The picture was taken yesterday at the Wicklow Gap, still blanketed in Sunday’s snow. It is always a good place to stop and look both ways, backwards and forwards. Sometimes as we look back along the road of life, we find that dark and difficult experiences from the past linger like clouds on the horizon and blur our vision of the future. It is hard to forgive and forget and let go of some of the painful experiences of our lives.
Our Lenten reflections this year come under the heading of unconditional love. During the first week the focus was on love as covenant relationship, while in week two it was considered as sacrifice. Week three focused on love as trust and then it was time in week four to reflect on the liberty and freedom that love brings to us. This week focuses on the new covenant which comes about through forgiveness.
The first reading of the fifth Sunday of Lent from Jer.31: 31 – 34, promises a new covenant between God and his people written not in stone but in the human heart. This means that the love relationship between God and the people is not sealed by an outsiders approval but with a desire that comes from within the human heart where love recognises love. The reading goes on to say that an essential element in this new covenant is forgiveness: “I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.”
As we listen to Psalm 51, we repeat after each verse: “Create a clean heart in me O God and renew a steadfast spirit in me.”
The second reading from Hebrews 5: 7- 10 takes us to the example of Jesus who learned obedience through what he suffered and through his death became the source of eternal life for all who obey him.
In the Gospel reading from John 12: 20 – 30, we are given the familiar example of the seed falling into the ground and dying so that new life can spring from it. The best way to understand how this happens is to put some dry seed in a pot or in the garden and watch and wait until it begins to grow. First a tiny green leaf appears from the soil and then another. The growing stem produces another branch and then others until the plant is ready to produce flower and fruit and seed of its own. The miracle of life is happening all the time before our eyes. The life of everyone and everything is as clear as the life process of every single plant. It is through letting go of our individual selves that we enter into the greater life and communion where the life of God that is full of mercy and compassion is written in our hearts.
In some past years a small group of us have gone at daybreak on Easter Sunday morning to the Wicklow Gap to watch for the first signs of the new dawn. We do this in the spirit of our early Christian ancestors who looked to the rising sun as a symbol of the Risen Christ. The Lenten journey leads to an experience like that. All eyes and hearts are focused on the eastern horizon. There is no need to look back at the road behind any more. Our faith is in a Risen Cosmic Christ who appears in everything around us as the light from the east begins to rise in the sky. Moments like that can become a crossing point where past and future become really present and the heart knows that the love of God is unconditional.
Questions: When did I last truly forgive someone? What old seed needs to die in me? Am I open to love?