In all three readings today, we hear prophecies of the successful outcome of God’s plan of salvation for the human race. Jeremiah, writing 600 years before Jesus’ birth, wrote,
The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel
and the house of Judah. (Jer 31:31)
This passage is one of the most important passages in all of Scripture, and it is the clearest foundation for division of the Bible into two sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The Old Testament, the “Old Covenant”, was God’s Covenant with Moses, and with it, the “Law”, the Ten Commandments and how the Israelites were to live with God. For centuries during the Old Testament, and up to the time of Jesus’ birth, they didn’t follow God’s Covenant, and ignored it so badly that God finally recognized that they had broken so often that it ceased to exist.
Nevertheless, the Old Testament laws were not cancelled. The laws of the Old Covenant remain intact in the New Covenant, today, as Jesus later indicated. Not a single word would be changed. The New Testament assumes all of the Old Testament commandments and builds upon them, but, they will be written in our hearts, by the Holy Spirit, in our Baptism.
God kept his promise to make a New Covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah, and with all mankind, Jew and Gentile alike. St. Paul continues with the story of the success of God’s plan of salvation when he writes about Jesus,
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered;
and when he was made perfect,
he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
Eternal salvation is promised to all, Jews and Gentiles alike, “for all who obey him”. Our salvation is not automatic. We must learn, also, to be obedient.
If you recall, Jesus did not venture outside of Israel during his ministry, and told his disciples on their first mission journeys not to travel outside of Israel. Their first task was to restore the children of Israel to their covenant with God. However, it was always intended that God’s plan of salvation included the entire world. At the beginning of today’s Gospel we hear,
Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee,
and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”
These were either Jews who had left Israel generations before and now lived in Greek speaking countries, and were on pilgrimage to the Temple for the Passover. Or they were Gentile converts who were doing the same thing, but heard of Jesus when they arrived. There were converts to Judaism among Gentiles.
Nevertheless, Jesus would leave the ministry to the Gentiles to Paul and the Apostles after the Resurrection.
Far more important for Jesus at this point, and for us, was to bring to a conclusion his ministry to initiate the New Covenant among the lost tribes of Israel, and to re-unite Israel and Judea. His earthly ministry was coming to an end. He was contemplating the wonderful things to come, which could only begin with his death. He did not meet with the Greeks. Instead,
Jesus answered them,
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
We must follow him. If we refuse to follow him, then we fail to receive the promise of eternal salvation.
We are nearing the end of Lent. Next week we enter Holy Week with the reading of the Passion on Palm Sunday. Be ready to go with him to Jerusalem, to his crucifixion, his death and resurrection. Lent is this wonderful opportunity to prepare ourselves, and examine our motives and prepare to also be grains of wheat that fall and die, so we can produce much fruit. This is our faith.