Fifth Sunday of Lent (B)
March 21, 2021
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.






By your help, we beseech you, Lord our God,
may we walk eagerly in that same charity
with which, out of love for the world,
your Son handed himself over to death.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading JER 31:31-34

The days are coming, says the LORD, 
when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel 
and the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers
the day I took them by the hand 
to lead them forth from the land of Egypt; 
for they broke my covenant, 
and I had to show myself their master, says the LORD.
But this is the covenant that I will make 
with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD.
I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; 
I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives
how to know the LORD.
All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD, 
for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.

Responsorial Psalm PS 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15.

R/. Create a clean heart in me, O God.


Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me. R/.

A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me. R/.

Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners shall return to you. R/.

Second Reading HEB 5:7-9

In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh, 
he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears 
to the one who was able to save him from death, 
and he was heard because of his reverence.
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.

Verse Before The Gospel JN 12:26

Gospel JN 12:20-33

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."
Philip went and told Andrew; 
then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.
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.
Whoever serves me must follow me, 
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me.

"I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
'Father, save me from this hour'?
But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.
Father, glorify your name."
Then a voice came from heaven, 
"I have glorified it and will glorify it again."
The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; 
but others said, "An angel has spoken to him."
Jesus answered and said, 
"This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.
Now is the time of judgment on this world; 
now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
And when I am lifted up from the earth, 
I will draw everyone to myself."
He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

Reflection Questions

  1. How have you “come to see Jesus?”
  2. How have you experienced the mystery of dying unto life?
  3. How has the Father honored you for service to Christ?

Catena Nova

The slip of a vine planted in the ground bears fruit at the proper time.  The grain of wheat falls into the ground and decays only to be raised up again and multiplied by the Spirit of God who sustains all things. The Wisdom of God places these things at our service and when they receive God’s word, they become the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ.  In the same way our bodies, which have been nourished by the Eucharist, will be buried in the earth and will decay but they will rise again at the appointed time, for the Word of God will raise them up, to the glory of God the Father. Then the Father will clothe our mortal nature in immortality and freely endow our corruptible nature with incorruptibility, for God’s power is shown most perfectly in weakness (St. Irenaeus of Lyons).

The human race may be compared to spikes of wheat in a field, rising, as it were, from the earth, awaiting their full growth and development, and then in time being cut down by the reaper, which is death. The comparison is apt, since Christ himself spoke of our race in this way when he said to his holy disciples: “Do you not say, 'Four months and it will be harvest time?' Look at the fields I tell you, they are already white and ready for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving his wages and bringing in a crop for eternal life.” Now Christ became like one of us; he sprang from the holy Virgin like a spike of wheat from the ground. Indeed, he spoke of himself as a grain of wheat when he said: “I tell you truly, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains as it was, a single grain; but if it dies its yield is very great.” And so, like a sheaf of grain, the first fruits, as it were, of the earth, he offered himself to the Father for our sake. For we do not think of a spike of wheat in isolation, any more than we do of ourselves. We think of it rather as part of a sheaf, which is a single bundle made up of many spikes. The spikes have to be gathered into a bundle before they can be used, and this is the key to the mystery they represent, the mystery of Christ who, though one, appears in the image of a sheaf to be made up of many, as in fact he is. Spiritually, he contains in himself all believers. “As we have been raised up with him,” writes Saint Paul, “so we have also been enthroned with him in heaven.” He is a human being like ourselves, and this has made us one body with him, the body being the bond that unites us (St. Cyril of Alexandria).

I have an ever deeper and firmer belief that nothing is merely an accident when seen in the light of God, that my whole life down to the smallest details has been marked out for me in the plan of Divine Providence and has a completely coherent meaning in God’s all seeing eyes. To be a child of God, that means to be led by the Hand of God, to do the Will of God, not one’s own will, to place every care and every Hope in the Hand of God and not to worry about one’s future. On this rests the freedom and the joy of the child of God. But how few of even the truly pious, even of those ready for heroic sacrifices, possess this freedom. When night comes, and you look back over the day and see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much you planned that has gone undone, and all the reasons you have to be embarrassed and ashamed: just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands and leave it with Him. Then you will be able to rest in Him — really rest — and start the next day as a new life (St. Edith Stein/Teresa Benedicta of the Cross).

[The grain of wheat] must be buried in earth, that is, in us, who are made from the earth. The seed of Christ is not buried in angels, but in men. It is to flower and bear fruit through human experience: through our loves, our work, our sorrows, our joys, our temptations. It is to be literally our living and our dying. We are the soil of the divine seed; there is no other. The flowering of Christ in us does not depend upon pious exercises, on good works outside our daily life, on an amateur practice of religion in our leisure time. It is in the marrow of our bones, in the experience of our daily life. The seed is in darkness: the darkness of sorrow, the darkness of faith (Caryll Houselander).

