Daily Scripture Analysis

Daily Gospel

Fifth Sunday of LentB

Reading 1: (Jer 31:31-34)

The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel
and the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers
the day I took them by the hand
to lead them forth from the land of Egypt;
for they broke my covenant,
and I had to show myself their master, says the LORD.
But this is the covenant that I will make
with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD.
I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts;
I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives
how to know the LORD.
All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD,
for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.

Reading 2: (Heb 5:7-9)

In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh,
he offered 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 reverence.
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered;
and when he was made perfect,
he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Gospel: (Jn 12:20-33)

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast
came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee,
and asked him, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus."
Philip went and told Andrew;
then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.
Jesus answered them,
"The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
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.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me.

"I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
'Father, save me from this hour?'
But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.
Father, glorify your name."
Then a voice came from heaven,
"I have glorified it and will glorify it again."
The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder;
but others said, "An angel has spoken to him."
Jesus answered and said,
"This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.
Now is the time of judgment on this world;
now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
And when I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw everyone to myself."
He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.


Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.

 

I. THEME: Obedience and suffering are two factors that bring salvation to human beings.

            We are living in the world which have many people who scorn obedience and flee suffering. They scorn obedience because they think it makes them weak and limits their freedom. They flee from suffering and deny to sacrifice for others because they want to have an easy life and time for themselves. But God teaches us an opposite way: to obey and to embrace suffering. There are two reasons why we should follow God’s teaching: Firstly, as a child who has no wisdom yet to reason, he has to obey his parents in order to avoid bad results to happen. Similarly to our relationship with God, since we don’t understand all mysteries of life, obedience to God is naturally good thing to do to avoid all bad results to happen. Secondly, if our parents and previous generation fleed suffering and selfishly lived for themselves, we shall not exist and have all things as we are having now.

            Today readings show us many benefits from obedience and suffering. In the first reading, the Israelites destroyed the covenant which God made with them on Mt. Sinai because they didn’t obey God’s law. God can leave them to death in their sins; but out of love for them, He shall make a new covenant with them. This new covenant is more easy to remember and to do because it involves less laws and is carved in people’s heart. In the second reading, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews ascertained that since Christ obeyed His Father and willingly suffered, he brought salvation to all who obey him to do the same. In the Gospel, Jesus also showed the benefit of obedience and suffering through the image of a grain of wheat: “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.”

           

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: The difference between the Old and the New Covenant

1.1/ The Old Covenant is ineffective: The covenant is the agreements of both parties about their rights and responsibilities. If one party doesn’t fulfill their duty, the covenant is rendered ineffective and nullified. In the covenant which God made with the Israelites on Mt. Sinai, He promised to bless and to protect them if they promised to keep the law He gave to them through Moses. But people destroyed this covenant by constantly violated the law. The prophet Jeremiah foresaw the day when God shall establish a new covenant with people when he pronounce this oracle from God: “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people.No longer will they have a need to teach their friends and kinsmen how to know the Lord. All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the Lord, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.”

1.2/ The difference between the Old and the New Covenant: There is a small difference between the Septuagint and the Masoretic texts: The Septuagint concisely described the New Covenant is written “in their mind;” while the MT generally described “kêreb” which means “inside.” The main difference between the two covenants is: In the New Covenant, God’s law is written in the mind of the faithful while in the Old Covenant, the Ten Commandment is written on stony tablets, which is outside of human’s mind. If the law is written in human mind, all shall know God and have no need of teaching each other. St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae, helped us to understand this reading. The Israelites must learn to know the law before they can practice them; even after knowing the law, they still had no power from inside to keep the law. The faithful of the New Covenant don’t need to learn to know the New Law because it was already written in their mind. The majority of Catholic scholars think the New Law implied here is Jesus’ law of love or charity; that are, to love God and people. God has the power to do both: to directly control human intellect and to bestow on them the theological virtue of charity. Once the faithful have charity, they have inside power to fulfill all laws. St. Thomas insisted that charity not only keeps human hands from sinning but also controls human mind from illegal desires to harm others.

2/ Reading II: Christ’s obedience and suffering bring salvation to people.

