Introduction: The theme for today’s liturgy is that “we must die in order
to live.” We will hear this theme sounded in the gospel. Jesus will also
tell us that the grain of wheat must die in order to bear fruit. In the
second reading from Hebrews we hear that Jesus “offered prayers and
supplications with loud cries and tears to God…and that he learned
obedience from what he suffered.” The first reading is a “new covenant”
with Jeremiah. But in the homily we will look at the life of Jeremiah to
see how the theme is carried out there.
The book of Jeremiah is the prophecy of a man divinely called in his youth.
The book of Jeremiah is one of my favorite books of the Old
Testament. Jeremiah is a person of such strong feelings and emotions. He
is able to express himself to God. He uses such powerful imagery to speak
of his experiences. The book is a long one, 54 chapters, and so little
known to Catholics. I would like you to hear some selected parts of the
book of Jeremiah with the hope that this taste will lead to read more of
When we have a person in the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament whose
life has certain common elements with that of Jesus we call that person a
“type” of Jesus. In the book of Isaiah the “Suffering servant” is a type of
Jesus. Jeremiah is a type of Jesus.
Passages to look at:
1:4-6 call, excuses. He was reluctant to answer his call. He protested he didn’t know how to speak, he was too young.
4:19 rapid heart beat. He was very sensitive to his own rejection. Seeing the suffering of his people he exclaimed: The pain, the pain, I can’t bear the pain. My heart is beating wildly.
8:23 eyes a fountain of tears. He also said, “I wish my head were a well of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I could cry day and night for my people who have been killed.”
12:6 brothers betray
15:10-11 curse day of birth. He felt so bad he wished he’d never been born.
18:18,20,22 contrive a plot, pit, snares
20: 1,2,7-10,14-15,17-18 scouraged, placed in stocks, duped,
cursed be day I was born, from womb to see sorrow and pain
26: 8-9 prophecy, must be put to death.
31: 3l: 34 Gospel before the Gospel, covenant in heart not on stone
37: 15-16 beaten, thrown in prison, dungeon
38: 4-6 ought to be put to death, demoralizes, threw in cisten,
only mud, and Jeremiah sunk in the mud.
43: 2 liar
These passages flesh out for us some of the type of deaths that we must go
through in this life in order to find life. Many of Jeremiah’s sufferings
were found in the life of Jesus. Jeremiah seems to have been given the new
covenant of the heart because his sufferings in life had deepened his own
understanding and relationship with God to the point that he could receive
this new covenant. (Pope Francis recently spoke about “humility and humiliation.)
The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus “offered supplications with
loud cries and tears.” This is interesting because I think that the only
time in the Gospel where we hear of Jesus crying is at the death of his
friend Lazarus. The people said, “see how much he loved him.” But from
the book of Hebrews we get the impression that Jesus weeped more often. It
would make sense since one of the beatitudes is: “blessed are they who
mourn for they will be comforted.”
In the Gospel we hear of some Greeks who want to see Jesus. This
is toward the end of John’s Gospel, chapter 12. The words in John’s
Gospel 12:24 speak of the seed “Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just
a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. “
They also tell of Jesus feelings, “my soul is troubled now, yet what
should I say?” These words remind us of the Garden of Gethsemane
scene and Jesus prayer. It is interesting that in John’s Gospel there is
no agony in the garden scene.
Jesus’ life is living proof as was Jeremiah’s that suffering can
have a deepening effect on us. Jesus comes through a variety of deaths to
life in this world. At the end of his life, his death leads to
Resurrection. In this is the good news and promise for us. We will not be
spared our sufferings and daily deaths and crosses but with Jesus we will
overcome them. We will do this in this life and be people of the promise
of Jesus who came that “we might have life and have it to the full.” (Pope
Francis gave us his programmatic apostolic exhortation titled THE JOY
OF THE GOSPEL. He has spoken often of this joy.) We
also have the promise of Eternal life after our final death in this world.
Jesus words about the seed falling to the ground, being buried,remind
us of Jeremiah in the mud at the bottom of the well. These are
words of promise about nature but also about us. As we see the fields
being plowed these days, the shoots starting up, the crocuses and daffodils
coming forth, the birds migrating and singing, spring coming, it is all
promise not just that winter is over but that the winter of suffering and
deaths of our life will come to fruition in new fruit. For us Lent is also
a reminder of this rhythm in our life.
Gospel reflections from BECOMING CHILDREN OF GOD by Wes Howard-Brook,pp280,1.
John 12: 25, 26 vs. 25 “The one who is fond of his life is losing it, and the one hating his life in this world will safeguard it for eternal life.” It is not an antilife statement, but an anti-“world” statement, when the “world” is seen not as those who come to Jesus but as the home of death and lies ruled over by Satan. …fondness for the life the world offers is what causes us to perish. Those who become stuck within cultural bounds of community, who limit their sense of sister or brother to those of their generation, ethnicity, class, gender, or other narrow group, are allowing their participation in eternal life to be destroyed.
Jesus completes this discipleship message by linking it in verse 26 with service and presence: “If anyone would serve me, let them follow, and where I am, there also will my servant be, and if anyone serves me, the Father will honor them.” …To a mind focused on the “world,” this makes little sense in the face of the glory human beings bestow on one another in terms of wealth, power, prestige, or comfort. But for those who aspire to be servants of Jesus and to follow in his footsteps, the Father’s honor is enough.
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