In the Gospel John muffles the pointedness of suffering; for him everything, even the darkest, is already an appearance of Love’s glory. In the second reading, the letter to the Hebrews, lets the  harsh tones of the Passion ring out: he who is sinking into the night of suffering offered “loud cries and tears, prayers and supplications” to the God “who was able to save him from death.” One can be obedient even under these circumstances, indeed, in the darkest suffering everyone, even Christ, must learn obedience in a new way. Any man who suffer physically or psychologically has experienced this: what he thought he had already made into a habit must be learned all over again from the beginning. Jesus cried out to the Father and the text says that the Father heard him and freed him from fear – yes indeed, but not yet, rather only when he arose from death and hell. Only when the Son has “finished everything” can the light of love that is buried in all suffering shone forth openly. And only when everything has been suffered through to the last and lowliest can the New Covenant referred to in the first reading be considered established (Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar).

What [the Son] does in obeying his Father is to reveal the murderous lie of the world, and it is as victim of that murderous lie that he becomes the Judge. That is, Jesus did not come to judge, but, in as far as people reject him, he, as the victim who reveals the dominion of death, and is the criterion by which its mechanism is understood, comes to be its judge. Christ turns the human/satanic mechanism of judgment upon itself in the process of being judged in human courts, duly executed, and then declared innocent by God in the Resurrection. He judges not via an active judgment, ala humankind, but by taking judgment upon himself and exposing it for what it is, sacred violence (James Alison).

“We wish to see Jesus”: these words, like so many others in the Gospels, go beyond this particular episode and express something universal; they reveal a desire that passes through the ages and cultures, a desire present in the heart of so many people who have heard of Christ, but have not yet encountered him. “I wish to see Jesus”, thus He feels the heart of these people. Responding indirectly, in a prophetic way, to that request to be able to see Him, Jesus pronounces a prophecy that reveals his identity and shows the path to know Him truly: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (Jn 12:23). It is the hour of the Cross! It is the time for the defeat of Satan, prince of evil, and of the definitive triumph of the merciful love of God. Christ declares that He will be “lifted up from the earth” (v. 32), an expression with a twofold meaning: “lifted” because He is crucified, and “lifted” because He is exalted by the Father in the Resurrection, to draw everyone to Him and to reconcile mankind with God and among themselves. The hour of the Cross, the darkest in history, is also the source of salvation for those who believe in Him. Continuing in his prophecy of the imminent Passover, Jesus uses a simple and suggestive image, that of the “‘grain of wheat’ that, once fallen into the earth, dies in order to bear fruit (cf. v. 24). In this image we find another aspect of the Cross of Christ: that of fruitfulness. The death of Jesus, in fact, is an inexhaustible source of new life, because it carries within itself the regenerative strength of God’s love. Immersed in this love through Baptism, Christians can become “grains of wheat” and bear much fruit if they, like Jesus, “lose their life” out of love for God and brothers and sisters (cf. v. 25) (Pope Francis)


Our Finest Hour

            You might have noticed that the readings for this “Year B-cycle” of Lent have had little to do with each other.  It hasn’t even always been clear they have much to do with Lent!  And yet, a closer look suggests some thread is present week by week, especially in the first reading from the Hebrew Scriptures.  There we have encountered the covenant God made with Noah and its visible sign, the rainbow; then the covenant with Abraham with its promise of vast numbers of descendants after his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac; then with Israel at the time of Moses sealed by a promise of fidelity on God’s part and on the people’s side, obedience to the commandments; there followed the promise of renewal and restoration after the Babylonian exile, which today is termed  a “new covenant” as foreseen by the prophet Jeremiah.   So there has indeed been a theme woven throughout the season after all. 

            Lent, of course, is the season when catechumens enter their final period of preparation for baptism at the Easter Vigil while the rest of us are preparing to renew our baptismal promises – what might well be termed our “baptismal covenant.”  And whenever that “hour” took place – whether as children or as adults – it was sealed with vows from which all other promises we have made in hours of decision are derived.  For the hour of baptism, and then confirma­tion, defines us above all else as Christians, thosecounted among the members of Christ (Prayer after Communion).

            But those other “hours” also define us in other ways: the hour of vocational decision, the moment we chose a school to attend, a career to pursue, a place to live, a cause to espouse, a person to marry: all these decisive moments make us who we are.  And each such “hour” brought with it duties and responsi­bilities, leading us to put in many other “hours” of fidelity, daily decisions of devotion, of keeping promises not lightly made, or lightly withdrawn.  So it’s always a wrenching experience to trade one hour of decision for another even should there be sound reasons for it.  And there may certainly be compelling reasons for the examples I’ve mentioned.  I’ve surely had my moments.

