New Mind and Heart Week 5

(Homily for Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year B)

Message: Die to sin, live for God.

We have arrived at the Fifth Sunday of Lent - the final Sunday before Holy Week. Next weekend we celebrate Palm Sunday - also called Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. We will read St. Mark's account of Jesus' Passion - the cross.

This Lent we have asked God to give us a new mind and heart so we can see the reality of Jesus and his cross. Regarding that new heart today we hear the prophecy of Jeremiah - that God will write his law on our hearts. Instead of following external rules, we will have God's law deep inside. We will know the right thing to do and will do it.

There's only one small difficulty: To know God's law from within, to get a new mind and heart, we have to die. Jesus says it bluntly: "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."

It's hard to die. A grain of wheat might feel safe inside its shell. But God has a plan the grain cannot imagine. Placed in the dark earth, the water and warmth begin to open its shell. Hesitatingly, tiny roots come out and begin to take nourishment from the soil. What happens in silent darkness breaks into the light - and produces fruit: 30, 60, 100 fold.

The seed achieves this amazing result because God has placed a law inside it. When the seed follows that code, it fulfills its purpose. To do so, it has to die.

Once again, it's not easy to die. C.S. Lewis tells about a young man who falls into hell because of his attachment to a lizard that perches on his shoulder. The lizard whispers in the boy's ear and gives him pleasure. But the pleasure gets less and less and the lizard becomes more powerful. It controls the boy's life and he winds up in hell.

One day he gets a chance to come out. God sends a good spirit to speak to the boy, to invite him to heaven. The boy says, "yes, I want to get out of this place."

The spirit says, "OK, but I have to kill that hideous thing on your shoulder."

The lizard becomes agitated, "No, please, don't let him. Think of all the years we have had together. Think about what you will lose."

The boy pleads, "Can't I take him with me?"

The spirit explains that in heaven he can have pleasure beyond imagining. With great reluctance, the boy agrees and spirit touches the lizard. As if struck by lightning, the lizard begins to writhe in agony, then falls to the ground. The boy feels frightened and desolate, but when he looks down at the ashes of the lizard, he sees something growing from them. It becomes a mighty horse that carries the young man to paradise.

To realize one's purpose - what God has created you for - you have to die. That's what we've been talking about these five weeks of Lent. We have to place ourselves under the banner of the cross. We have to die - to envy, greed, lust, spiritual laziness, arrogance - those things that bring us down to hell. But those things, bad as they are, have something good embedded in them - like the tiny seed. If we die to those vices (by the power of Christ), they will transform us and carry us to heaven. Die to sin, live for God.

"The hour has come," says Jesus. "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it will produce much fruit." Die to sin, live for God. Amen.

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Spanish Version

From the Archives (Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year B):

2012: To Know the Lord
2009: A Matter of Life and Death
2006: Your Judgment on the World
2003: Now is the Time of Judgment
2000: We Would Like to See Jesus

Year A (RCIA):
Prayer and Spiritual Combat Week 5 (2014)
Revive (2011)
Overcoming Power of Death (2008)
Joining Body with Soul (2005)
He Was Buried (2002)
On Confession and Cremation (1999)

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