Jer 31:31-34; Heb 5:7-9; Jn 12:20-33
5th Sunday in Lent
A few years back, one bishop asked an important question: Are we the Church of the baptized or the Church of those who regularly receive the Sacraments? How you answer that question determines to a signficant extent how you see the Church.
If I had to guess where the prophet Jeremiah might stand on this question, I’d have to place him in the “Church of the baptized” gang. Listen to the words God speaks through him in the first reading: “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel…I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts…no longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives how to know the LORD.
Now, this isn’t very good for my business as a theologian, but Jeremiah suggests that most of what we need to know about God is already in our hearts. While it is within the believing community that this knowledge is brought forth and clarified, our participation in the sacramental life of the Church would be meaningless if sacramental grace wasn’t touching upon the presence of God abiding within each of us.
For too long, perhaps we’ve understood Grace almost as if it exists in a large water tank somewhere within the borders of the Vatican. The Pope turns on the main spigot which in turn feeds the resevoirs under the control of the local bishops who then apportion it to the parishes and, finally, into the tiny cups in the hands of the faithful.
But what if the real situation was more like this: We are all standing under a Niagra Falls – like waterfall of God’s grace. The whole purpose of our lives in the Church would then be to allow ourselves to get soaking wet and to embrace all those standing on the edges of the Falls – or, worse, with their backs to it – so that they might experience the fullness of God’s grace as well.
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)
(Pat Leonard and I will be leading a retreat on the Mondays of Lent at St. James parish in Setauket, NY and at St. Frances de Chantal parish in Wantagh on the Wednesdays of Lent. Both programs begin at 730 PM. Please come and pray with us if you are in the area.)