Sunday, 18 March 2018

Confession & Spring, 5th Sunday of Lent, Year B

Jn 12:20-30; Jer 31:31-34
This Sunday it’s turned cold again, with the second “Beast from the East” weatherfront hitting us. 
But earlier this week it was warmer for a while, and we’ve begun to see the signs of spring. 
I saw some crocuses out when walking with my parents last Sunday on Mother’s Day, and, for me it’s always the yearly sight of crocuses that makes me realise that spring is on the way, that new life is coming after the winter.
But I realised this week, as the sun was out and the temperature up, that I’d almost forgotten what spring LOOKS like.  I’d gotten used to the sight of brown earth in the flower bed.  No flowers.  No leaves on the trees.  No green. 
This winter I just got used to it.  I forgot that it could be otherwise.

And it occurred to me that my soul can be the same.  I can get used to things being lifeless or tepid or barren.  I can get used to the sin. 
Maybe small sins that I’ve gotten used to. 
But I can used to the big sins too.
And then there are so many sins that can start small but become big, or that I can forget how big they’ve become:
Being irritable, habitually, so people are wary of me;
Being impatient, so that I don’t suffer fools gladly;
Being careless, so that people can’t rely on me as they should be able to;
Being lazy, so that things just don’t get done.
All these things and more I can just get used to, I can forget that it possible to be otherwise.

Today’s first reading contains the prophecy of Jeremiah that there would be a “new covenant” to replace the old one.  The Chosen People had broken the old covenant by their unfaithfulness, by their sins. 
And the Church reminds us of this promise of the “new” covenant, even though we already live in this “new” covenant, in Christ Jesus.  The Church reminds us of this “new” offer because she knows that we always stand in need of being re-made. 
In particular, in the season in of Lent, we’d do well to remember that the word “lent” is an old Saxon word for “spring”.  So all of our fasting, prayer, and almsgiving in this season is aiming at achieving a similar new growth in our hearts.

But if we are to have this new growth, if we are to remember what spring feels like in our souls, just like nature is showing us once again what spring looks like in the plants,
if we are to have this new life then something has to DIE within us first, and that something is sin. 
The Lord said, as we just heard, that a grain of wheat must die if it is to bring forth a harvest of new life.  My sins, likewise, must die. 
And they die by my repenting of them, and the Lord forgiving me for them. 

In just over a week, on the Tuesday evening, in preparation for Easter, there will be 4 priests here to hear your confessions.  This is a key moment in the year for us to think about those things within us that we have allowed ourselves to get overly used to, like getting used to the brown barren earth and forgetting what spring greenery and flowers are like.

The great gift of living in the “new covenant” is that we can repent and start again.  And, even more so: the great gift of being in the season of Lent, is that this is a special moment of grace, a special moment to come back to life.
So let’s not get used to barren brown earth in our souls, let’s get to confession, let’s open our souls to Christ that life may spring forth.

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