Sunday, March 17, 2024

Between Missed Opportunities & Happy Coincidence

5th Sunday in Lent (B)

Readings: Jeremiah 31: 31-34; Psalm 50 (51): 3-4, 12-15; Hebrews 5: 7-9; John 12: 20-33

Picture: By on Tim Smurf Unsplash

My dear friends, what does it feel like to be blessed by a happy coincidence? Let’s say I’m in my car, desperately searching for a parking space. But the carpark is full. Then, just as I drive by a row of cars, one of them happens to move off. Isn’t that a good example of co-incidence? Two different events – me driving by, and a car vacating a lot – two different moments coinciding at the same time. How wonderful it is when that happens!… On the other hand, imagine how I’d feel if the car moves off, but I’m too far away, or too distracted to notice, and someone else gets there before me. No happy coincidence then. Just a missed opportunity…

Today, our scriptures point to the possible coincidence of two different events, two separate moments in time. The first is foretold by the prophet Jeremiah. The days are coming, he says, when God will plant God’s Law deep within the hearts of God’s people. And all of them – all of us – will know God. Will recognise God’s presence and action in our lives. And isn’t this also what the psalmist prays for? A pure heart create for me, O God… A heart uncluttered by sin. An unobstructed heart, that recognises and is drawn irresistibly to God… Whether we realise it or not, isn’t this what we all are seeking? With even more desperation than a motorist, still stuck in the parish carpark, at ten past twelve on a Sunday afternoon?

The second moment is announced by Jesus in the gospel. Now the hour has come, he says, for the Son of Man to be glorified. That paradoxical moment when the wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, to yield a rich harvest… When Jesus is lifted up to draw all people to himself… When, through the humiliation of God’s only Son, the name of God is glorified… When, by humbly and obediently emptying himself, Christ the Lord opens up for us a welcoming space in God’s embrace.

And how wonderful it is when these two moments coincide! When pure hearts recognise the glory of God revealed by Christ on the Cross. When God’s call is no longer dismissed as a clap of thunder, or ignored as a troublesome distraction. But receives, instead, a generous and courageous response. When this happens, so the second reading tells us, obedience is born in us, and the Crucified and Risen One becomes for us the source of eternal salvation.

Isn’t it precisely to prepare for such a happy coincidence that we observe this great season of Lent? By denying ourselves, confessing our sins, and sharing our blessings with others, we hope to dispose ourselves to recognise the Lord’s glory, revealed on the Cross. Not just in the solemn liturgies of Easter. But also in the ordinary events of daily life. Privileged moments when we may find ourselves touched by suffering – our own, as well as that of others. Moments in which our loving God gently calls us to follow Christ, and to open up more spaces for others, in our hearts, and in our world.

Sisters and brothers, in what remains of Lent, how shall we continue preparing to celebrate Easter as a truly happy coincidence, rather than just another missed opportunity?

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