable of the grain of wheat, let us reflect on our own lives. Are we willing to embrace the call to sacrificial living, laying aside our own ambitions and desires for the sake of others.

In our modern times, practicing sacrificial living involves intentionally prioritizing the needs of others above our own desires and comforts. Be generous with your resources and time. The time of lent demands from us to choose to forgive those who have wronged us, even if they don't deserve it.