Liturgy of the Sunday

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Fifth Sunday of Lent
Memorial of Saint Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem (†387). Prayer for Jerusalem and for peace in the Holy Land.


First Reading

Jeremiah 31,31-34

'Look, the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall make a new covenant with the House of Israel (and the House of Judah), but not like the covenant I made with their ancestors the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of Egypt, a covenant which they broke, even though I was their Master, Yahweh declares. No, this is the covenant I shall make with the House of Israel when those days have come, Yahweh declares. Within them I shall plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I shall be their God and they will be my people. There will be no further need for everyone to teach neighbour or brother, saying, "Learn to know Yahweh!" No, they will all know me, from the least to the greatest, Yahweh declares, since I shall forgive their guilt and never more call their sin to mind.'

Psalmody

Psalm 50

Antiphon

Have mercy on me, O God.

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offence.

O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.

My offences truly I know them;
my sin is always before me.

Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done.

That you may be justified when you give sentence
and be without reproach when you judge

O see, in the guilt I was born,
a sinner was I conceived.

Indeed you love truth in the heart;
then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom

O purify me, then I shall be clean;
O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,
that the bones you have crushed may thrill

From my sins turn away your face
and blot out all my guilt.

A pure heart create for me, O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

Give me again the joy of your help;
with a spirit of fervour sustain me,

that I may teach transgressors your ways
and sinners may return to you.

O rescue me, God my helper,
and my tongue shall ring out your goodness.

O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.

For in sacrifice you take no delight,
burnt offering from me you would refuse,

my sacrifice a contrite spirit.
A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.

In your goodness, show favour to Zion :
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

Then you will be pleased with lawful sacrifice,
(burnt offerings wholly consumed),
then you will be offered young bulls on your alter.

Second Reading

Hebrews 5,7-9

During his life on earth, he offered up prayer and entreaty, with loud cries and with tears, to the one who had the power to save him from death, and, winning a hearing by his reverence, he learnt obedience, Son though he was, through his sufferings; when he had been perfected, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation

Reading of the Gospel

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Yesterday I was buried with Christ,
today I rise with you who are risen.
With you I was crucified;
remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

John 12,20-33

Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. These approached Philip, who came from Bethsaida in Galilee, and put this request to him, 'Sir, we should like to see Jesus.' Philip went to tell Andrew, and Andrew and Philip together went to tell Jesus. Jesus replied to them: Now the hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. In all truth I tell you, unless a wheat grain falls into the earth and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest. Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me, must follow me, and my servant will be with me wherever I am. If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him. Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say: Father, save me from this hour? But it is for this very reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name! A voice came from heaven, 'I have glorified it, and I will again glorify it.' The crowd standing by, who heard this, said it was a clap of thunder; others said, 'It was an angel speaking to him.' Jesus answered, 'It was not for my sake that this voice came, but for yours. 'Now sentence is being passed on this world; now the prince of this world is to be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself.' By these words he indicated the kind of death he would die.

 

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Yesterday I was buried with Christ,
today I rise with you who are risen.
With you I was crucified;
remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Homily

"We wish to see Jesus." This is the request of some Greeks who had gone up to worship during the feast. "We wish to see" that teacher who speaks as no other had ever done. "We wish to see" him who has mercy on sinners, who makes possible a life of salvation; who has come not to judge but to save the world. "We wish to see Jesus." It is the request of this world gone astray, confused, marked by violence and war, swept by the logic of conflict which hardens hearts, broadly sows enmity, and arms the hands and minds of so many.
Jesus said, "Very truly, I tell you, 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." It was not enough for him to come to earth, even if this already showed his incredible love for humanity. He wanted to give his life to the end. Not that Jesus sought death. To the contrary, he was afraid of dying. In the Letter to the Hebrews, which we read as the second reading, it is written: "In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission." Nevertheless, and here lies the great mystery of the Cross, obedience to the Gospel and love for humanity were for Jesus more precious than his own life. He had not come to earth in order to "remain just a single grain," but rather to "bear much fruit." And the way to bear fruit, he indicates with these words: "Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life." It is an expression that seems incomprehensible; and in a sense it is, since it is totally at odds with what is commonly thought. We all love to preserve our life, guard it, preserve it; no one is led to "hate it," as the Gospel passage on the other hand seems to suggest. It is enough to think of the cares we all have for our body, and the attention we devote to it. The meaning of the two terms (love and hate) is to be understood according to Jesus' life itself, his way of behaving, of loving, of engaging himself. Jesus lived his whole life loving people more than himself. And the cross is the hour in which this love was most clearly manifested. The life of each one of us is like a seed which can give extraordinary fruit, even beyond our existence, brief as it is, and our limited capacity.
Jesus' choice was not painless. His love is not an empty feeling or a sensation, but a strong passionate choice, which confronts evil, and is stronger than evil! Jesus confides, "Now my soul is troubled." The verb means "full of fear," sad to the point of death. Poor Jesus! In the face of evil he is disturbed, like any human being. But he does not flee far away seeking a new situation; he does not take refuge in restless activity; he does not unload his responsibility on others; he does not compromise with the enemy; he does not curse; he is not deluded by the power of the sword. Jesus entrusts himself to the Father in heaven who sent him to save humanity. His victory over anguish is not fatalism or courage, but trust in the Father's love which gives glory, that is, the fullness of what each of us is. "What should I say, "Father, save me from this hour?" No, he entrusts himself to the Father. We too can do this in times of pain, sadness, darkness, so that in our weakness, God's glory may be manifest, revealing the extraordinary power of love. And the Father does not let his voice, which comes from heaven, be unheard: "I have glorified him and will glorify him." Jesus explains to the people that this voice has come for them and not for himself. It is the voice of the Gospel, which impels us to open our eyes now, not tomorrow, understanding today the secret of that grain which dies in order to give fruit.