In the readings for this Sunday, March 18, God dreams of a time when we will all be united in him.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
In the readings for this Sunday, March 18, God fleshes out for us what he intended his covenant with us to be. To be God’s people is to live God’s law, and to live God’s law is to put love above all other things. Jesus did this for us, even when he was afraid and stressed out, and we’re called to do it for one another. Throughout our history, all of God’s actions on earth were meant to draw us closer to him. Even now, God is calling to us, dreaming of a time when we will respond to that call together and bring peace to this broken world.
I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Create a clean heart in me, O God.
… He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
“And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:
A covenant is an agreement of relationship between God and God’s people that contains details about how each party is to behave in that relationship. All of the covenants God makes with us are founded on this principle: “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Read, “I will give them everything, and they just have to accept it as a free gift.”
Jeremiah tells of a time when people will live our covenant with God so openly and so perfectly that we won’t have to be taught about God — God will be written on our hearts, and everyone will know God. What would that look like? What would our society look like? Our families? What would we each be like if God’s law was written on our hearts and we knew God so intimately that people could see God in us?
In the Letter to the Hebrews, we hear of Jesus’ passion for us, and how that passion saved us. Going back to Jeremiah for a second, he uses the phrase “I took them by the hand to lead them forth;” and Jesus came to take our hands again. He held our hands to lead us away from sin, and his willingness to suffer for us was the covenant that wrote his love on our hearts.
Nobody likes to suffer — Jesus didn’t, and we’re not expected to, either. But, suffering is a fact of life. We don’t live in a world where everyone knows God and lets God’s law be written on their hearts. And so, we have to make difficult decisions that could bring about some pain. For Jesus, it was allowing himself to be killed for our sake. For us, it means putting aside things that we might want, but aren’t good for us, or choosing someone else’s good over our own.
Jesus says that without death, there is no new life — he means heaven, and he means the sacrifices in which we die to ourselves for the sake of others and for our spiritual lives. When he says that we should “hate” our lives, he doesn’t mean “intense dislike.” He means that our comfort shouldn’t be more important to us than true good for the world. When, like Jesus, we’re willing to make sacrifices for others, we become living signs of the covenant where God is really our God, and we are really God’s people.
Jesus talks about seeds having to die and be buried before they can grow into something bigger. Have you ever planted seeds and seen them grow? Did the seeds become something bigger?
What do you think the world would be like if everyone knew and lived God’s law? What would we be doing differently as a society? What would we be doing differently as individuals? Do you think it would be a good thing?
What are some examples of times when you have found new life in death experiences? God’s voice boomed when Jesus reiterated that his life was for the glory of God. Do you ever “hear” God’s booming voice affirming the good that people are doing?
Bonus Question for all three groups:
Even though it might not look like it in some parts of the country, spring is coming! Take some time this week to plant some seeds (probably in a cup or something indoors). Talk about Jesus’ statement that, “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.” What will your seeds become? What other “seeds” do you plant in your life, and what kind of fruit do they produce?
A little lectio
The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.
A little Bible study
Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:
- During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
- Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
- Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
- Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
- If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)
For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.
The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”