Fr. Wilson Andrade is the pastor of St. Ann Parish and the Native Peoples’ Mission, both in Toronto.
There is a story of a woman who came to her pastor and said: “Last Friday, at 3:00 in the afternoon, God spoke to me.”
The pastor asked the woman if perhaps she was dreaming, because God does not speak to people directly in that way. However, every week for the next few Sundays the woman told the pastor the same story. She was convinced that God was speaking to her. Finally, the pastor told her, “Next time God speaks to you, ask Him about my sins.”
The following Sunday, she came to the church and told the same story all over again. The pastor was getting annoyed, so he asked her, “Did you ask God about my personal sins?”
“Yes, Father,” she said. “I asked God about it.”
Then the pastor in a low voice asked her, “Well, what did God say?”
She said loudly, “Oh, Father! God said He has forgotten all your sins!”
In today’s readings, we heard from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, where God said, “I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.”
I would like to reflect with you on three insights taken from today’s Scripture readings: Salvation; Son of God; and Service.
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation.”
The verses from Psalm 51 echo our prayer and reflection for this Lenten season. This psalm is a beautiful meditation that can be used in preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We all seek that joy and peace in God’s salvation.
This good news of the joy of salvation, resonates in the hopeful message from the Prophet Jeremiah that we heard in today’s first reading, as he encourages the people to never give up hope in God. As the beautiful verse says: “God will make a new covenant, which will be written in everyone’s hearts, all will come to know God, sins will be forgiven and all will be saved.”
Let us in faith and filled with hope, enter into a covenantal relationship with God as we pray to God: “Create in me a clean heart, cleanse me from sin, let us remain in your presence with the help of the Holy Spirit.”
It was St. Augustine, after his personal conversion, who said: “Salvation is God’s way of making us real people.” He wrote a beautiful prayer in his confession, begging God:
“O Lord, my God, tell me what you are to me, Say to my soul, I am your salvation. Say it so that I can hear it. My heart is listening, Lord; open the ears of my heart and say to my soul, I am your salvation. Let me run toward this voice and seize hold of you. Do not hide your face from me; let me die so that I may see it, for not to see it would be death to me indeed.”
Only God restores the joy of salvation.
Son of God
We believe and proclaim that Jesus is the fulfilment of God’s covenant of salvation. We read in the Letter to Hebrews that “Jesus, offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears… although he was a Son, he learned obedience, through what he suffered. He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
In the Gospel, we heard how people came to Jesus as He tells them about His suffering and death and proclaims: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.”
Jesus becomes the source of our salvation through life, passion and death on the cross. This salvation is not just for a group of people, but for everyone who believes in Jesus, the Son of God, who is the way of love, truth of faith and hope of life.
By becoming the source of salvation, Jesus fulfils God’s covenant of love, who fills us with the joy of salvation, as He invites us by saying: “My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
Jesus, Son of God, source and fulfilment of God’s salvation.
Like the disciples Philip and Andrew, who brought the Greeks to see Jesus, we as baptised Christians are called to proclaim the message of God’s salvation in Jesus to all. This proclamation of salvation happens in service as Jesus says: “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.”
Service must reflect how we are intimately related to Jesus as we continue His mission of salvation. Without Jesus we will lose our source of strength, meaning and purpose. Pope Francis summarizes this message in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, by saying, “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus… It is Jesus’ command as he invites us to go into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature.”
We preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ by witnessing God’s love through our joyful service.
Let me conclude this reflection with the inspiring words of St. Mother Teresa: “Joy is prayer; Joy is strength; Joy is love; Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”
Lord Jesus, Son of God, my Lord and savior, fill me with the joy of your salvation that we may proclaim your love to all by my witness of faith and joyful service. Amen.
This reflection is based on the readings from the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year B: Jeremiah 31.31-34; Hebrews 5.7-9; and John 12.20-33.