Saturday 1 April 2023 5th week of Lent
The Lord says this: ‘I am going to take the sons of Israel from the nations where they have gone. I shall gather them together from everywhere and bring them home to their own soil. I shall make them into one nation in my own land and on the mountains of Israel, and one king is to be king of them all; they will no longer form two nations, nor be two separate kingdoms. They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and their filthy practices and all their sins. I shall rescue them from all the betrayals they have been guilty of; I shall cleanse them; they shall be my people and I will be their God. My servant David will reign over them, one shepherd for all; they will follow my observances, respect my laws and practise them. They will live in the land that I gave my servant Jacob, the land in which your ancestors lived. They will live in it, they, their children, their children’s children, for ever. David my servant is to be their prince for ever. I shall make a covenant of peace with them, an eternal covenant with them. I shall resettle them and increase them; I shall settle my sanctuary among them for ever. I shall make my home above them; I will be their God, they shall be my people. And the nations will learn that I am the Lord, the sanctifier of Israel, when my sanctuary is with them for ever.’
Jeremiah 31:10-13 The Lord will guard us as a shepherd guards his flock.
O nations, hear the word of the Lord, proclaim it to the far-off coasts. Say: ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him and guard him as a shepherd guards his flock.’ For the Lord has ransomed Jacob, has saved him from an overpowering hand. They will come and shout for joy on Mount Zion, they will stream to the blessings of the Lord. Then the young girls will rejoice and dance, the men, young and old, will be glad.
I will turn their mourning into joy, I will console them, give gladness for grief.
Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what Jesus did believed in him, but some of them went to tell the Pharisees what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and Pharisees called a meeting. ‘Here is this man working all these signs’ they said ‘and what action are we taking? If we let him go on in this way everybody will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy the Holy Place and our nation.’ One of them, Caiaphas, the high priest that year, said, ‘You do not seem to have grasped the situation at all; you fail to see that it is better for one man to die for the people, than for the whole nation to be destroyed.’ He did not speak in his own person, it was as high priest that he made this prophecy that Jesus was to die for the nation – and not for the nation only, but to gather together in unity the scattered children of God. From that day they were determined to kill him. So Jesus no longer went about openly among the Jews, but left the district for a town called Ephraim, in the country bordering on the desert, and stayed there with his disciples.
The Jewish Passover drew near, and many of the country people who had gone up to Jerusalem to purify themselves looked out for Jesus, saying to one another as they stood about in the Temple, ‘What do you think? Will he come to the festival or not?’
“The Lord says this: I am going to take the children of Israel from the nations where they have gone. I shall gather them together from everywhere and bring them home”
“He who scattered Israel will gather him and guard him as a shepherd guards his flock.“
“Jesus was to die for the nation – and not for the nation only, but to gather together in unity the scattered children of God.”
We are probably one of the most scattered generations of humanity that has ever existed. Geographically, ideologically, socially, personally, psychologically, spiritually.
We have seen in our time vast numbers of internally displaced persons, and desperate people taking huge risks to immigrate to other lands away from war, violence, poverty, climate catastrophe, and exploitation.
We live with ways of thinking that fragment societies, which pull communities apart, drive the disaffected into radicalism, and polarize opinion. Populist ideologies promote fake news as if it were truth, with no regard for the human or ecological consequences.
We are the most medicated, addicted, socially manipulated, and controlled generation the world has ever seen. People of our time suffer greater psychosis, more complex neuroses, and more compulsive tendencies than has ever been known in human history.
Humanity has never been more disconnected from its spirit, its soul. We live in soulless secular and humanistic societies, where we avoid our deepest interior spiritual anima, and compensate by deifying football players and ingesting hashish and opiates.
As we enter Holy Week tomorrow, we retrace those events that God hoped would bring us together. We will gather round the table with the Lord, remember that he came not to be served but to serve, be with him in the silence of the garden, recount our betrayals, and walk the miles with him to his death. We will also sit in the emptiness of the tomb, wondering what happened, wondering why it happened? This week provides us with a space to Re-Member, Re-connect, Re-concile. In the sacred space of grief, we find solace and healing.
The message is simple. God is a love that knows no limitations, that can bring us together from our scattered places. God heals us. God comforts us. God puts things back into place once again. God does not exclude, separate, blame, curse, punish, or isolate. God offers wholeness, communion, and a welcome embrace.
May the coming Holy Week and Easter bring you home.
May God help you to settle into your life knowing that you are cherished enough to die for.
May all that is unforgiven in you be released, and your fears yield to their deepest tranquilities.
May all that is unlived in you, come out from its hidden place and boldly risk being seen.
May this week bring you the freedom within yourself to love without limit, trust without reserve.
Graced by love, supported by joy, and encouraged by hope.