Opposites and Inversions

Fifth Sunday of Lent (B)

In this world of stiff competition to survive, we always want to win, and we tend to separate, divide and alienate. We separate the body from the spirit, and we see others as if they are just walking dolls or hovering spirits. We separate the mind from the heart, and so we find people who may be emotionally disturbed or mentally disoriented. We see people as categories, and we are not one with them. We see the world as separate continents, so each one does not have to be responsible for another’s problems. We alienate the poor from the rich, and we see them as affluent or needy. We alienate the “less educated” from the “educated,” and we seem to be comfortable with discrimination in workplaces, in applying for work and in the delivery of benefits.

We believe that the order of the concept of living is life and death. We treat the infamy of suffering as independent from the splendor of glory. We prefer to be served than to serve. We work hard to receive rather than to give. We seek happiness in material things now as if there is no other life, rather than seek the joy of human and divine values so that we can be happy here and in the life to come. We tend to care for our bodies as if we hold the reins of life, rather than seek the ways leading to eternity. We want to separate the love of God from the love of neighbor, so that we won’t be accountable for our neglect and indifference.

In Jesus we see the combination of opposites and inversion. For Jesus the order of the concept of living is death-life. The grain must die in order to have life and bear fruit. The death of Jesus is not only for Him to have life, but that we may have life and have it to the full. He carried the cross so that all who are weary and tired may come to Him and find rest. He saw glory in suffering, life in death, and resurrection in being buried. For Jesus, His death is fruitfulness. His loss is gain for us. He taught that to go up to the Father is to go down deep into the self, to repent and be converted. He is the integration of the person: that man cannot be separated from himself, that mind and heart are one, that man cannot be alienated from his neighbor. Only Jesus is the answer to the difficult questions of life and seeming contradictions between suffering and glory, division and unity, alienation and friendship.

Despite His people’s sinfulness, God did not forsake them. He renewed His covenant with them when He said through the prophet Jeremiah:

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 (31:33-34).

According to circumstances and judgments of the mind, if we base our relationships on reason alone, we become cold. According to changes in emotion and moods, if we base our relationship on feelings alone, we can become sentimental. However, in Jesus we make the decision to make our relationships meaningful. We exercise the power of our mind to choose and meet our feelings and emotions to make a reasonable and loving decision for something, for somebody or for a cause. This encounter happens in the heart where God has placed His law so that we no longer look for God outside of us. It is also in our hearts that we meet God and our neighbor.

This season of Lent allows us to go deeper into our hearts and reflect on the ways we relate with God. It also allows us to go deep into the heart of Jesus so that we can go into the heart of the Church.

We may do these in many ways: a) pray the rosary for peace and for respect for life; b) visit the Blessed Sacrament and pray for the intentions of the parish and the needy; c) visit the sick or do some works of mercy; d) avoid harsh or discouraging words, and decide to say only encouraging words; e) fast, not only from food, but also from pride, envy and from your favorites sins; f) go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation with a sincere heart; g) be faithful to your family and to the Church; h) and others. Holy Scripture tells us that God wants mercy more than sacrifice, for mercy is a loving relationship with others for the Glory of God.

In the Eucharist that we celebrate we encounter the humility of God and become open to His Word, and we hope to participate fully in the blessings of Holy Week and reap the fruits of our redemption at Easter.

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