Fifth Sunday of Lent, by Fr. Védaste NKESHIMANA, SJ.
When faced with suffering, it is normal that one feels horrified and acts to better the situation. And any person of good will would act to help those who cannot get away from their distress. That is why it is difficult to understand the Jesus’ suffering. Was He powerless? If the one who is to save us is the one who suffer, is there any other way out for the distressed? The readings of this fifth Sunday of Lent help us see that it is through His suffering that Jesus is glorified. What is for the world defeat and shame, it is for him victory and glory. Indeed, Jesus suffers so that love may be victorious amongst human beings and that every human being may live differently, by following Jesus’ path.
Jesus teaches us how not to live for oneself and how to live for one another. In other word, Jesus suffer in order to share God’s life with every human being which is nothing other than God’s love. It is therefore important to know the power of love that underlies Jesus’ courageous move towards suffering for the salvation of the world. This unconditional and unending love has always been characteristic of God’s acts. When Jeremiah writes about a new covenant, it is not because the Jews had changed. It was God who gave them a new chance to retrieve what they lost because of their unfaithfulness: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31, 33). Thus, the new covenant is meant to make Jews realize who their God is and that is a free initiative of God. Jesus obeying that love fulfills Jeremiah’s prophecy by touching every human heart with His love of human to the end.
The pandemic of COVID-19 has made us realize how much we depend on each other. In my opinion, if all nations had stood together as one man against COVID-19, it might not have made so much victims. One could say the same for other diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis…etc. As long as people have no compassion for one another, as long as nations are led by egoism or tribalism, God’s unconditional and overreaching love is still needed.
The challenge is to differentiate our apparent victories from the victory of Jesus that defeated death. If Jesus had fought the usual way, he would have defeated all his foes. But that triumph would have been casual. To see success in Jesus’ way, one needs to see the world differently, to see beyond facts, which is in this case to have eyes of Faith. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn, 12,24). To follow Jesus is to focus to the fruits that results from acts of love and not to worry about the pain that may be undergone in the process. Jesus is the grain of wheat that died so as to give place to a cob that all human beings enjoy. He could have enjoyed being the Son of God, but he let out all His privileges in order to lift up human beings to His divine nature. In the world, they talk about human rights. But for Christian, one who follows Jesus gives up what he/she has right to for the betterment of the lives of the neediest.
Definitely, one could think that love is dangerous, if it leads to the suffering such as what Jesus endured. However, we can see greatness that is transparent in such love and should inspire all the disciples of Jesus. It is not easy for Jesus as he says, “Father, if thou are willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will, but thine be done” (Lk 22,42). But obeying to God’s will, He overcome fear. We are reminded that following Jesus is not just for good times that human tend to value, but to accept that God’s will prevails over our fears and tendencies. We need to receive the most important thing that Jesus gave us: His Life. And it cannot be His Life if it is not given, as He gave Himself to us. His Love transcends everything. Lenten season is a special time for conversion, for fasting and sharing. May this Sunday help us move a step further in cultivating among us acts of love and forgiveness, giving one another a new beginning.
Fr. Védaste NKESHIMANA, SJ. is the director of Service Yezu Mwiza, a Jesuit initiative against HIV and AIDS in Burundi, started by the Jesuit Refugee Council in October 2000.