Breaking Open the Word

March 21, 2021


5th Sunday of Lent



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The first reading, taken from the book of the prophet Jeremiah explains how God will replace the old covenant of judgement with a new covenant of forgiveness of sins.   This new or renewed covenant prophesied by Jeremiah was fulfilled, at least in part, through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.


In the second reading, St. Paul tells the Hebrews that is by Jesus’ suffering and death, in obedience to the Father’s will, that Jesus established the new covenant.  


The Gospel hints at the inner struggle of Jesus in accepting the cup of suffering to establish the new and eternal covenant.  


Gospel Explained

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In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the real resurrection.  He tells his followers that the only way to come to this glory is by dying.   The image of a grain of wheat offers a powerful example of this reality. A single seed is limited and alone.  But if the seed dies to its present state, it will grow into a stalk filled with seeds.   The message for us is that the present is good, but because Christ has brought an end to death through his own death and resurrection, we can look forward to a future that will be far more than our limited lives here and now.


Today’s Theme:

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In John’s Gospel, Jesus frequently speaks of his hour.   The term refers to his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.   Jesus is glorified and lifted onto the cross and up from the grave.  Jesus glorified God by working signs that revealed his Father’s power.   Now that his hour has come, Jesus will work the ultimate sign: he will defeat sin and death and bring people into union with him and his Father.


Theme in Our Life

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Today’s Gospel teaches us that new life and eternal life are possible only by the death of the self through obedience, suffering and service.   As Jesus knew that his hour was approaching, he spent time in prayer and preparation.     How will we live our lives until our hour comes? In a poem by Linda Ellis called “The Dash”, she reflects on a man who stood up at a funeral of a friend to speak .  


He referred to the dates on the tombstone from beginning to end.   He discusses that is not the date of birth or death that should be the focus, but the dash that separates them.  The dash represents all the time you spent on earth and questions what did you do with your time.   The poem ends with “so when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?”  A very good reminder during this Lenten season.


Preparing for Sunday

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To Prepare for this Sunday’s Liturgy of the Word, consider the following:

  1. Relate a time when you lost out but later were strengthened by this experience.

  2. Describe an experience in your life when seeds fell fruitlessly but later blossomed.

  3. What struggles have you let go of?  What struggles did you surrender to?

  4. Whose life and struggles encourage you?






Father in heaven, the love of your Son led him to accept the suffering of the cross so that we might glory in the new life.   Change our selfishness into self-giving.   Help us embrace the world as he did, so that we will also become grains of wheat that bear fruit.  Strengthen his spirit in us that we, too, will confront evil and transform darkness, all to the glory of your name.   Amen

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