            Sometimes we may have to rescind a prior commitment for the sake of a greater good.  Still, sadness usually surrounds us then, even where sound cause exists for a radical change in direction, newly-decisive “hours.” Dismay, disappointment, and doubts may persist even after minds are made up.  “If only I had a parish where people were more receptive.”  “If only my colleagues were more supportive.” “If only we tried harder to make things work.” “If only the church were more open.” “If only ‘they’ were more understanding.”  Longing for what might have been might continue to haunt us with thoughts like these, when crossroads take us where we preferred not to go.  Or even when we maintain our previous commitments, the tracks of a parallel life might continue to beckon.

            Now some of us will never face such life-shaking “hours.” Some of us already have, the unknown lives that awaited us having now become familiar.  Hopefully, new commitments have given meaning and purpose to life with the time for blame, past.  But whether we strive to be faithful in ways old or new to us, we know that fidelity comes at a price.  Grains of wheat, after all, must die, to produce much fruit (cf. G).  And in those hours of decision, when we said “I do believe,” “I do take thee,” “I will serve,” we may never have suspected at just how high a price.  There was a time, remember, when baptism pretty much guaranteed you would soon die a martyr.

            Yet no matter how much, we all struggle with the costs duty and fidelity impose.  And though we might be tempted to say “enough,” we have an example to encourage us.  For we have a high priest able to sympathize with our weaknesses, who has been similarly tested in every way, yet without sin(Cf. Hb. 4: 15). When faced with his “hour,” the hour of being lifted up from the earth (G), Jesus underwent a terrific struggle. The Arabic translation of the New Testament calls it his jihad. Coming to the supreme moment of his earthly life, his soul was troubled: In the days when he was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears (II).  Not to avoid the cost of fidelity - which was nothing less than his very blood - not to avoid, but to drink the cup of suffering, with all its bitterness, to accept death, as somehow the Father’s will.  Indeed, it was for this purpose that [he] came to this hour (G).

            Oh, he was tempted to let the cup pass him by.  During his forty days in the desert, and again during his agony in the Garden of Olives, Christ Jesus grappled with the cost of obedience to all that God seemed to require.  But Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered(II).   Placed in the crucible of frailty, of hesitation, and of fear, he triumphed.  How?  By trusting God who was able to save him from death (II).

            This Lent we too have sought, with God’s grace, to overcome whatever keeps us from the obedience we see in Christ, whatever might diminish the sincerity of those baptismal promises we will renew on Easter, in our own covenant sealed with a faithful, but demanding, God.  After all, it is the “hour” we’ve all been waiting for. 



Intercessions (Peter Scagnelli; Prayers for Sundays and Seasons)

Let us offer up prayers and supplications to God through Jesus who has become the source of our eternal salvation.

That all the people of God, from the least to the greatest, may know the Lord through the law of love written in their hearts.

That the judgement of this world may herald justice for the oppressed.

That the afflicted, who offer their prayers with loud cries and tears, may find strength in their union with Jesus, who was made perfect through suffering.

That teachers, lawyers, social workers and others with special skills may use their gifts for the poor and disenfranchised.

That those hoping to see Jesus may find the Son of Man glorified among us in our assemblies and in our service.

That those who have been sown with Christ in death may bear an abundant harvest with Christ in eternal life.

In our hearts, O God, you have written a covenant of grace,  sealed by the obedience of Jesus your Son. Raise us up with Christ, the grain fallen to earth that yields a harvest of everlasting life.  Bring us to glorify your name by following faithfully where he has led. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. (ICEL; 1998)



Jesu, Salvator Mundi
Tuis famulis subveni,
Quos pretioso sanguine,

Jesus, Saviour of the world,
come to the assistance of Thy children,
whom, through Thy blood,
Thou hath saved.

Lord’s Prayer

We pray for the power of evil to be vanquished in the words Jesus taught....

Spiritual Communion

Lord Jesus Christ, the grain of wheat we offer in the Eucharist dies in order to become for us the Bread of life.  Although we are unable today to receive this gift of yourself, may we nevertheless experience its fruits and may this spiritual communion deepen within us the hope of eternal life promised to those who serve you.


Closing Hymn  (Bob Hurd)


Refrain: Unless a grain of wheat fall to the ground and die, it remains a single grain. But if it die it will yield a rich harvest.

V1. In his own body, by his own wounds, he brought your sins to the cross, and suffer'd for you; pour'd out his life blood upon the tree, pour'd out his life - blood for you and me.

V2. Do not draw back now, do not be shy. Turn not away from him who paid the price. Come to his table, sit by his side. There he awaits you: the Lord of Life.