Fifth Sunday of Lent (B)
March 17, 2024
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 surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt— a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, 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.

Second Reading HEB 5:7-9

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up 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 reverent submission. 8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9 and having been 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

Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 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. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour. 27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say — ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

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).

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. (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 suffers 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 shine 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 (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).

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)


     In parishes with catechumens chosen for baptism at the Easter Vigil the third of the so-called "scrutinies" is celebrated today — a series of prayers designed to strengthen and further enlighten "the Elect" as they are now known as part of their final preparation for the sacraments of initiation.  In the ancient church, they were truly scrutinies as their readiness and sincerity had to be ascertained — scrutinized — prior to receiving the sacraments.  A far cry, alas, from our own practice of baptism these days; even the restored catechumenate pales in comparison to the rigors of the church's early centuries.  
     Which should give us all pause as we prepare to renew our baptismal promises during the Easter liturgy two weeks from now.  In many ways, the whole of our Lenten observance will culminate in that moment as we have all assumed the role of a catechumen throughout these forty days.  And whenever the “hour” of our baptism took place – whether as a child or as an adult – 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 as Christians, those counted 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 have also made 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 be certainly be compelling reasons to chart new courses for our lives.  I’ve surely had my own moments as has my community.  In recent weeks, a number of us have rescinded either the hour of their ordination or their religious profession, despite the promises made at that time to persevere for life.  
     Now I realize we all may have to rescind a prior commitment for the sake of a greater good whether personal or communal.  Still, sadness often surrounds us at such times, even where sound cause exists for a radical change in direction, to face newly-decisive “hours.” Dismay, disappointment, and doubts may persist even after minds are made up.  “If only I had a community where people were more receptive to me.” “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’ could see things differently.”  Longing for what might have been might continue to haunt us with thoughts like these, when crossroads take us where we would prefer not to go or circumstances took us by complete surprise. Even when we maintain our previous commitments, the tracks of a parallel life might continue to beckon us in moments of doubt or daydream.
     Of course, some of us will never face such life-shaking “hours.” Some of us already have, unknown or unimagined lives 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, 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 often guaranteed you would die a martyr.  And such times have returned in our own living memory. 
     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 in the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears (II). When faced with his “hour” — the hour of being lifted up from the earth on the cross (G) — Jesus underwent a terrific struggle.  Without saying so explicitly, the author of Hebrews and of the gospel of John seem to have  the agony Jesus underwent in the Garden of Olives the night of his arrest.  Coming to the supreme moment of his earthly life, he was troubled, asking, Yet what should I say? Father save me from this hour? In other words, to avoid the cost of fidelity, not to drink the cup of suffering with all its bitterness, not to accept death as somehow the Father’s will, not to embrace the truth it was for this purpose that [he] came to this hour (G).
     During his own forty days' Lent in the desert and again in Gethsemane, Christ Jesus grappled with the cost of obedience to all that God asked.  And Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 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, our own covenant sealed with a faithful, but demanding, God.  It is, after all, the “hour” we’ve all been waiting for.  

Intercessions (Joe Milner; The Sunday Website)

For the Church: that God’s covenant, which is written upon our hearts, may help us know the Lord more deeply and guide us in serving God each day.

For healing and freedom: that as the Body of Christ is lifted up before us in the Eucharist, we may be drawn to Christ, the source of life share in the new covenant that Jesus offers.

For all who lay down their lives for others: that God will guide and strengthen parents, caregivers of the sick, and those who assist the marginalized to be instruments of God’s love and compassion.

For all who are recovering from storms and natural disasters: that God will protect them from further danger, give them strength, and speed the assistance which they need.

For all who suffer each day: that God will give strength to those with chronic illnesses, hope and courage to those who have been abused, and open new resources for those who live on the streets.

For those who are sick: that God will send healing and strength to all who are ill or recovering from surgery and fill their hearts with hope and courage

For immigrants and refugees: that God will guide them in their search for a new homeland, protect the children at the border between the United States and Mexico, and speed their connection to their families.

For all searching for employment: that God will help them to recognize all the gifts that they possess, open new opportunities to use them, and give them confidence in presenting themselves to employers.

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)

Offertory Antiphon

Offertory Hymn


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.

Communion Antiphon

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.