Readings for the 5th Sunday of Lent: Jer 31:31-34; Ps 51:3-4, 12-15; Heb 5:7-9; Jn 12:20-33 (if you hear different readings, your parish may be using the Year A readings that go with the Scrutinies for RCIA)
The night before I turned sixteen, I couldn’t sleep for crying.
High school wasn’t easy for me. Not the work so much; it was the rest of it – the social aspects, or lack thereof. In an attempt to fit in, I made one poor choice after another.
In my opinion that night, I was a failure.
I sat up in bed and started to pray. “God,” I said, “Can’t you see what a mess I’ve made of my life?! Help me, please. Do you even care? If you can help me out of this hole, then I will follow you.” By which I meant I’d start making choices to please Him, instead of myself. “I’ll do my best, anyway,” I added – not sure that I really wanted to, or that I could.
“Create in me a clean heart,” reads the Psalm this Sunday. “Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.” Reading it, I think of that night long ago when I lifted up my hurting heart to God. “Cast me not away from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me. Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me.”
I don’t remember what I read that night when I turned to open my Bible, but I know that prayer was in my heart. And God spoke to me through what I did read, assuring me of his love and presence and help and of my worth.
I have loved tracing through the covenants this Lent, and watching the progress of Israel. We’ve seen God’s mercy in spite of their failures, working to save them in spite of themselves. Last week came hints of return from exile. Yet we wonder how long that return will last. Is there hope, without a deeper change?
Hope comes with this fifth Sunday of Lent. Jeremiah announces: “The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel … I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts.”
Ezekiel said something similar to the exiles in Babylon: “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees” (Eze 26:26-27).
The covenants have been a matter of the heart, all along. The Sunday readings don’t mention God’s covenant with David, but we read about it Friday in 2 Samuel 7 and Psalm 89. Fitting, that God would choose as king “a man after his own heart” (1 Sam 13:14). He’s the one who wrote “Create in me a clean heart” after his sin against Bathsheba and Uriah.
God is in the business of restoring hearts. He gave me a new heart, once, then gave me a clean one when I blew it; he poured in his love and with his Spirit, helped me learn to love the One who loves me.
© 2015, 2021 Sarah Christmyer.
This was previously published March 20, 2015, on this site.
Image of two hands by coryclayful; image of heart drawn in sand by congerdesign. Both from Pixabay.
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What have you learned from this series, or how has it struck you? I’d love to hear from you below (or email me at Sarah@ComeIntotheWord.com). Bless you!
Read about this series here: Lent, Year B: GOD HAS A PLAN!
Coming next: Palm Sunday: ENTERING THE NEW COVENANT
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Take Scripture into your week during Lent with this free Monday-Friday reading plan for Year B (2015, 2018, 2021…): Download 40 Days in the Bible-Yr B.