How does Jesus make all things new? Jesus tells us that all he has taught can be summed up in one commandment, “Love one another.” The love that Jesus commands is no warm feeling of affection expressing itself in hugs and kisses. Rather, he commands them to love one another as he has loved them — by dying on the cross. Jesus is the only hope of renewal for us individually, for the Church, and for the world.
In a world where we are constantly bombarded with so many voices calling for our attention, we can feel overwhelmed by the myriad of options. Amid this clamor, we don’t always recognize the voice of the Shepherd himself. Yet, that is the one voice that should draw our attention: how does the voice of Jesus sound to you?
How many times have we prayed with 1 John, reading the words, “There is no fear in love.” Apparently not enough! To be freed from fear means to be filled with love. The readings this weekend echo this same truth as we journey through the Easter season. Love trumps all fear, giving the disciples of Christ holy boldness to proclaim his word to the ends of the earth. And that love is personal, inviting, and empowering.
Integrating the Resurrection into our lives means accepting the mercy of God, embracing the unearned gift of it all, and sharing that mercy with others. No matter who we are or what our current circumstances, we have the potential to be bringers of mercy in our daily lives.
Although Palm Sunday’s ability to confront and confound our indifference can be startling and even frightening, the real grace of this celebration is in the opportunity it provides for us to renew our commitment to life in Christ. More than being some sort of extended passion play, the days of Holy Week challenge us to envision a life in which we take responsibility for our sins.
In many ways, both large and small, we choose sin over God’s love. We fall prey to the false promises of love, pleasure, and inner peace that sin offers us. And in the process, we lose touch with our heavenly Father who is the source of all love. However, that does not need to be the end of the story. We can always turn to Jesus to find forgiveness.
So many times when we read the all-too familiar story of the Prodigal Son, we focus on the action of the rebellious son — and rightly so because it is so easy to identify with him. We can lose sight of the character of the father. The poignancy of the son’s story is so only because of the magnanimity of the father.
As we approach the final weeks of Lent, let’s repent and start anew so we can be a light in our world, on fire with the love of Christ. Let’s make use of extra confession times, Lenten missions or talks, extra holy hours, and times set aside for prayer.
This Lenten journey — and our Christian life — is both a juxtaposition and a symbiotic relationship between glory and sacrifice. We feel the strain and pull at our normal life through the out-of-the-ordinary sacrifice. Yet through our gifts and self-denial, we brush something extraordinary.
God’s merciful love is real. And the Church, for all of its flaws, is far greater than the human beings who labor in its vineyard. The response to our psalm cannot be more apropos: “Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.” We are in trouble, and God is with us.
As we look toward the season of Lent, our Gospel this Sunday invites us to look at our lives with clear eyes and to reflect on the fruit of our lives. Are there “branches” that need to be pruned, so that other areas of our lives — including our prayer and ministry — can be more fruitful?