2.1/ Christ obeyed his Father in all things: All three Synoptic Gospels reported Jesus’ agony in the Gethsemane garden when he cried out to the Father: “Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou will” (Mt 26:39, Mk 14:36, Lk 22:42). The author of the Letter to the Hebrews also reported Christ’s fighting and obedience in different words: “In the days when he was in the flesh, he offered 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 reverence.”

            Christ’s agony in the garden showed us that even Jesus in his human nature must fight to put aside his human will so that he can obey and do his Father’s will. The two things that helped Jesus to overcome his will were his love for the Father and his faith in God’s plan of salvation.

            If to give up one’s own will is difficult, to embrace suffering is even more challenging. The author showed us the relation between obedience and suffering: “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” To give up our will is already a suffering, to accept more suffering is added up. But a life of such obedience and suffering helps us to completely trust in God.

2.2/ Those who imitate Jesus’ life shall achieve salvation: If Christ followed his human will, he couldn’t bring salvation for humankind. To inherit salvation, people need to obey Christ. If they deny that Christ was sent from God to redeem people, they shall not inherit salvation.

3/ Gospel: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”

3.1/ No suffering, no glory: Today passage was introduced by some Greeks’ desire to meet Jesus. The character of the Greek is to seek wisdom, they wander around to look for wisdom and they shall travel anywhere they can learn more wisdom. They certainly heard about Jesus’ wisdom and they came to learn from him. They weren’t hopeless because Jesus taught them the three wisdom which they shall not find in anyone.

            (1) One must die to live: People desire to live and shun death; but according to God’s natural law, they must first die before they can fully live and bring more lives. Jesus said: “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.” If a person is afraid to die, he shall never know how to live; but if a person isn’t afraid of death, he shall live and fully live. They shall fear no worldly powers.

            (2) To sacrifice is to receive: The Vietnamese have this proverb, “A stone is thrown away, a steel ball must be returned.” This proverb means that if others sacrificed for us, we must also return their favor to satisfy justice. Moreover, Jesus also taught his disciples to initialize their sacrifice for people without expecting their return so that the heavenly Father shall abundantly return blessing to us. The selfish people only know how to build up for themselves; they shall gradually be put aside by others. Most of all, they shall not receive salvation as Jesus said: “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”

            (3) One must serve in order to get respect: People like to be served and respected by others. Jesus taught them how to do that: “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.” People can’t have both; if they want to be respected, they must willingly serve others. The ones who sacrifice and serve all, they shall be loved by God and others.

3.2/ Jesus’ fighting to give up his human will.

            (1) To do God’s will in order to reach glory: John didn’t report Jesus’ agony in the Ghetsemane garden; but what he reported in today passage can substitute for that event. Jesus was put between the two sides, either to follow his human will to ask God to save him from the terrible passion which is going to happen or to accept God’s will to embrace the passion for God’s glory. He said to his disciples: “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.Father, glorify your name.” Jesus gave up his will to do his Father’s will.

            Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it and will glorify it again."The Father was always ready to be a witness for His Son before people as we saw in Jesus’ important events, such as: his Baptism, Transfiguration and Passion. The crowd heard it but was confused. Some said it was thunder; but others said, "An angel has spoken to him."Jesus answered and said, "This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.” When his Passion occurs, they shall know it is from God’s will, not by power and authority of the world.

            (2) Christ suffered so that people can be saved: Beside of his obedience for God’s glory, Jesus wanted to suffer so that people can be saved. Due to Adam and Eve’s disobedience of God, all humankind live under Satan’s power and are slaves for sins and death. Due to Jesus’ embracing of his passion, he redeems people from sins, liberates people from Satan’s power, and brings people back to God, as Jesus declared: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself."When Jesus died on the cross, it was the time that God destroyed the devil’s power and death to liberate people.

           

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     

            - When there is a confliction between ours and God’s will, we must forfeit our will to do God’s will because the latter is always wiser and certainly leads to good results.

            - As the Father and the Son sacrificed to bring salvation to us, we must also love and suffer so that people shall know about God and His kingdom shall quickly come.

            - Disobedience and selfish are two quickest ways to lead people to death. 

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